Sunday, March 18, 2012
Nebraska's junior United States Senator, Mike Johanns, was honored in Washington, D.C. recently by the St. Gabriel Possenti Society for his commitment to the right to the means necessary to defend life.
Sen. Johanns received the award from John M. Snyder, Society president.
The St. Gabriel Possenti Society (www.gunsaint.com) named Sen. Johanns, a practicing Catholic, Man of the Year.
The St. Gabriel Possenti Society honored Sen. Johanns as the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska initiated canonization proceedings for the late Rev. Edward Flanagan, founder of Boys Town in Omaha.
Snyder presented a plaque to Sen. Johanns on September 27, the 150th anniversary Feast Day of St. Gabriel Possenti. Snyder also gave Sen. Johanns a boxed medallion featuring a profile of St. Gabriel Possenti custom designed for the Society in Rome, Italy.
Sen. Johanns' wife Stephanie accompanied her husband to the banquet.
Earlier, St. Gabriel Possenti devotees attended Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington.
A former governor of the Cornhusker State and a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Johanns was elected to the U.S. Senate from Nebraska in 2008. He serves on five Senate committees: Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Environment and Public Works; Indian Affairs; and Veterans' Affairs.
Snyder said, "Sen. Johanns exemplifies the principles held in such high regard by the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, Inc. The Society emphasizes the historical, philosophical and theological bases for the right of self-defense. The Senator's public record evidences consistent support for this life-preserving right."
The Society's patron, St. Gabriel Possenti, a seminarian, rescued villagers of Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy in 1860 from renegade marauders. By shooting a lizard running across the road, he demonstrated his handgun marksmanship to the terrorists and marched them out of town. He did this without causing physical harm to a single human being.
A detailed account of the lizard incident comprises a chapter on "The Savior of Isola" in "Son of the Passion," a biography of St. Gabriel Possenti by Possenti's fellow Passionist, the late Rev. Godfrey Poage, C.P., published in 1962 in Milwaukee by Bruce Publishing Company. It is one of eight chapters in the volume. Snyder recounts it in his book, "Gun Saint," published in 2003 in Arlington, Virginia by Telum Associates, LL.C.
Fr. Poage later stood by his account of the lizard incident's historicity. He said that challenges to it came from people "who didn't have the evidence. They didn't see it." Fr. Poage said this to Mark Pattison of the Catholic News Service on February 10, 1992. The CNS report appeared in The Catholic Sun of Phoenix, Arizona on February 20, 1992. Pattison reported that, "Fr. Poage said the episode was witnessed by a 'lay helper' at the monastery. The documentation was uncovered during his research in Italy in 1947-48."
Fr. Poage's biography of St. Gabriel Possenti carried the nihil obstat of Frederick Sucher, C.P., S.T.D., Censor for the Congregation of the Passion, the imprimi potest of Walter Kaelin, C.P, Provincial of the Holy Cross Province (of the Passionists), dated February 27, 1962, the nihil obstat of John F. Murphy, S.T.D., Censor librorum, and the imprimatur of Most Reverend William E. Cousins, Archbishop of Milwaukee, dated April 13, 1962.
Fr. Poage explained in the introduction that, "nothing was said that had not been quoted by eyewitnesses, at least in the third person."
"The Poage account of the lizard incident remained non-controversial for over a quarter of a century," Snyder noted. "It was not until I began promoting St. Gabriel Possenti as a Patron of Handgunners in the late 1980s that Fr. Poage was challenged. Since then, the servants of gun owner-hating bigotry have been crawling out from under the rocks in a belated attempt to attack his account of the lizard incident. It seems they are more concerned with being politically correct than historically accurate."
Fr. Poage, who had been a peritus at the Second Vatican Council, died June 25, 2001. The Passionist Family Circle Newsletter, in its Fall/Winter 2001 issue, stated that he was "a man of extraordinary talents and great kindness" and "a trusted servant of God."
St. Gabriel Possenti died of natural causes in 1862 and was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. The international, interdenominational St. Gabriel Possenti Society seeks his Vatican designation as Patron of Handgunners.
Photo by Ling Woo. Other images are available on request.
John M. Snyder
Telum Associates, LLC