SAINT PELLEGRINO AKA SAINT PEREGRINE. Can someone who slaps a future Saint become a Saint himself? While the future Saint Paul the Apostle only authorized Saint Stephen’s stoning, the man the Church calls the Patron Saint of Those with Cancer literally sucker punched a Saint-to-be! A young Italian rebel rouser, Peregrine Laziosi [1260 or 1265 – 1345], the only son of wealthy parents, joined an antipapal group that sought to sever ties with the Catholic Church. But when Pope Martin IV sent his personal representative, the future Saint Philip Benizi, to negotiate the lifting of a papal interdict, which forbid all Rites and Sacraments in that region, he received a hot-headed welcome: Peregrine hit the ambassador in the face with a slap that would rival an Oscar award ceremony!
However, the bruised papal legate, in true Christian form, literally turned the other cheek, which left his assailant so astonished and shamefaced that he sought forgiveness from Father Benizi. When he readily granted it, Peregrine vowed to repent, a promise he kept the rest of his life. With Philip Benizi as his spiritual director, Peregrine converted to Catholicism, and after praying often at a local Marian Shrine, he answered God’s call to join the Servite Order whose charism is prayer and service. He was vested in his religious habit by the same man he had once sucker-punched!
In many ways he was a model Religious Priest, inflicting harsh penances upon himself for his past misdeeds. He was such a hard-working, gifted preacher and confessor that his superiors sent him to start a new Servite monastery. Laboring for hours on his feet as he preached and cared for the poor eventually took its toll on him. He developed a cancerous growth on his right foot; he also had varicose veins in his legs which formed putrid ulcers. In constant pain, he heeded the doctors’ advice to have his leg amputated … but God had other plans!
Some reports say the plan was to amputate his foot; others say it was his leg. [He is usually depicted in art with a cancerous leg sore.] In any case, on the eve of the operation, he had a dream in which Jesus came off the Cross and touched and healed his wounds so completely that the next morning the doctors found no trace of cancer! As word spread of his miraculous healing, many sought the blessing and prayers of the then 60-year-old Priest.
For the rest of his life [some records state that he was 80, some say 85, when he died], Father Peregrine continued to preach and teach, mercifully forgive penitents, comfort and encourage the sick and dying, and wrought many miraculous healings. He died on May 1, 1345, and many continued to flock to his tomb, seeking a cure for cancer and other diseases. Pope Paul V declared him a ‘Blessed’ in 1609, and Pope Benedict XIII canonized him a ‘Saint’ in 1726. His Feast Day is on different days in different countries: May 1, 2 or 4; since he is NOT listed in the USA’s General Roman Calendar, he does not have an official Collect or oration. There are many ‘unofficial’ novenas and prayers seeking his intercessions; here is one:
Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Peregrine
Graciously hear the prayers
While the Church implores his intercession for all who suffer with cancer, as he did, and other diseases, Saint Peregrine also left us many examples to follow. Like him, we can move beyond the ‘sins of our youth’ and learn from our mistakes. We can imitate his willingness to seek forgiveness from those we offend. We can proclaim God’s Truth to a world that, like his, does not want to hear it – and often seeks to silence it – even violently. And we can trustingly accept life’s challenges and misfortunes, sickness and even death with the same hope and faith with which he endured these things and made it to heaven. Saint Peregrine, pray for us!
With God’s love and my prayers,
Very Rev. Michael J. Kreder, VF, KCHS