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Lives and Prayers of Dominican Saints,

Blesseds and Pius Men and Women

 

Blessed Ambrose of Siena

Memorial Day: March 20th

 

Profile

Although his birth was attended by the prodigies also associated with Blessed James of Bevagna (of Mevania)--that of three brilliant stars bearing the image of a friar preacher--Ambrose Sansedoni got off to a very bad start by the world's account. He was so badly deformed and so ugly that his own mother could hardly bear to look at him.

    He was given into the care of a nurse, who daily took him with her to the Dominican church where she attended Mass. Here it was remarked that the baby, who fretted most of the time, was quiet and content when the nurse would hold him near the altar of relics, and that he cried violently when taken away.

    One day, as the nurse was kneeling there with the baby's face covered with a scarf, a pilgrim approached and said to her, "Do not cover that child's face. He will one day be the glory of this city." A few days later, at this same altar, a miracle occurred. The unfortunate child suddenly reached out his twisted limbs and quite distinctly pronounced the sacred name of Jesus. At once, all deformity left him, and he became a normal child.

    So early marked with the favor of God, it was only natural that Ambrose would be pious. As a child of seven he would rise at night to pray and meditate, and he daily recited the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. While still a child, he was charitable to a heroic degree, and busied himself with the poor, the abandoned, and the sick. When he was only two or three years old, his father, who was an illuminator of books, made two little books for him. One was on secular subjects, the other on the saints. Ambrose made no hesitation about choosing the latter as his favorite, and throughout his life he was to exhibit this same choice of the things of God.

    Being a handsome and talented young man, Ambrose was beset with difficulties when he expressed his intention of becoming a member of the preaching friars. Parents and friends tried to change his mind, and the devil appeared in several different forms to counsel him against such a step. Ambrose courageously overcame all the obstacles in his path and joined the friars on his 17th birthday.

    After his profession in 1237, Ambrose was sent to Paris to study under Saint Albert the Great. With his fellow pupil, Saint Thomas Aquinas, he returned to Cologne with Saint Albert, and thus was associated for some years with the two finest minds of the century. It is said that the humility of Ambrose, and his recognition of the true greatness of Saint Thomas's writings, led him to devote his time to preaching rather than writing. He was sent on many peace-making missions during his 30 years of preaching, and was highly regarded by both popes and Dominicans.

    Despite a very active apostolate of preaching in Germany, France, and Italy, Ambrose lived a life of almost uninterrupted prayer. He was often in ecstasy, and, shortly before his death, he was favored with several visions of great beauty. It is said that his death was hastened by the vehemence of his preaching. Sometimes when he preached he levitated and a circle of glory, in which birds of brilliant plumage flitted, surrounded him. Many miracles were reported at his tomb, and he has been popularly called "Saint Ambrose of Siena" since the time of his death (Benedictines, Dorcy).

 

Born: 1220 at Siena, Italy

Died: 1287 of natural causes

Beatified: 1622 (cultus confirmed)

Patronage: betrothed couples, affianced couples, engaged couples, Siena Italy

Representation: Dominican with a dove at his ear, holding a model of Siena, Italy, holding a book, preaching

 
Prayers/Commemorations

First Vespers:

Ant. Strengthen by holy intercession, O Ambrose, confessor of the Lord, those here present, have we who are burdened with the weight of our offenses may be relieved by the glory of thy blessedness, and may by thy guidance attain eternal rewards.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Ambrose.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

Lauds:

Ant. Well done, good and faithful servant, because Thou has been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many, sayeth the Lord.

V. The just man shall blossom like the lily.

R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord.

 

Second Vespers:

Ant. I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock..

V. Pray for us. Blessed Ambrose.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

Prayer:

Let us pray: may the votive festival of Blessed Ambrose, Thy Confessor, rejoice Thy Church, O God, that it may always be equipped with spiritual resources and made worthy to be blessed with everlasting joys. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Prayers II:

Merciful God, may this feast of Blessed Ambrose bring joy to the Church, that she may be strengthened with spiritual help and be made worthy to enjoy everlasting happiness. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. - General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

 

Blessed Isnard, C.O.P.

Memorial Day: March 22nd

 

    Profile

    Blessed Isnard is another very distinguished and saintly first disciple of Saint Dominic whom Father Touron somehow overlooked. Of Isnard's life up to the time he entered the Order practically nothing is known with certainty; whilst some of the statements anent his debut as a Friar Preacher are irreconcilable among themselves, and contrary to facts which have been ascertained in later years. Chiampo, a small town not far from Vicenza, Italy, was most likely the place of his birth; yet there are those who give the latter city this honor. Some think he was born of poor parents, and spent his youth in poverty. Others suggest that he belonged to a wealthy family by the name of Isnardi, which has been long extinct.(1)

    It is beyond doubt that the future wonder-worker received the habit in Bologna, from Saint Dominic, in 1219; for this is a point on which nearly all the early authors are in accord. This truth seems certainly to prove that he was a student at the university there, and far advanced in his studies, At that time only such applicants were accepted; and this fact is a strong proof that his parents were well-to-do, for only the sons of this kind were given a higher education. Without exception the writers tell us of his singular purity of heart and religious disposition. His mind had been carefully guarded against the evils of the day, and in Bologna he proved faithful to the lessons of his earlier youth. Association with the holy man from Caleruega quickened his efforts for holiness of life and the salvation of souls.

    For ten years after he entered the Order of Saint Dominic, we have no positive knowledge of where Isnard made his home. Yet the indications are that he spent this time between Bologna and Milan. In which case, of course, he labored energetically in those parts of Italy. Although a quite corpulent man, we are told, he was endowed with extraordinary energy, and was very gracious in action as well as in word. San Eustorgio, Milan, was most likely his convent for the greater part of this decade. So at least thinks Rudolph Majocchi, Blessed Isnard's latest hagiographer.(2)

    In more than one of our sketches, but especially in that of Saint Peter of Verona, we have seen how the Albigenses and kindred sects overran northern Italy at that date. Milan was one of the centers of Dominican activity against them; and it was from Milan that the convent of the Order in Pavia was founded. At Pavia the heretics were long in the ascendancy. The city was also a stronghold of Frederic II, whose Ghibellines, always opposed to the Holy See, constantly persecuted those who favored the authority of the Church. When, in 1230, zealous Rodobald Cipolla became bishop of Pavia, he found religion in a sad plight in his diocese, and began at once to seek means for a reformation.

