Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 29: St. Peter Martyr, M., O.P., II Class

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of the illustrious St. Peter Martyr, martyr, of the Order of Preachers.  The feast is II Class and the semi-festive office is prayed according to the rubrics.

From the Martyrology:
At Milan, St. Peter Martyr, of the Order of Preachers.  To the very end of his life he preserved the dazzling jewel of virginity. With great energy he fought against the heretics by his preaching and teaching. When he was fatally stabbed by the heretics and lay dying on the ground, he wrote with his own blood the Catholic doctrine he had so staunchly defended in life. He died April 6.
Detail from a 13th Century Dominican Graduale
This glorious saint is the protomartyr, if you will, of all of those holy men who served faithfully in their capacity as inquisitors.  Unfortunately, the mere mention of the name “Inquisition” to one of our contemporaries will conjure up a well spring of myth and superstition, almost none of which has any basis in genuine history.  Sadder still, is that you will get a similar reaction from fellow Catholics, who should know the history of their Church much better than they do.  And yet, saints like St. Peter, and others like St. Peter Arbues, St. Pius V, Blessed Aimo Taparelli, Blessed Anthony Pavone, Blessed Peter Rufia, and many more, help to dispel much of these terrible myths.  Indeed, how could men whose sanctity is unquestioned, and have been raised to the altars of the Church and proposed to the faithful as men worth of veneration, have participated in something as heinous and gruesome a thing as the inquisition of myth?  It was a difficult, and often unpleasant, task to be sure, but a necessary one in countries that professed to be Catholic.  And men like St. Peter undertook this assignment, knowing full well that there were tremendous risks in doing so.  The enemies of the Faith had strong, rich, allies.  And those enemies were more than willing to murder a Friar in cold blood, if that’s what it took, to avoid an investigation of their crimes against the Faith.  St. Thomas Aquinas compares heresy to a disease…or to counterfeit currency.  Can you imagine a modern nation allowing either of those “contaminants” to spread, unchecked, among the populous?

The first two saints on the Dominican calendar were St. Dominic and St. Peter Martyr.  In the Dominican Rite, his feast is II Class, yet it contains the elements necessary to celebrate it as a I Class feast for provinces or Churches which have the glory of bearing his name.  The Office of St. Peter extols both his personal sanctity, particularly his purity, as well as his heroic defense and the Faith.  

From the Dominican Office:
Magnificat antiphon (1st Vespers):  O Peter, renowned martyr, glory of the Preachers, endowed with virginity, eloquence, miracles and grace, when our earthly life has been completed and the loving mercy to which we are accustomed has been granted to us, bring us to the heavens, alleluia.
Matins, Ant. 1:  Light arises from smoke and the rose-bloom from briars:  Peter, doctor and martyr, is born of unbelievers, alleluia.
Matins, Ant. 2:  Battling in the ranks of the Order of Preachers, he has now been joined to the ranks of the heavenly army, alleluia.
Matins, Lesson iii:  Peter, born at Verona of parents who were tainted with the Manichean heresy, strove against heresies almost from his very infancy.  Never was he shaken in steadfastness of faith by the coaxings of his father or his uncle.  As a young man he came to Bologna to pursue his studies and there he entered the Order of Preachers.  In this Order, he excelled by amazing zeal for penance and contemplation as well as by the great brilliance of his virtues, especially by purity of body and soul ever undefiled by mortal sin.  Peter applied himself most fruitfully to the work of the salvation of souls, and such was the ardor of the faith that inflamed him that he asked from God the grace to dying for it – a favor he obtained.  For when, in the course of his duties for the Holy Inquisition, he was returning from Como to Milan, he was wounded in the head by the sword of a godless assassin.  Nearly dead yet, with this last breath, pronouncing the Creed, which from his infancy he had defended with manly courage, he soared aloft to the palm of martyrdom.  It was the year of salvation 1252.  In the following year Innocent IV enrolled him in the number of the saintly martyrs.
Benedictus antiphon:  Possessing the highest purity and distinguished by grace of doctrine, renowned by the victory of martyrdom, Peter is resplendent in the glory of a threefold crown, alleluia.

Grant, we beseech you, almighty God, that we may earnestly and with fitting devotedness follow in the faith of the blessed Peter, your martyr, who for the spread of that same faith merited to obtain the palm of martyrdom.  Through our Lord…