St. Peter Martyr (1206-1252)

St. Peter Martyr of Verona ” as not the first Dominican to die in the cause of truth, but so greatly ,vas he revered for his sanctity that he was canonized the year after his death; hence he became the type of fearless apostle of the Order.

More remarkable than his death is the record of his life. Born of heretical parents, and surrounded during his whole childhood with the most harmful theories and practices, Peter preserved a purity of faith and morals which was nothing short of miraculous. Continually ridiculed and harangued by his relatives, he remained untarnished in both body and soul. Sent to Bologna to the university at the age of fifteen, he met St. Dominic, and instantly, with no backward glances at the wealth and power he was foregoing, threw himself at the saint’s feet and begged admission to the Order. He was present at the death of St. Dominic, and shared in the legacy of primitive zeal and courage passed to the sons of a saint.

While still a student, Peter underwent a severe trial. He was publicly reprimanded and placed on punishment because a brother, passing Peter’s cell late at night, thought he had heard women’s voices in the room. The voices were those of angels, who frequently visited the saint: but in his humility he thought it better to accept the punishment and say nothing about it. He was sent to another convent to do penance, and his ordination was delayed. Peter prayed and found great strength in prayer: but, being human, he felt the disgrace keenly, and he one day complained to our Lord: “Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent of this: why dost Thou permit them to believe it of me?” A sorrowful voice replied from the crucifix: “And I, Peter, what have I done that they should do this to Me?” Peter complained no more. The truth was eventually discovered, and Peter, reinstated in the community, resumed his studies. He prayed daily for the happiness of dying a martyr’s death.

Peter soon became a celebrated preacher and engaged in disputes with the heretics all over northern Italy. Many miracles were worked through his prayers, to the rage of the heretics. In one city, a prominent man had been won to heresy, because the devil, taking the appearance of the Blessed Mother, appeared at the heretics’ meetings and encouraged him to join them. Peter, determined to win the man back to the truth, went to the meeting of the heretics, and, when the devil appeared in his disguise, held up a small pyx in which he had placed a consecrated Host. “If you are the Mother of God,” cried Peter, “adore your Son!” The devil fled in dismay, and many heretics were converted. Enraged by Peter’s success, his enemies made plans to destroy him.

Sold like his Master for thirty pieces of silver, Peter was ambushed and killed on the road to Milan. He went to his death singing, which is the traditional Dominican way to enter heaven. Undaunted by the threats of the heretics, he walked along singing the Easter Sequence, and fell unprotesting beneath the blows of the assassins. One of his murderers, touched by grace at the sight of a saint, was converted, eventually took the Dominican habit, and was popularly known as “Blessed” Carino. To him as to us, Peter had pointed out the way to heaven when he traced on the dust of the road, in his own blood, the creed that had lighted his path: “Credo in unum Deum.”

(Source : Dorcy, Marie Jean. St. Dominic’s Family. Tan Books and Publishers, 1983)