    Blessed Isnard's reputation for holiness of life, zeal, eloquence, power over the souls of others, and fearlessness was broadcast. Most likely he had already preached in the Diocese of Pavia -- perhaps many times; for the Friars Preacher of Milan carried their work in every direction. Possibly, too, he and Bishop Cipolla, himself an energetic character, had become friends at a prior date. Anyway, one of the new prelate's first steps for the spiritual betterment of his flock was to invite the subject of our narrative from Milan, that he might establish a house of the Order at Pavia. This was in 1231; and before the close of the year we find the fathers actively engaged in their apostolate under the leadership of the man of God from Chiampo.(3)

    The convent, which Rodobald Cipolla generously helped to erect, stood in the little village of Ticino, a short distance outside the walls of Pavia, and was given the name of Saint Mary of Nazareth. Throughout Italy the Friars Preacher were known as an effective aid to the hierarchy against the evils of the day. Thus Bishop Cipolla felt that, at least under Isnard, they would be an immense help to him in putting an end to the inroads of the enemy, and in freeing his diocese from the many ills in which it was enmeshed. He had not long to wait before he saw that his choice of auxiliaries was no mistake.

    However, the task proved difficult, trying, and full of danger. On the one hand, the faithful, through long bad associations, had become so cold, careless, and wayward in the practice of their religious duties that it was exceeding hard to arouse them to a sense of their obligations. On the other, the Ghibellines and sectarians, ever of stubborn mood as well as violent in their methods, were even less subject to management. These possessed little or no faith. Besides they were loath to change their views, to amend their lives, or to part with the earthly goods which they had obtained by robbery or dishonesty.

    As is ever the case in such conditions, the Friar Preacher's success began with the poor and the laboring classes. For these he had a special love. He gathered them around him at the conventual church, instructed them in their religion, and inspired them with a love of its practice. Although he met with much opposition at first, it was not long before he had completely changed their lives. Reports of the good thus effected soon spread near and far. Meanwhile, he and his confrères preached throughout the City of Pavia and its environments -- in churches, public squares, market places, or wherever they could find a space large enough for an audience. Gradually the wealthier Guelfs, and even not a few of the Ghibellines, began to harken to the call of grace and to receive the sacraments.

    Among the little band of missioners Isnard shone with special brilliancy for his saintliness, zeal, and eloquence. The influence which he soon began to wield over the people caused the leaders of the heretics to single him out for their hatred. They mocked and ridiculed him, publicly spurned him, laughed at his corpulent figure, defamed him, threatened him, did everything in their power either to bring him into disrepute or to make him desist from his tireless apostolate. All was in vain. His sermons were incessant. He challenged his enemies wherever he met them. If they undertook to answer him, his inexorable logic put them to shame, or reduced them to silence. Never was he known to be ill natured, or to lose his patience; yet he showed the fire of divine love that glowed within his breast.

    No doubt as much to demonstrate the holiness of His faithful servant as for the benefit of those to whom he preached, God blessed Isnard with the gift of miracles. The early writers mention many wrought by him both before and after his death.(4) These, quite naturally, quickened and strengthened the faith of the Catholics. They also gradually undermined the influence and broke the spirit of the heretics, many of whom were brought into the Church. By the time of the holy man's death, the Diocese of Pavia was free from attacks by Albigenses, Catharists, and similar sects. They bad gone to other parts, been converted, or held their peace. No one could be found who would profess their principles. It was a glorious apostolate brought to a successful termination.

    The Ghibellines, or adherents of Emperor Frederic II, gave Christ's ambassador no end of worry and trouble. These were the rich who were not guided by their consciences in the acquisition of wealth; politicians without scruples; and soldiers of fortune, whose restless spirits ever led them into the service in which they might expect the greatest booty, license, and excitement. The machinations of the German monarch helped to keep them in keen antagonism to ecclesiastical authority and the interests of religion; which, of course, rendered them less responsive to our blessed's impelling eloquence or the strong influence of his holiness and miracles. We may judge of the contempt of these friends of Frederic for the Holy See from the fact that their acts more than once led to a papal interdict on Pavia.

    Still these men, who could laugh at an excommunication and interdict from the highest authority in the Church, perforce loved and admired Father Isnard. His charity, his zeal, his gentle goodness, his purity of heart, his constant efforts for the right, which they witnessed day by day, simply wrung respect from them. His dealings with Frederic II must have been much like those of John of Wildeshausen. Even when Bishop Cipolla was driven into exile, Isnard and his band of missionaries were left to continue their fruitful labors. In the absence of the ordinary, the clergy who still remained in the diocese seem to have gathered around the subject of our sketch for guidance. Possibly the saintly prelate, at the time of his departure, placed him in charge of his spiritual vineyard.(5)

    Despite the turbulence and the anti-ecclesiastical spirit of the day, the holy Friar Preacher from Chiampo effected untold good even among this class of citizens. Documents which have escaped the ravages of time show that some, who deferred conversion until on their deathbeds, made him the instrument of their restitution. Others entrusted him with their charity and benefactions. Historians call him an apostle of Pavia, and largely attribute the preservation of the faith in the city to his zeal.

    Another proof of the respect and confidence which Isnard enjoyed among all classes, as well as of his reputation abroad, is found in the incident which we have now to tell. From early times the Diocese of Tours, France, possessed landed estates in and around Pavia. Because of the political disturbances and the Ghibelline spirit, to which we have referred, the canons of the Tours cathedral found it impossible to collect their rents. In this dilemma, they appointed our Friar Preacher their agent; for they felt that he was the only man in northern Italy who either could obtain their dues for them, or would dare undertake the task. This was in 1240, the year after the historic excommunication of Frederic 11 by Gregory IX. The affair shows bow wisely Isnard steered his course, how all venerated him at home, and how well his courage and prudence were known even in France.(6)

    Like a number of the early disciples of Saint Dominic whose lives we have outlined, the apostle and reformer of Pavia did not feel that he had done his all for the benefit of religion until he established a community of Dominican Sisters. These he placed in the immediate vicinity of his own convent, that he might the better look after their spiritual welfare. Their house bore the same name as that of the fathers -- Saint Mary of Nazareth. Although he had perhaps never seen Prouille, his double institution at Pavia must have been much like that with which the Order started in southern France. The dowries of many of these sisters indicate that he founded them, in part, so that wealthy worldly dames, whom he had converted, might have a place in which they could more completely give themselves to the service of God. Saint Dominic, it will be recalled, established the community of Prouille principally with women converted from Albigensianism. When, some years after our blessed's death, the fathers moved into the city proper, the original Saint Mary of Nazareth was turned over to the sisters.

