ST PETER THE MARTYR
The Liturgical Year
Ven. Abbot Dom Guéranger
The hero deputed this day, by the Church, to greet our Risen Lord, was so valiant in the Good Fight, that Martyrdom is part of his name. He is known as Peter the Martyr; so that we cannot speak of him, without raising the echo of victory. He was put to death by heretics, and is the grand tribute paid to our Redeemer by the 13th Century. Never was there a triumph hailed with greater enthusiasm than this. The Martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury excited the admiration of the Faithful of the preceding Century, for nothing was so dear to our Forefathers as the Liberty of the Church; the Martyrdom of St. Peter was celebrated with a like intensity of praise and joy. Let us hearken to the fervid eloquence of the great Pontiff, Innocent the Fourth, who thus begins the Bull of the Martyr’s Canonization: The truth of the Christian Faith, manifested, as it has been, by great and frequent miracles, is now beautified by the new merit of a new Saint. Lo! a combatant of these our own times comes, bringing us new and great and triumphant signs. The voice of his blood shed (for Christ) is heard, and the fame of his Martyrdom is trumpeted, through the world. The land is not silent that sweateth with his blood; the country that produced so noble a warrior resounds with his praise; yea, the very sword that did the deed of parricide proclaims his glory. Mother Church has great reason to rejoice, and abundant matter for gladness; she has cause to sing a new canticle to the Lord, and a hymn of fervent praise to her God: the Christian people has cause to give forth devout songs to its Creator. A sweet fruit, gathered in the garden of Faith, has been set upon the table of the Eternal King: a grape-bunch, taken from the vineyard of the Church, has filled the royal cup with new wine. The flourishing Order of Preachers has produced a red rose, whose sweetness is most grateful to the King; and from the Church here on earth, there has been taken a stone, which, after being cut and polished, has deserved a place of honour in the temple of heaven.
Such was the language wherewith the supreme Pontiff spoke of the new Martyr, and the people responded by celebrating his Feast with extraordinary devotion. It was kept as were the ancient Festivals, that is, all servile work was forbidden upon it. The Churches served by the Fathers of the Dominican Order were crowded on his Feast; and the Faithful took little branches with them, that they might be blessed, in memory of the Triumph of Peter the Martyr. This custom is still observed; and the branches blessed by the Dominicans, on this day, are venerated as being a protection to the houses where they are kept.
How are we to account for all this fervent devotion of the people towards St. Peter? It was because he died in defence of the Faith; and nothing was so dear to the Christians of those days as Faith. Peter had received the charge to take up all the heretics, who, at that time, were causing great disturbance and scandal in the country round about Milan. They were called Cathari, but, in reality, were Manicheans; their teachings were detestable, and their lives of the most immoral kind. Peter fulfilled his duty with a firmness and equity, which soon secured him the hatred of the heretics; and when he fell a victim to his holy courage, a cry of admiration and gratitude was heard throughout Christendom. Nothing could be more devoid of truth, than the accusations brought, by the enemies of the Church and their indiscreet abettors, against the measures formerly decreed by the public law of Catholic nations, in order to foil the efforts made by evil-minded men to injure the true Faith. In those times, no tribunal was so popular as that whose office it was to protect the Faith, and to put down all them that attacked it. It was to the Order of St. Dominic that this office was mainly intrusted; and well may they be proud of the honour of having so long held one so beneficial to the salvation of mankind. How many of its members have met with a glorious death in the exercise of their stern duty! St. Peter is the first of the Martyrs given by the Order for this holy cause: his name, however, heads a long list of others, who were his Brethren in Religion, his successors in the defense of the Faith, and his followers to martyrdom. The coercive measures that were once, and successfully, used to defend the Faithful from heretical teachers, have long since ceased to be used: but for us Catholics, our judgment of them must surely be that of the Church. She bids us today honour as a Martyr one of her Saints, who was put to death whilst resisting the wolves that threatened the sheep of Christ’s fold; should we not be guilty of disrespect to our Mother, if we dared to condemn what she so highly approves? Far, then, be from us that cowardly truckling to the spirit of the age, which would make us ashamed of the courageous efforts made by our forefathers for the preservation of the Faith! Far from us that childish readiness to believe the calumnies of Protestants against an Institution which they naturally detest! Far from us that deplorable confusion of ideas which puts truth and error on an equality, and, from the fact that error can have no rights, concludes that truth can claim none!
The following is the account given us by the Church of the virtues and heroism of St. Peter the Martyr.
Peter was born at Verona, of parents who were infected with the heresy of the Manichees; but he himself, almost from his very infancy, fought against heresies. When he was seven years old, he was one day asked by an uncle, who was a heretic, what they taught him at the school he went tot He answered, that they taught him the Symbol of the Christian Faith. His father and uncle did all they could, both by promises and threats, to shake the firmness of his faith: but all to no purpose. When old enough, he went to Bologna, in order to prosecute his studies. Whilst there, he was called by the Holy Ghost to a life of perfection, and obeyed the call by entering into the Order of St. Dominic.
Great were his virtues as a Religious man. So careful was he to keep both body and soul from whatsoever could sully their purity, that his conscience never accused him of committing a mortal sin. He mortified his body by fasting and watching, and applied his mind to the contemplation of heavenly things. He laboured incessantly for the salvation of souls, and was gifted with a special grace for refuting heretics. He was so earnest when preaching, that people used to go in crowds to hear him, and numerous were the conversions that ensued.
