Friday, May 1, 2015

Saint Peregrine: Being Made Whole in Hope

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.
—Romans 8:24-25

Peregrine Laziosi was born into a wealthy family in Forli, Italy, around the year 1260. The era into which Peregrine was born was characterized by political unrest, especially concerning the powers of the papacy in secular-political affairs; Peregrine’s family supported the anti-papal faction. In 1283, Saint Philip Benizi, the Superior General of the Servite Order, was sent to Forli as a papal representative, hoping to reconcile the divided community. As he was trying to preach, Peregrine became so enraged that he physically assaulted Philip, who responded by literally turning the other cheek. Peregrine soon repented of his acts and sought out Philip’s forgiveness. This experience had a profound impact on Peregrine’s life and marked the beginning of a process of conversion that led him to join the Servite Order in Siena. 

After several years, Peregrine was sent back to his home city to establish a new house of his order there and he soon won great respect for his effective preaching and generosity to the poor. People began calling him the “Angel of Good Counsel” because of the wise advice he freely offered. In his ministry and prayer, he chose to never settle or choose comfort—he always strove to move forward, toward higher spiritual things. 
Shrine of Saint Peregrine in
California's Mission San Juan Capistrano
When he was sixty years old, he developed a severe infection from acute varicose veins. The pain and infection were so severe that physicians decided that the leg needed to be amputated. The night before the operation, Peregrine spent time in prayer before a fresco of the Crucifixion. He fell asleep as he prayed and seemed to see Jesus descend from the cross to touch his leg. The following day, when the doctors came to perform the operation, there was no sign of the infection or wound. Because of this miracle, Peregrine has come to be honored as the patron saint of those with cancer and other kinds of wounds and infections.  

Peregrine died on May 1, 1345, at the age of eighty. He was canonized in 1726 and his commemoration is celebrated on May 1. (The Servite Order celebrates his memory on May 4.)

The life of Saint Peregrine is a wonderful testimony to the power of hope. But we should remember that hope isn’t really the sense that any problem or challenge (including illness) will “be OK.” That kind of hope only has to do with the future. In its truest form, hope is the understanding that whatever is happening in our life, both good and bad, God is there with us, right here and right now. So living in hope, as Saint Peregrine did, means that we live in the present moment, confident of God’s presence now and in the future.

In his encyclical, Spes Salvi ("Saved in Hope"), Pope Benedict XVI reminded us:
Humanity’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. John 13:1 and 19:30). Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what “life” really is. He begins to perceive the meaning of the word of hope that we encountered in the Baptismal Rite: from faith I await “eternal life”—the true life which, whole and unthreatened, in all its fullness, is simply life. Jesus, who said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in its fullness, in abundance (cf. John 10:10), has also explained to us what “life” means: “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live.”
Whether we are living with illness, financial trouble, spiritual doubts, or family issues—whatever the source of pain and frustration—we can still live as people of hope because we know that God never abandons us or leaves us to face suffering alone. We might not experience the physical restoration that Saint Peregrine enjoyed, but we can always trust that God is continually making us whole through the power of love and grace.


A prayer in honor of Saint Peregrine +
O God, who called blessed Saint Peregrine to seek your Kingdom in this world through the pursuit of charity, grant, we pray, through his intercession that we may advance with joyful spirit along the way of love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)

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