Saints and Sinners: May 2020
REBEL WHO FOUND A CAUSE
St. Peregrine Laziosi
Patron of Cancer Sufferers
Peregrine Laziosi was born into a wealthy family in Forli, part of the Papal States around 1260. By the late 1270s, the people of the city stood in opposition to Church authority, staging riots because the pope had not crowned a new Holy Roman Emperor in some time due to a power struggle. So Pope Martin V put the town under interdict, closing churches until peace was restored.
The anti-papal campaign only grew worse, however, so the pope sent St. Philip Benizi to talk sense into the Forlians. A band of young hooligans led by the 18-year-old Peregrine attacked the ambassador, and Peregrine went as far as to grab Philip by his religious habit and slug him in the face. To Peregrine’s surprise, Philip turned the other cheek to await the next blow. Taken aback by this Christ-like response, Peregrine asked Philip’s forgiveness, went straight home, and resolved to become a better man. He turned into a staunch supporter of the pope, began to pray fervently, and devoted himself to good works on behalf of the poor.
Inspired by a vision from Our Lady, he soon joined Philip’s religious community, the Servite order, where he received his habit from Philip himself. Eventually he was ordained a priest and earned a reputation as a gifted preacher and spiritual director — so much so that he was known as the “Angel of Good Counsel.” He was admired for his holiness and self-imposed penances, such as standing instead of sitting unless absolutely necessary.
Returning years later to found a Servite monastery in Forli, Peregrine suffered greatly from a chronic leg infection that turned into a cancerous growth. The night before surgeons were to amputate his leg, he spent hours in prayer and later dreamed that Christ was touching and healing his leg. When he awoke, the cancer was gone.
After his healing, many faithful came to him with their illnesses, and some were healed. Peregrine died in 1345 and was declared a saint in 1726. He is invoked today as a patron saint for cancer patients, those with foot disorders, AIDS sufferers, and those with incurable diseases.
We sometimes hear the phrase “turn your vice into virtue.” St. Peregrine’s interior spirit and vigor, once misappropriated in his youthful rebellion against the pope, was converted through St. Philip’s witness into a powerful priestly ministry in service to Christ’s faithful, especially the sinful, the troubled, the poor and the sick. Most of us can look back on the foolishness and sins of our youth, often involving energy and effort wasted on the wrong pursuits. If we are honest with ourselves, that’s the nature of much of our adult sins as well. St. Peregrine shows us we can turn those tendencies around and use our will and intellect to do good if we allow the grace of God to penetrate our hearts through our sincere repentance.
St. Peregrine Laziosi, pray for us!