    Isnard had a profound devotion towards the Mother of God. He perpetually preached her protection over the faithful. In every way he propagated love and veneration for her. Father Majocchi thinks that this apostolate was of immense aid to him in his work of reformation; for no other piety seems to be more congenital to the affectionate Italian character. He labored zealously on almost to the very last. At least the Lives of the Brethren (Vitae Fratrum) say his final sickness was a matter of only a few days. The manuscript annals, or chronicles, of the old Friar-Preacher convent at Pavia tell us that he surrendered his pure soul to God on March 19, 1244. He knew that the end was near, prepared for it, and died as holily as he had lived.(7)

    We have no account of the funeral of the man of God. Yet the great love and admiration in which he was held justify one in the belief that the Pavians attended it in immense numbers. Perhaps the sad event plunged the city in no less grief than his own community. He was buried in the Church of Saint Mary of Nazareth, where his tomb became at once a place of pilgrimage for the city and province of Pavia. Not a few miracles were wrought in answer to prayers to him. The name Isnard was often given to children at their baptism.

    Later, for various reasons, the fathers moved into the city proper. First (1281), they took possession of San Marino, but gave up this place the next year for Saint Andrew's. There they remained until 1302, when they exchanged Saint Andrew's for Saint Thomas', which was better suited to their purposes. At this last location they at once began a splendid temple of prayer, which was completed between 1320 and 1330. The body of Blessed Isnard, which had been brought from the extra-urban Church of Saint Mary of Nazareth to Saint Andrew's, while the fathers lived in the latter convent, was again translated and enshrined in a marble sarcophagus built for the purpose in a chapel of the new Saint Thomas' Church. The devotion of the people followed his relies to both of these places of rest. Nor is it any stretch of fancy to imagine that the two translations were times of great fervor for all Pavia.

    Unfortunately, in a spirit of zeal and friendship, the fathers gave the use of Blessed Isnard's Chapel, as it was called, to the University of Pavia for religious functions. Although its walls were afterwards decorated with paintings commemorative of the chief events in his life, these academic associations tended rather to decrease veneration for the saintly Friar Preacher. The misfortunes of Pavia during the Spanish-Austrian reigns of Charles V and Philip III, which lasted almost throughout the sixteenth century, well-nigh caused him (or rather his final resting-place) to be forgotten even by some members of his own Order, and his relies to be scattered to the winds. Happily the researches of Pavian historians helped to avert such a disaster.

    In spite of the most thorough identification, however, and to the great sorrow of the fathers, the rector and senate of the university, though without authority in the matter, later compelled our blessed's sarcophagus to be taken from the chapel and destroyed. This was in 1763. But, before its removal, the community reverently gathered up his relies and placed them in a wooden chest. All this was done in the presence of Cardinal Charles Francis Durini, who then closed the box, and fastened it with his seal. Thence until the suppression of Saint Thomas' Convent by Emperor Joseph II, in 1785, Isnard's relies were carefully preserved in the archives. The fathers then took the chest, with its precious contents, to Saint Peter's. When, in 1799, they were also forced to leave this abode, they gave their spiritual treasure to Bishop Joseph Bertieri, O. S. A. This prelate, after an official examination, not only entrusted Isnard's relies to the Church of Saints Gervasius and Protasius, but even ordered them to be exposed for public veneration.

    It looks providential that, under all these changes and difficulties, popular devotion for Saint Dominic's early disciple did not completely die out. That it continued to exist shows the unalterable love in which the Pavians held him. Bishop Bertieri's act gave it new life. In 1850 portions of his relies were given to Chiampo and Vicenza. Old paintings of him here and there, which represented him as a saint, also helped the cause. In 1907 the diocesan authorities of Pavia approved of his cult, and requested the Holy See to accept their decision. The late Benedict XV, of happy memory, after a thorough investigation by the Sacred Congregation of Rites (that is, in 1919), granted his office and mass to the Friars Preacher and the Diocese of Pavia. March 22 was appointed as his feast day.

    Isnard is the last of the original disciples of Dominic to be accorded the honors of the altar. The late date of his beatification affords the hope that several others of them may yet he similarly dignified by the Church.

NOTES

1. ALBERTI, fol. 189 ff; Année Dominicaine, I (January), 633-635; BALME-LELAIDIER, Cartulaire de Saint Dominique, II, 359; BZOVIUS (Bzowski), XIII, col. 520; CASTILLO, pp. 238-239; FRACHET, Gerard de (Reichert ed.), pp. 227-228, 302-303; MAJOCCHI, Rudolph, Il Beato Isnardo da Vicenza; MALVENDA, pp. 664-665; MAMACHI, p. 545; PIO, col. 33. Father Marchese, strange to say, overlooks Blessed Isnard in his Sagro Diario Domenicano. Too much carelessness about their statements is shown by some of the other writers who speak of him. In this sketch we have followed the thorough and well documented little biography by Majocchi.

2. Il Beato Isnardo da Vicenza, pp. 35-36.

3. Some authors say that Isnard established the convent of Pavia in 1221, which certainly seems an error.

4. Some authors hardly say more about Isnard than give a list of the miracles he wrought.

5. Bishop Cipolla has been beatified. See Acta Sanctorum, LIV (6th vol. for October), 127 ff.

6. MAJOCCHI, op. cit., pp. 89 ff.

7. Vitae Fratrum (Reichert ed.), p. 228; MAJOCCHI, op. cit., p. 99. Some of the authors give no date for Isnard's death; others simply place it in 1244; Majocchi tells us the exact time.

 

Born: at Chiampo, Diocese of Vicenza

Died: 1244

Beatified: 1919 (Cultus Confirmed)

 
Prayers/Commemorations

First Vespers:

Ant. Strengthen by holy intercession, O Isnard, confessor of the Lord, those here present, have we who are burdened with the weight of our offenses may be relieved by the glory of thy blessedness, and may by thy guidance attain eternal rewards.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Isnard.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

Lauds:

Ant. Well done, good and faithful servant, because Thou has been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many, sayeth the Lord.

V. The just man shall blossom like the lily.

R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord.

 

Second Vespers:

Ant. I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock..

V. Pray for us. Blessed Isnard.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

Prayer:

Let us Pray: Almighty , eternal God, who by the light of Thy wisdom didst dispel the darkness of ignorance, increase through the merits and prayers of Blessed Isnard, Thy Confessor, the virtue of faith: that the fire which Thy grace didst cause to ignite, may not by any temptation be extinguished . Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Prayer II:

God of truth, you drive away the darkness of ignorance by the light of your wisdom. By the life and prayers of Blessed Isnard increase the strength of our faith, and let no trials extinguish in us the fire of your grace which shone forth in him. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. - General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

    Blessed Sybil Biscossis, V.O.P.

(also known as Sibyllina Biscossi)

Memorial Day: March 23rd

 

Profile

    Sybillina's parents died when she was tiny and as soon as she was old enough to be of use to anyone, the neighbors, who had taken her in at the time she was orphaned, put her out to work. She must have been very young when she started to work, because at the age of 12, when she became blind and could not work any more, she already had several years of work behind her.

