From North Texas Catholic, here’s an amazing account of the life of Father Peter Anthony Levy, who served eastern Texas in the late 1800s in territory that could only be called The Wild West:
Most Texans who knew Fr. Levy saw him as a priest full of compassion and understanding. They could count on him as a person who kept his promises. Others, like a band of nefarious outlaws in southeast Texas, learned the hard way that this man on a mission allowed no one to stand between Christ and His people.
A dramatic case in point was relayed by Father E.A. Kelly, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Beaumont, who described Fr. Levy’s encounter with the desperados for the Jan. 6, 1924 Beaumont Enterprise.
While the missionary priest was riding his circuit there around 1875, he unknowingly crossed into the outlaws’ hideout. The bad men yanked the priest from his mount, which they promptly added to their own string of horses. They mocked the priest and led him to a hanging tree, forcing him to take a close look at several notches in the trunk, representing each of their other victims who had crossed their path.
They told Fr. Levy to hit the road on foot and never to return, lest he die by the same fate.
It is exactly here, at this dusty, desolate Texas crossroads, where we find a determined priest with a hard decision to make. Does he abandon his normal route, delaying or in some cases denying the sacraments for local Catholics? Does he let evil stand in his way?
Fr. Kelly passed along more details of the brush between the priest and the outlaws. According to the newspaper account, Fr. Levy told them:
“Boys, you have the drop on me now. I’ll do as you say. But remember this, I’ll be back and I’ll make you line up together and recite the Lord’s Prayer.”
Deprived of his horse, Fr. Levy set out on foot, leaving the ne’er-do-wells more amused than angry at the priest’s bold comments.
Their amusement turned to bewilderment a few days later when the outlaws saw Fr. Levy riding purposefully back into their camp. He had returned for his horse and to make true on his earlier promise.
Read what happened next.