Of all the stories of saints, the tales of great redemption are some of the most inspiring and captivating: even Saint Augustine, the most well known man of antiquity, lived a sinful life of hedonism before his conversion. This is the story of Saint Peregrine, a staunch anti-papist who went from beating a priest to a becoming devout man of the Faith.
“There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future. – Saint Augustine of Hippo
Peregrine Laziosi was born around the year 1265 in Forli, Italy, the only son of an affluent noble family. His family supported the anti-papal faction in Forli, then a member of the Papal States. As a teen, he joined rebel groups in his hometown and rose to leadership.
In 1283, the city of Forli was placed under a spiritual interdict by Pope Martin IV, closing churches in hopes to bring the residents to their senses. With little headway made with the rebels the pope sent Saint Philip Benizi, a friar of the Servants to Mary, as ambassador.
While trying to preach in Forli, Benizi was heckled and struck by the eighteen-year-old Peregrine with a vicious blow to the face, falling off the rostrum to be beaten with clubs and pelted by rocks by the crowd. Later, a Peregrine stricken with remorse went to Benizi and cast himself at the feet of the beaten priest to ask for forgiveness. Benizi met him with a smile.
Peregrine became a close confidant of Philip Benizi. He heeded Benizi’s suggestion and often prayed in Our Lady’s chapel in the Cathedral of Forli. Tradition says that one day while kneeling there he had a vision of the Virgin Mary holding in her hands a black habit like the Servites wore. She said to him:
“Go to Sienna. There you will find devout men who call themselves my servants. Attach yourself to them.”
In Sienna, the Servants of Mary welcomed him. He joined them, becoming an ordained priest and clothed ceremoniously in the religious habit of Philip Benizi himself.
Later, Peregrine would return to Forli to found a new house for the Servite Order. He became renowned in the community for his preaching and holiness, along with his particular devotion for the sick and the poor. Tradition says he miraculously multiplied grain and wine during a severe shortage. He even earned himself the title “Angel of Good Counsel,” for the wise advice he offered to others freely given.
At the age of sixty, he developed an infection in his leg from cancer. His condition had deteriorated to the extent amputation was the only solution. The night before the operation, he dragged himself before the fresco of the Crucifixion in the chapter house. It is said during his fervent prayer, he became drowsy and saw Jesus descend from the cross to heal his leg. When the doctor arrived to perform the surgery, no sign of infection was found and he was completely cured.
For this miraculous healing of his leg that surely required amputation, Saint Peregrine is bestowed with the patronage of cancer sufferers. Today, his body rests in the Basilica of Saint Pellegrino Laziosi in Forli, where thousands visit each year to pray for the saint’s intercession.