    The cause of her blindness is unknown, but the child was left doubly destitute with the loss of her sight. The local chapter of the Dominican tertiary sisters took compassion on the child and brought her home to live with them. After a little while of experiencing their kind help, she wanted to join them. They accepted her, young though she was, more out of pity than in any hope of her being able to carry on their busy and varied apostolate.

    They were soon agreeably surprised to find out how much she could do. She learned to chant the Office quickly and sweetly, and to absorb their teaching about mental prayer as though she had been born for it. She imposed great obligations of prayer on herself, since she could not help them in other ways. Her greatest devotion was to Saint Dominic, and it was to him she addressed herself when she finally became convinced that she simply must have her sight back so that she could help the sisters with their work.

    Praying earnestly for this intention, Sybillina waited for his feast day. Then, she was certain, he would cure her. Matins came and went with no miracle; little hours, Vespers--and she was still blind. With a sinking heart, Sybillina knelt before Saint Dominic's statue and begged him to help her. Kneeling there, she was rapt in ecstasy, and she saw him come out of the darkness and take her by the hand.

    He took her to a dark tunnel entrance, and she went into the blackness at his word. Terrified, but still clinging to his hand, she advanced past invisible horrors, still guided and protected by his presence. Dawn came gradually, and then light, then a blaze of glory. "In eternity, dear child," he said. "Here, you must suffer darkness so that you may one day behold eternal light."

    Sybillina, the eager child, was replaced by a mature and thoughtful Sybillina who knew that there would be no cure for her, that she must work her way to heaven through the darkness. She decided to become a anchorite, and obtained the necessary permission. In 1302, at the age of 15, she was sealed into a tiny cell next to the Dominican church at Pavia. At first she had a companion, but her fellow recluse soon gave up the life. Sybillina remained, now alone, as well as blind.

    The first seven years were the worst, she later admitted. The cold was intense, and she never permitted herself a fire. The church, of course, was not heated, and she wore the same clothes winter and summer. In the winter there was only one way to keep from freezing--keep moving--so she genuflected, and gave herself the discipline. She slept on a board and ate practically nothing. To the tiny window, that was her only communication with the outside world, came the troubled and the sinful and the sick, all begging for her help. She prayed for all of them, and worked many miracles in the lives of the people of Pavia.

    One of the more amusing requests came from a woman who was terrified of the dark. Sybillina was praying for her when she saw her in a vision, and observed that the woman--who thought she was hearing things--put on a fur hood to shut out the noise. The next day the woman came to see her, and Sybillina laughed gaily. "You were really scared last night, weren't you?" she asked. "I laughed when I saw you pull that hood over your ears." The legend reports that the woman was never frightened again.

    Sybillina had a lively sense of the Real Presence and a deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. One day a priest was going past her window with Viaticum for the sick; she knew that the host was not consecrated, and told him so. He investigated, and found he had indeed taken a host from the wrong container.

    Sybillina lived as a recluse for 67 years. She followed all the Masses and Offices in the church, spending what few spare minutes she had working with her hands to earn a few alms for the poor (Attwater2, Benedictines, Dorcy).

 

Born: 1287 at Pavia, Lombardy, Italy

Died: 1367 of Natural Causes: Her body remains Incorrupt

Beatified: 1853 (Cultus confirmed); 1854 beautified

Patronage: Children whose parents are not married, illegitimacy, loss of parents

 

Prayers/Commemorations

First Vespers:

Ant. This is a wise Virgin whom the Lord found watching, who took her lamp and oil, and when the Lord came she entered with Him into the marriage feast. (P.T., Alleluia.)

V. Pray for us Blessed Sibyllina. (P.T., Alleluia.)

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. (P.T., Alleluia.)

 

Lauds:

Ant. Come, O my chosen one, and I will place my throne in thee, for the King hath exceedingly desired thy beauty. (P.T., Alleluia.)

V. Virgins shall be led to the King after her. (P.T., Alleluia.)

R. Her companions shall be presented to Thee. (P.T., Alleluia.)

 

Second Vespers:

Ant. She has girded her loins with courage and hath strengthened her arm; therefore shall her lamp not be put out forever. (P.T., Alleluia.)

V. Pray for us blessed Sibyllina. (P.T., Alleluia.)

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. (P.T., Alleluia.)

 

Prayer:

Let us Pray: O god, who wast pleased to enlighten the soul of Blessed Sibyllina, Thy Virgin , with admirable splendor, through she was deprived of bodily sight , grant, through her intercession, that, enlightened with light from above, we may despise earthly things and earnestly strive after those that are eternal. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Prayer II:

O Lord, enkindle our hearts with the fire of the Spirit, who wonderfully renewed Blessed Sibyllina. Filled with that heavenly light may we come to know Jesus Christ crucified and always grow in your love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. - General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

 St Catherine of Siena by Lawrence OP.
Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Catherine of Siena

Painting by Domenico Beccafumi

Memorial Day: April 1st

 

I saw our Lord fastened upon the cross coming down towards me and surrounding me with a marvelous light...Then there came down from the holes of his blessed wounds five bloody beams, which were directed towards the same parts of my body: to my hands, feet, and heart .

This was how, according to legend, Saint Catherine of Siena described receiving the stigmata

C:\Users\Br. Antony\Documents\My Scans\2008-09 (Sep)\scan0009.jpg

Saint Vincent Ferrer, C.O.P.

Memorial Day: April 5th

Profile

    Born into a noble, pious family headed by the Englishman William Ferrer and the Spanish woman Constantia Miguel, Saint Vincent's career of miracle-working began early. Prodigies attended his birth and baptism on the same day at Valencia, and, at age 5, he cured a neighbor child of a serious illness. These gifts and his natural beauty of person and character made him the center of attention very early in life.

 

    His parents instilled into Vincent an intense devotion to our Lord and His Mother and a great love of the poor. He fasted regularly each Wednesday and Friday on bread and water from early childhood, abstained from meat, and learned to deny himself extravagances in order to provide alms for necessities. When his parents saw that Vincent looked upon the poor as the members of Christ and that he treated them with the greatest affection and charity, they made him the dispenser of their bountiful alms. They gave him for his portion a third part of their possessions, all of which he distributed among the poor in four days.

    Vincent began his classical studies at the age of 8, philosophy at 12, and his theological studies at age 14. As everyone expected, he entered the Dominican priory of Valencia and received the habit on February 5, 1367. So angelic was his appearance and so holy his actions, that no other course seemed possible to him than to dedicate his life to God.

    No sooner had he made his choice of vocation than the devil attacked him with the most dreadful temptations. Even his parents, who had encouraged his vocation, pleaded with him to leave the monastery and become a secular priest. By prayer and faith, especially prayer to Our Lady and his guardian angel, Vincent triumphed over his difficulties and finished his novitiate.

