Saint Peregrine, the 12th century Servite brother who was canonised by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726, may not be the best known saint in the communion sanctorum, but thanks to the efforts of the Servites, his place as patron of cancer patients and those afflicted by other illnesses is undergoing a revival.
The St Peregrine Ministry Centre Australia aims to assist people who are sick by praying over those in need, bestowing the blessing of God and St Peregrine upon those who are suffering from illness and bringing the presence and care of God through his saint to others.
The Peregrine’s identify as, “a community of Christ’s disciples, proclaiming the reign of the Father through an integral evangelisation and healing, constantly renewed by the Holy Spirit and accompanied by Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, Servant and Mother; and by propagating the devotion to St Peregrine Laziosi and deepening our faith through his intercession.”
St Peregrine Laziosi was born in the late 13th century at Forlì, Italy to an affluent family and at the time, even though the city of Forlì was part of the Papal States, in 1283 it was the site of strong anti-papal sentiment and was placed under interdict by Pope Martin V.
The then-pontiff asked Philip Benizi de Damiani, the general superior of the Servites (beatified in 1516) to travel to Forlì and try to reconcile the divided city on behalf of the Pope.
Upon Philip’s arrival in Forli, a certain eighteen-year-old youth, Peregrine Laziosi, the son of a Ghibelline leader, was among those abusive towards Philip, heckling him, striking him and forcing him out of the city while the superior was trying to preach.
However, in spite of their initially hostile meeting, Phillip easily forgave the young ruffian the rudeness of his handling and the impact of this gracious forgiveness had a profound effect on Peregrine, influencing him towards a life-changing decision to join the Servite order.
After taking vows, Peregrine was professed a friar and returned to his hometown Forli, beginning to serve the local Servite community and quickly establishing a reputation for the wisdom of his counsel and the pursuit of penitence for his past impropriety.
People took to calling him the “Angel of Good Counsel”, and one of the special penances that he imposed on himself, for which he became well known, was to stand whenever he could, sitting only when forced to by necessity.
Unrelated to his self-imposed penance, at the age of 60, Peregrine developed an infection in his right leg, which deteriorated to the point that the physician decided to amputate the limb.
The night before the operation Peregrine spent time praying before a fresco of the Crucifixion in the chapter room, where he fell into a deep trance-like sleep and seemed to see Jesus descend from the cross to touch his leg.
The following day, the doctor arrived to perform the amputation and finding no sign of the cancer, spread news of the miraculous cure throughout the town, increasing the people’s veneration and respect for the Servite brother.
It is also said that he miraculously multiplied grain and wine during a severe shortage in Forli.
The saint died of a fever on 1 May 1345 at the age of 80, with an extraordinary number of people from the town and countryside coming to honour him in death – reports survive that some of the sick who came were healed through his intercession.
His body rests in the Servite church at Forlì, the Basilica of San Pellegrino Laziosi, Italy, and his trust in God serves as a model for those dealing with sickness.
Pope Paul V declared him blessed in 1609, Pope Benedict XIII canonised him in 1726 and the Church now celebrates the liturgical feast of St Peregrine on the 4th of each May.
As the 675th anniversary of his death approaches (1 May, 2020) it is the Servite’s desire that the devotion to Saint Peregrine be more widespread, encouraging him to intercede for all of us, especially for those who are afflicted with cancer.
Through Saint Peregrine ‘Healing’ Masses and veneration of his first-class relics, the Servites would like to propagate a rite that is truly liturgical and devotional, with holy relics of Saint Peregrine to be found here in WA at the Church of St Denis, Joondanna Parish, and at St Philip Priory Servite Community, 2 Morgans St, Tuart Hill 6060, Perth WA.
Peregrine Masses are held every third Saturday of the month at 8.30am and 11am in the morning at Joondanna Parish, and the Servites encourage everyone to come and experience the healing intercession of St Peregrine Laziosi.