The ardour of his faith was such, that he wished he might die for it, and earnestly did he beg that favour from God. This death, which he foretold a short time before in one of his sermons, was inflicted on him by the heretics. Whilst returning from Como to Milan, in the discharge of the duties of the holy Inquisition, he was attacked by a wicked assassin, who struck him twice on the head with a sword. The Symbol of faith, which he had confessed with manly courage when but a child, he now began to recite with his dying lips; and having received another wound in his side, he went to receive a Martyr’s palm in heaven, in the year of our Lord twelve hundred and fifty-two. Numerous miracles attested his sanctity, and his name was enrolled the following year by Innocent the Fourth, in the list of the Martyrs.
St. Peter the Martyr
Double – Red vestments
INTROITUS – Psalm 63: 3
Protexisti me, Deus, a convéntu malignántium, allelúia: a multitúdine operántium iniquitátem, allelúia, allelúia. Ps. 63. 2. Exáudi, Deus, oratiónem meam cum déprecor: a timóre inimíci éripe ánimam meam. Gloria Patri.
Thou last protected me, O God, from the assembly of the malignant, alleluia: from the multitude of the workers of iniquity, alleluia. alleluia. Ps. Hear, O God, my prayers, when I make supplication to Thee: deliver my soul from the fear of the enemy Glory be to the Father.
Praesta quæsumus omnípotens Deus: ut beáti Petri Mártyris tui fidem cóngrua devotióne sectémur; qui, pro ejúsdem fidei dilatatióne, martyrii palmam méruit obtinére. Per Dóminum.
Grant we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that we may honor the faith of blessed Peter, Thy martyr, with fitting devotion, as he by the spread of the same faith was found worthy to obtain the palm of martyrdom. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE – Wisdom 5: 1-5
Then shall the just stand with great constancy against those that have afflicted them and taken away their labours. These seeing it, shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the suddenness of their unexpected salvation, saying within themselves, repenting, and groaning for anguish of spirit: These are they whom we had some time in derision and for a parable of reproach. We fools esteemed their life madness and their end without honour; behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the Saints.
ALLELUIA – Psalm 88: 6
Alleluia, alleluia. V. The heavens shall confess Thy wonders, O Lord; and Thy truth in the Church of the saints. Alleluia.
ALLELUIA – Psalm 20: 4
Alleluia. O Lord, Thou halt set on his head a crown of precious stones. Alleluia.
St. Peter Martyr by Fra Angelico – Tempera on wood, 1340-45
EVANGELIUM – John 15: 1-7
In illo témpore: Dixit Jesus discipulis Suis: Ego sum Vitis vera: etr Pater Meus agriocola est. Omnem palmitem in Me non ferentem fructum, tollet cum: et omnem, qui fert fructum, purgabit eum, ut fructum plus afferat. Jam vos mundi estis propter sermonem, quem locutus sum vobis. Manete in Me: ut Ego in vobis. Sicut palmes non potest ferre fructum a semitipso nisi manserit in vite: sic nec vos, nisi in Me maseritis. Ego sum Vitis, vos palmites: qui manet in Me, et Ego in eo, hic fert fructum multum: quia sine Me nihil postestis facere. Si quia in Me non manserit, mittetur foras sicut palmes, et arescet et colligent eum, et in ignem mittent, et ardet. Si manseritis in Me, et verba Mea in vobis manserint: qudcumque volueritis, peretis, et fiat vobis.
The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. John
At that time, The Lord said to His disciples: I am the true Vine; and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me, that beareth not fruit, He will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, He will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean by reason of the word, which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine: you the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing. If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and case him into the fire, and be burneth. If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you.
OFFERTORIUM – Psalm 88: 6
Confitebuntur Cœli mirabília tua, Dómine, et veritátem tuam in ecclésia sanctórum, allelúia, allelúia.
St Peter Martyr Altarpiece (detail) by Fra Angelico – Credo in Unum Deum, I believe in one God…
The Heavens shall confess Thy wonders, O Lord, and Thy truth in the church of the saints, alleluia, alleluia.
Preces, quas tibi, Dómine, offérimus intercedénte beáto Petro Mártyre tuo, cleménter inténde: et propugnatóres fidei sub tua protectióne custódi. Per Dominum.
Graciously give ear, O Lord, to the prayers we offer Thee, and, through the intercession of blessed Peter, Thy martyr, keep under Thy protection those who defend the Faith. Through our Lord.
PREFACE OF EASTER
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation that at all times, but more especially at this season, we should extol Thy glory, O Lord, when Christ our Pasch was sacrificed. For He is the true Lamb that hath taken away the sins of the world: Who by dying hath overcome our death, and by rising again hath restored our life. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly hosts, we sing a hymn to Thy glory, saying without ceasing:
COMMUNIO – Psalm 63: 11
Laetabitur justus in Dómino, et sperábit in eo: et laudabúntur omnes recti corde, allelúia, allelúia.
The just shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall hope in Him: and all the upright in heart shall be praised, alleluia, alleluia.
Fideles tuos, Dómine, custódiant sacraménta, quæ súmpsimus: et intercedénte beáto Petro Mártyre tuo, contra omnes advérsos tueántur incúrsus. Per Dominum.
May the sacraments which we have received, keep Thy faithful, O Lord, and, by the intercession of blessed Peter, Thy martyr, guard them against all assaults of the enemy. Through our Lord.