    He was sent to Barcelona to study and was appointed reader in philosophy at Lerida, the most famous university in Catalonia, before he was 21. While there he published two treatises (Dialectic suppositions was one) that were well received.

    In 1373, he was sent to Barcelona to preach, despite the fact that he held only deacon's orders. The city, laid low by a famine, was desperately awaiting overdue shipments of corn. Vincent foretold in a sermon that the ships would come before night, and although he was rebuked by his superior for making such a prediction, the ships arrived that day. The joyful people rushed to the priory to acclaim Vincent a prophet. The prior, however, thought it would be wise to transfer him away from such adulation.

    Another story tells us that some street urchins drew his attention to one of their gang who was stretched out in the dust, pretending to be dead, near the port of Grao: "He's dead, bring him back to life!" they cried.

    "Ah," replied Vincent, "he was playing dead but the, look, he did die." This is how one definitely nails a lie: by regarding it as a truth. And it turned out to be true, the boy was quite dead. Everyone was gripped with fear. They implored Vincent to do something. God did. He raised him up.

    In 1376, Vincent was transferred to Toulouse for a year, and continued his education. Having made a particular study of Scripture and Hebrew, Vincent was well-equipped to preach to the Jews. He was ordained a priest at Barcelona in 1379, and became a member of Pedro (Peter) Cardinal de Luna's court--the beginning of a long friendship that was to end in grief for both of them. (Cardinal de Luna had voted for Pope Urban VI in 1378, but convinced that the election had been invalid, joined a group of cardinals who elected Robert of Geneva as Pope Clement VII later in the same year; thus, creating a schism and the line of Avignon popes.)

    After being recalled to his own country, Vincent preached very successfully at the cathedral in Valencia from 1385-1390, and became famed for his eloquence and effectiveness at converting Jews--Rabbi Paul of Burgos, the future bishop of Cartagena was one of Vincent's 30,000 Jewish and Moorish converts--and reviving the faith of those who had lapsed. His numerous miracles, the strength and beauty of his voice, the purity and clarity of his doctrine, combined to make his preaching effective, based as it was on a firm foundation of prayer.

    Of course, Vincent's success as a preacher drew the envy of others and earned him slander and calumny. His colleagues believed that they could make amends for the calumny by making him prior of their monastery in Valencia. He did withdraw for a time into obscurity. But he was recalled to preach the Lenten sermons of 1381 in Valencia, and he could not refuse to employ the gift of speech which drew to him the good and simple people as well as the captious pastors, the canons, and the skeptical savants of the Church.

    Peter de Luna, a stubborn and ambitious cardinal, made Vincent part of his baggage, so to speak; because from 1390 on, Vincent preached wherever Peter de Luna happened to be, including the court of Avignon, where Vincent enjoyed the advantage of being confessor to the pope, when Peter de Luna became the antipope Benedict XIII in 1394.

    Two evils cried out for remedy in Saint Vincent's day: the moral laxity left by the great plague, and the scandal of the papal schism. In regard to the first, he preached tirelessly against the evils of the time. That he espoused the cause of the wrong man in the papal disagreement is no argument against Vincent's sanctity; at the time, and in the midst of such confusion, it was almost impossible to tell who was right and who was wrong. The memorable thing is that he labored, with all the strength he could muster, to bring order out of chaos. Eventually, Vincent came to believe that his friend's claims were false and urged de Luna to reconcile himself to Urban VI.

    He acted as confessor to Queen Yolanda of Aragon from 1391 to 1395. He was accused to the Inquisition of heresy because he taught that Judas had performed penance, but the charge was dismissed by the antipope Benedict XIII, who burned the Inquisition's dossier on Vincent and made him his confessor.

Benedict offered Vincent a bishopric, but refused it. Distressed by the great schism and by Benedict's unyielding position, he advised him to confer with his Roman rival. Benedict refused. Reluctantly, Vincent was obliged to abandon de Luna in 1398. The strain of this conflict between friendship and truth caused Vincent to become dangerously ill in 1398. During his illness, he experienced a vision in which Christ and Saints Dominic and Francis instructed him to preach penance whenever and wherever he was needed, and he was miraculously cured.

    After recovering, he pleaded to be allowed to devote himself to missionary work. He preached in Carpetras, Arles, Aix, and Marseilles, with huge crowds in attendance. Between 1401 and 1403, the saint was preaching in the Dauphiné, in Savoy, and in the Alpine valleys: he continued on to Lucerne, Lausanne, Tarentaise, Grenoble, and Turin. He was such an effective speaker that, although he spoke only Spanish, he was thought by many to be multilingual (the gift of tongues?). His brother Boniface was the prior of the Grande Chartreuse, and as a result of Vincent's preaching, several notable subjects entered the monastery.

    Miracles were attributed to him. In 1405, Vincent was in Genoa and preached against the fantastic head-dresses worn by the Ligurian ladies, and they were modified--"the greatest of all his marvelous deeds, reports one of his biographers. From Genoa, he caught a ship to Flanders. Later, in the Netherlands, an hour each day was scheduled for his cures. In Catalonia, his prayer restored the withered limbs of a crippled boy, deemed incurable by his physicians, named John Soler, who later became the bishop of Barcelona. In Salamanca in 1412, he raised a dead man to life. Perhaps the greatest miracle occurred in the Dauphiné, in an area called Vaupute, or Valley of Corruption. The natives there were so savage that no minister would visit them. Vincent, ever ready to suffer all things to gain souls, joyfully risked his life among these abandoned wretches, converted them all from their errors and vices. Thereafter, the name of the valley was changed to Valpure, or Valley of Purity, a name that it has retained.

    He preached indefatigably, supplementing his natural gifts with the supernatural power of God, obtained through his fasting, prayers, and penance. Such was the fame of Vincent's missions, that King Henry IV of England sent a courtier to him with a letter entreating him to preach in his dominions. The king sent one of his own ships to fetch him from the coast of France, and received him with the greatest honors. The saint having employed some time in giving the king wholesome advice both for himself and his subjects, preached in the chief towns of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Returning to France, he did the same, from Gascony to Picardy.

    The preaching of Saint Vincent became a strange but marvelously effective process. He attracted to himself hundreds of people--at one time, more than 10,000--who followed him from place to place in the garb of pilgrims. The priests of the company sang Mass daily, chanted the Divine Office, and dispensed the sacraments to those converted by Vincent's preaching. Men and women travelled in separate companies, chanting litanies and prayers as they went barefoot along the road from city to city. They taught catechism where needed, founded hospitals, and revived a faith that had all but perished in the time of the plague.

