St. Peregrine

(1260-1345)

Pictures of St. Peregrine Laziosi identify this Servite friar by the bandage on his leg and foot. In a moment we will see why.

Peregrine started off on a rather stormy career. He was the only son of a prosperous couple of Forli, in northeastern Italy. The people of his province, Romagna, have always been political-minded and rather “agin the government”. In his day, the popes were opposed by the “Ghibelline” party, and young Laziosi, typically radical, took sides against the pope. When his partisans staged an uprising at Forli in 1279, Pope Nicholas III sent one Cardinal Latino to try to pacify them. Latino wisely took with him the head of the Servite order, St. Philip Benizi, who was noted for his ability to defuse explosive situations spiritually.

St. Philip, though sent to Forli as a peacemaker, was not peaceably received. The rebels seized him and roughed him up severely. Peregrine himself punched Philip in the face.

Much to the surprise of his young assailant, Philip, true to the gospel admonition, turned his face and invited Peregrine to strike him also on the other cheek. The invitation came as such a surprise that Peregrine was then and there stricken with shame. He not only begged the Servite’s forgiveness; he at once abandoned his fellow upstarts and went to church to pray.

Prayer in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral became a daily practice with Laziosi after that. One day, much to his surprise, Our Lady herself appeared to him there and told him to go to Siena. “There you will find the devout men who call themselves my servants,” she said; “attach yourself to them.”

Peregrine obeyed without delay. He found the Servites of Mary at Siena. It was the very order to which St. Philip Benizi belonged. He asked to be received as a member. Once he had entered, he embarked on a program of major action, moving from task to task without allowing himself any rest.

There was no doubt about it. Friar Peregrine was a model candidate; and when ordained, he proved a model priest. Eventually he was sent back from Siena to Forli to open a Servite monastery in his turbulent home city. The Forlesi found him a devout celebrant of Mass, a stirring preacher, and a tireless reconciler of sinners.

Eventually, however, Peregrine developed a health problem that proved serious. Cancer developed in one foot. This not only caused him great pain, but its odor drove others away from him because of its purulent condition. Finally, local surgeons decided they would have to cut off the foot, and they set a date for the amputation. It was an operation that in those days would have been performed crudely, and, of course, without anesthetic.

Peregrine, we are told, spent most of the night beforehand in trustful prayer. Towards morning he fell asleep. When he awoke he noticed that the pain in his foot had ceased. Examining it, he saw that it was completely healed. When the doctors came that morning, they were amazed to find not the least trace of disease in the foot they had planned to saw off. Thereafter, Laziosi enjoyed an even greater reputation for holiness. He moved about vigorously on his apostolic work until he reached the age of eighty. Then he was called to his reward.

In our day when malignancies are so prevalent, why not turn to St. Peregrine of Forli for help? His intercession with the God who cured him of his cancer might bring about a cure of ours.

–Father Robert F. McNamara

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