    The message of his preaching was penance, the Last Judgment, and eternity. Like another John the Baptist--who was also likened to an angel, as Saint Vincent is in popular art--he went through the wilderness crying out to the people to make straight the paths of the Lord. Fearing the judgment, if for no other reason, sinners listened to his startling sermons, and the most obstinate were led by him to cast off sin and love God. He worked countless miracles, some of which are remembered today in the proverbs of Spain. Among his converts were Saint Bernardine of Siena and Margaret of Savoy.

    He returned to Spain in 1407. Despite the fact that Granada was under Moorish rule, he preached successfully, and thousands of Jews and Moors were said to have been converted and requested baptism. His sermons were often held in the open air because the churches were too small for all those who wished to hear him.

    In 1414 the Council of Constance attempted the end the Great Schism, which had grown since 1409 with three claimants to the papal throne. The council deposed John XXIII, and demanded the resignation of Benedict XIII and Gregory XII so that a new election could be held. Gregory was willing, but Benedict was stubborn. Again, Vincent tried to persuade Benedict to abdicate. Again, he failed. But Vincent, who acted as a judge in the Compromise of Caspe to resolve the royal succession, influenced the election of Ferdinand as king of Castile. Still a friend of Benedict (Peter de Luna), King Ferdinand, basing his actions on Vincent's opinion on the issue, engineered Benedict's deposition in 1416, which ended the Western Schism.

    (It is interesting to note that the edicts of the Council of Constance were thrown out by the succeeding pope. The council had mandated councils every ten years and claimed that such convocations had precedence over the pope.)

    His book, Treatise on the Spiritual Life is still of value to earnest souls. In it he writes: "Do you desire to study to your advantage? Let devotion accompany all your studies, and study less to make yourself learned than to become a saint. Consult God more than your books, and ask him, with humility, to make you understand what you read. Study fatigues and drains the mind and heart. Go from time to time to refresh them at the feet of Jesus Christ under his cross. Some moments of repose in his sacred wounds give fresh vigor and new lights. Interrupt your application by short, but fervent and ejaculatory prayers: never begin or end your study but by prayer. Science is a gift of the Father of lights; do not therefore consider it as barely the work of your own mind or industry."

    It seems that Vincent practiced what he preached. He always composed his sermons at the foot of a crucifix, both to beg light from Christ crucified, and to draw from that object sentiments with which to animate his listeners to penance and the love of God.

    Saint Vincent also preached to Saint Colette and her nuns, and it was she who told him that he would die in France. Indeed, Vincent spent his last three years in France, mainly in Normandy and Brittany, and he died on the Wednesday of Holy Week in Vannes, Brittany, after returning from a preaching trip to Nantes. The day of his burial was a great popular feast with a procession, music, sermons, songs, miracles, and even minor brawls (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Dorcy, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gheon, Husenbeth, Walsh, White).

Born: 1350 at Valencia, Spain

Died: April 5th in 1419 at Vannes, Brittany , France

Canonized: 1458

Patronage: brick makers; builders; Calamonaci, Italy; construction workers; pavement workers; plumbers; tile makers

Representation: cardinal's hat; Dominican preacher with a flame on his hand; Dominican preacher with a flame on his head; Dominican holding an open book while preaching; Dominican with a cardinal's hat; Dominican with a crucifix; Dominican with wings; flame; pulpit; trumpet

 
Prayers/Commemorations

 

First Vespers:

Ant. Vincent, who, enlightened with the gift of prophecy, taught wondrous things concerning the end of time, on the verge of the western world sank like the sun to rest; and now surrounded by a host of angels he dwells in regions of light. (P.T., Alleluia.)

V. Pray for us Blessed Vincent. (P.T., Alleluia.)

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. (P.T., Alleluia.)

 

Lauds:

Ant. To him whose spotless purity of life shone with virginal brightness, the truth of whose doctrine grew everywhere brilliant through preaching, Goodness Supreme hath awarded a double crown. (P.T., Alleluia.)

V. The just man shall blossom like the lily (P.T., Alleluia.)

R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord. (P.T., Alleluia.)

 

Second Vespers:

Ant.  O Vincent, glorious Father, who mounting the heights of heaven wast greeted by the plaudits of angelic choirs guide us who have often sounded thy praises to the delightful kingdom of the blessed. (P.T., Alleluia.)

V. Pray for us , Blessed Vincent. (P.T., Alleluia.)

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. (P.T., Alleluia.)

 

Prayer:

Let us pray: O god, who didst bring a multitude of nations to the knowledge of Thy holy name by the wonderful preaching of Blessed Vincent, Thy Confessor, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may deserve to find in heaven a bountiful rewarder in Him whom he announced on earth as the judge to come: Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Prayer II:

O God, through the wonderful preaching of your confessor, the blessed Vincent, you granted that a multitude of peoples should come to acknowledge your name; grant, we beseech you, that we may be worthy to be rewarded in heaven by him whom he announced on earth as the Judge who is to come , our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you. Amen.

 

Readings :

If you truly want to help the soul of your neighbor, you should approach God first with all your heart. Ask him simply to fill you with charity, the greatest of all virtues; with it you can accomplish what you desire.

Saint Vincent Ferrer from On the Spiritual Life

"Whatever you do, think not of yourselves but of God."
--Saint Vincent Ferrerr

Blessed Anthony Pavonius, M.O.P.

Memorial Day: April 9th

 

Profile

    Antony grew up to diately was engaged in combatting the heresies of the Lombards. be a pious, intelligent youth. At 15, he was received into the monastery of Savigliano, was ordained in 1351, and almost imme

    Pope Urban V, in 1360, appointed him inquisitor-general of Lombardy and Genoa, making him one of the youngest men ever to hold that office. It was a difficult and dangerous job for a young priest of 34. Besides being practically a death sentence to any man who held the office, it carried with it the necessity of arguing with the men most learned in a twisted and subtle heresy.

    Antony worked untiringly in his native city, and his apostolate lasted 14 years. During this time, he accomplished a great deal by his preaching, and even more by his example of Christian virtue. He was elected prior of Savigliano, in 1368, and given the task of building a new abbey. This he accomplished without any criticism of its luxury--a charge that heretics were always anxious to make against any Catholic builders.

    The consistent poverty of Antony's life was a reproach to the heretics, who had always been able to gain ground with the poor by pointing out the wealth of religious houses. He went among the poor and let them see that he was one of them. This so discomfited the heretics that they decided they must kill him. He was preaching in a little village near Turin when they caught him.

    The martyrdom occurred in the Easter octave. On the Saturday after Easter, he asked the barber to do a good job on his tonsure because he was going to a wedding. Puzzled, the barber complied. On the Sunday after Easter, as he finished preaching a vigorous sermon against heresy at Brichera, seven heretics fell upon him with their daggers, and he hurried off to the promised "wedding." He was buried in the Dominican church at Savigliano, where his tomb was a place of pilgrimage until 1827. At that time the relics were transferred to the Dominican church of Racconigi (Benedictines, Dorcy).

Oddly enough, this Dominican Antony takes after his Franciscan namesake. He is also invoked to find lost articles (Dorcy).

Born: 1326 at Savigliano, Italy

Died: Martyred in 1374 at Turino, Italy

Beatified: 1868

Patronage: Lost Articles

 

First Vespers:

Ant. This is a martyr indeed, who for the name of Christ shed his blood; who neither feared the threats of judges, nor sought the glory of  earthly dignity, but has joyously come to the the heavenly kingdom.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Anthony.

R. That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

Lauds:

Ant. Let him that would come after Me de deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.

V. A crown of gold is on his head.

R. Signed with the sign of sanctity.

 

Second Vespers:

Ant. This is he for the law of his God delivered himself to death. He did not hesitate to die; he was slain by the wicked and lives forever with Christ: he followed the Lamb and has received the palm.

V. Pay for us, Blessed Anthony

R. That we may be made worthy of the promise of Christ.

 

Prayer:

Let us Pray: O God, who didst endow Blessed Anthony, Thy Martyr, with invincible strength of soul for promoting unity of faith, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may so tread in his footsteps as to attain to the end of our faith, the salvation of souls. through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Prayer II:

God of all truth, to promote the unity of the Catholic faith you gave Blessed Anthony a dauntless courage. Help us to follow in his footsteps and so obtain the object of our faith, our eternal salvation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. - General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

 

Pascal Time

First Vespers:

Ant.  Come, O daughters of Jerusalem, and behold a Martyr with a crown wherewith the Lord crowned him on the day of solemnity and rejoicing, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

V. Pray for us, Blessed Antony alleluia

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, alleluia.

 

Lauds:

Ant. Perpetual light will shine upon Thy Saints, O lord, alleluia, and an eternity of ages, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

V. A crown of gold is on his head, alleluia.

R. Signed with the sign of sanctity, alleluia

 

Second Vespers:

Ant. In the city of the Lord the music of the Saints incessantly resounds: there the angels and archangels sing a canticle before the throne of God, alleluia.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Antony, alleluia

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. alleluia

 

Prayer:

Let us Pray: O God, who didst endow Blessed Antony, Thy Martyr, with invincible strength of soul promoting unity of faith, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may so tread in his footsteps as to attain to the end of our faith, the salvation of souls. through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessed Anthony Neyrot, M.O.P.

Memorial Day: April 10th

 

Profile

    Blessed Anthony Neyrot occupies a unique place in Dominican history, as he is the only one asmong the beautified who ever renounced the faith. He expiated his sin with an act of heroism that merited heaven, washing away in his own blood the denial that might have cost him his soul.

    Of the childhood of Blessed Anthony, we know nothing that he was born at Rivoli, in Italy. He was accepted into the Order by Saint Antoninus, who must have been particularly fond of the young man, since he gave him his own name. Completing his studies, Anthony was ordained and lived for a time at San Marco, the famous Dominican convent in Florence. Then, becoming restless and dissatisfied, he asked for a change of mission. He was sent to Sicily, but this did not prove to his liking either so he set out for Naples.

    Brother Anthony was sailing from Sicily to Naples when pirates captured the ship. Anthony was taken to Tunis and sold as a slave. He was able to win his freedom, but fell away from the Church. He denied his faith in Jesus and abandoned his religious vocation. He accepted the Koran, the diabolical book of the Muslims. For several months, he practiced the Muslim religion. He also married.

    In the meantime, his former Dominican prior, the saintly Antoninus, died. This led Anthony to have a shocking experience. It seems that one night, Anthony had something like a dream. St. Antoninus appeared to him. The conversation between the two men was to lead to a radical change in Anthony. He became truly sorry for having betrayed the Lord. He knew that in his heart he could never give up his faith in Jesus. He knew that he could only be a Catholic. And he realized that he still wanted very much to be a Dominican brother.

    Blessed Anthony sent his wife back to her family. He then put on his white Dominican habit. In spite of his fear, he went to see the ruler of Tunis. A large crowd gathered and the ruler came out to the courtyard. Brother Anthony publicly admitted he had made a terrible mistake becoming a muslim. He was a Catholic. He believed in and loved Jesus. He was a Dominican and wanted to be so for all his life. The ruler was angry. He threatened and then made promises of rewards if only Anthony would take back what he was saying. But Anthony would not. He knew this meant his death.

    Anthony knelt and began to pray for the courage to give his life for Jesus. Suddenly he felt the large stones pounding him. He just kept praying for the strength to remain true to the Lord. Then he lost consciousness. Anthony died a martyr in 1460. Some merchants from Genoa, Italy, took his remains back to his own country.

Born: 1420

Died: Martyred 1469

Blessed Margaret of Castello

Memorial Day: April 13th

 

Profile

    Margaret was born blind into a poor, mountain family, who were embittered by her affliction. When she was five years old, they made a pilgrimage to the tomb of a holy Franciscan at Castello to pray for a cure. The miracle failing, they abandoned their daughter in the church of Città-di-Castello and returned to their home.

    Margaret was passed from family to family until she was adopted by a kindly peasant woman named Grigia, who had a large family of her own. Margaret's natural sweetness and goodness soon made themselves felt, and she more than repaid the family for their kindness to her. She was an influence for good in any group of children. She stopped their quarrels, heard their catechism, told them stories, taught them Psalms and prayers. Busy neighbors were soon borrowing her to soothe a sick child or to establish peace in the house.

    Her reputation for holiness was so great that a community of sisters in the town asked for her to become one of them. Margaret went happily to join them, but, unfortunately, there was little fervor in the house. The little girl who was so prayerful and penitential was a reproach to their lax lives, so Margaret returned to Grigia, who gladly welcomed her home.

    Later, Margaret was received as a Dominican Tertiary and clothed with the religious habit. Grigia's home became the rendezvous site of troubled souls seeking Margaret's prayers. She said the Office of the Blessed Virgin and the entire Psalter by heart, and her prayers had the effect of restoring peace of mind to the troubled.

    Denied earthly sight, Margaret was favored with heavenly visions. "Oh, if you only knew what I have in my heart!" she often said. The mysteries of the rosary, particularly the joyful mysteries, were so vivid to her that her whole person would light up when she described the scene. She was often in ecstasy, and, despite great joys and favors in prayer, she was often called upon to suffer desolation and interior trials of frightening sorts. The devil tormented her severely at times, but she triumphed over these sufferings.

    A number of miracles were performed by Blessed Margaret. On one occasion, while she was praying in an upper room, Grigia's house caught fire, and she called to Margaret to come down. The blessed, however, called to her to throw her cloak on the flames. This she did, and the blaze died out. At another time, she cured a sister who was losing her eyesight.

    Beloved by her adopted family and by her neighbors and friends, Margaret died at the early age of 33. From the time of her death, her tomb in the Dominican church was a place of pilgrimage. Her body, even to this day, is incorrupt. More than 200 miracles have been credited to her intercession after her death. She was beatified in 1609. Thus the daughter that nobody wanted is one of the glories of the Church

    After her death, the fathers received permission to have her heart opened. In it were three pearls, having holy figures carved upon them. They recalled the saying so often on the lips of Margaret: "If you only knew what I have in my heart!" (Attwater2, Benedictines, Dorcy).

Born: in 1287 at Meldola, Vado, Italy

Died: April 13th, 1320 of Natural Causes (Her body is incorrupt)

Beatified: October 19th, 1609 by Pope Paul V

Patronage: Against poverty, disabled people, handicapped people, impoverishment, people rejected by religious orders, physically challenged people, poverty.

 

Prayers

Compassionate God, you gave your divine light to Blessed Margaret who was blind from birth, that with the eye of her heart she might contemplate you alone. Be the light of our eyes that we may turn from what is evil and reach the home of never-ending light. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. - General Calendar of the Order of Preachers

[Saint Peter holy card]

Blessed Peter Gonzalez, C.O.P.

(also known as Elmo-Erasmus, Telmo)

Memorial Day: April 14th

 

Profile

    The parents of Peter Gonzales were wealthy and apparently expected their son to become a priest so that he might in time obtain some rank. It was a period in history when this sort of thing was a trial to the Church, and Peter's worldly youth was only one of many examples. He was educated by his uncle, the bishop of Astorga, who invested him with a canonry at Palencia and deanery when he was still quite young.

    Full of pride, for a special Bull had been procured so that he might obtain the deanery while he was under age, he resolved to be installed with great pomp, and for his state entry into Astorga chose Christmas Day when the streets were likely to be crowded. He wanted to impress his flock with his fine clothes and vivid personality.

    He paraded through the town on horseback, magnificently equipped, but in the noise and excitement the animal reared and threw him upon a dungheap. The Spanish people, who have a fine sense of comedy, responded with loud gusts of laughter. Picking himself up in shame, he cried: "If the world mocks me, henceforth, I will mock the world." Covered with filth and confusion, Peter withdrew to clean up and ponder his sins.

    Surprisingly enough, when his wounded feelings had healed, Peter reformed his pointless life and immediately entered the Dominican monastery at Palencia. He was never to forget to weep for his sins, and his life was spent in prayer and penance to offset the wasted years of his youth.

    Peter's friends did not allow this to happen without protest. They had been amused by his accident, but not converted by it as he was, and they did their best to talk him into leaving religious life and returning to the luxurious world he had left behind. It was probably a serious temptation to the young man, for it is not easy to reform overnight. But he did not turn back. Instead, he said to his friends, "If you love me, follow me! If you cannot follow me, forget me!" He became, by close application to the rule, one of the shining exemplars of this difficult way of life.

    After his studies were completed, Peter entered into his apostolate. It was to take him into places where his worldly background would be a help rather than a hindrance, for he could well understand the temptations and troubles of worldly people. He was first of all a military chaplain with the royal army. He also began to preach in the region. He did not talk about trivia, his sermons drew large crowds. The recitation of the Psalms was his most constant prayer.

    The fame of his piety and zeal spread throughout Spain and reached the ears of King Saint Ferdinand of Castile, who sent for him and attached him to his court as chaplain and as his confessor. Appalled by its licentiousness, Gonzales immediately set about reforming it, which so displeased the younger courtiers that they tried to corrupt him; but he was proof against all temptations and won the confidence of the saintly king.

    Peter did much to foster the crusade against the Moors. When Ferdinand finally acted, Peter accompanied him on his expedition against the Moors. Upon the capture of Cordova and Seville, Peter used his influence and authority on the side of the vanquished and was instrumental in reducing rape and bloodshed. He also took over the Moorish mosques and converted them into Christian churches.

    He was showered with favors by the king, who had the utmost confidence in him. Fearing honors, however, Peter quit the king's service upon his return to Spain. Instead, moved by compassion, he lived among the poor peasants and sought to evangelize them. Although he was met everywhere with ignorance and brutality, his work proved efficacious. He penetrated the wildest and most inaccessible areas, seeking out the peasants in villages and the shepherds in the mountains of the Asturias. His preaching brought about reconciliation between neighbors and between men and God. He gave reassurance to the dismayed and the perplexed.

    Most of the anecdotes of his life come from this period, and they have to do with miracles that he worked for these people. At his prayer, storms ceased, droughts were ended, bottles were refilled with wine, bread was found in the wilderness. The bridge that he built across the swift river Minho made his name famous throughout Spain, and it existed up until recent times. During the time he was directing work on this bridge, he used to call the fish to come and be caught; it was a way of helping to feed the workers.

    He visited also the seaports of Galicia--boarding ships and preaching on their open decks. He had a great liking for sailors, and is often portrayed in the habit of his Order, holding a blue candle which symbolized Saint Elmo's fire, the blue electrical discharge which sometimes appears in thunder storms at the mast- heads of ships, and which was supposed to be a sign that the vessel was under the saint's protection. (The name of Saint Elmo is of earlier origin. Peter Gonzales, in the popular devotion of the sailors of the Mediterranean, has replaced the name and memory of the older saints associated with the sea, particularly the 4th century Saint Erasmus.)

    He retired finally to Tuy in a state of extreme exhaustion. During Lent he preached each day in the cathedral, on Palm Sunday he foretold his death, and on the Sunday after Easter, he died at Santiago de Compostella. Bishop Luke of Tuy, his great admirer and friend, attended him to his last breath and buried him honorably in his cathedral. In his last will, the bishop gave directions for his own body to be laid near Peter's remains, which were placed in a silver shrine and honored with many miracles (Benedictines, Delaney, Dorcy, Encyclopedia, Gill, Husenbeth).

Born: 1190 at Astorga, Spain

Died: April 15,1246 at Saintiago de Compostela, Tuy; buried in the cathedral at Tuy

Beatified: 1254 by Pope Innocent IV

Canonized: December 13, 1741 by Pope Benedict XIV (cultus confirmed)
Representation: Dominican holding a blue candle or a candle with a blue flame; Dominican lying on his cloak which is spread over hot coals; Dominican holding fire in his bare hands; Dominican catching fish with his bare hands; Dominican beside the ocean, often holding or otherwise protecting a ship

 

Prayers

Almighty God, you bestowed the singular help of Blessed Peter on those in peril from the sea. By the help of his prayers may the light of your grace shine forth in all the storms of this life and enable us to find the harbor of everlasting salvation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. - General Calendar of the Order of Preachers