Dominican Saints 101: St. Peter Martyr

June 3, 2012

Tomb of St. Peter Martyr in the Basilica of San Eustorgio in Milan
Bookmarked by truth.  That little idea summarizes the life of St. Peter Martyr (1206-1252, feast – June 4).  His whole life began and ended with the profession of truth, especially in the written proclamation of his faith in the face of martyrdom.  It is with this in mind, that he is considered the protomartyr of the Dominican Order. As a child, St. Peter Martyr was raised by Albigensian parents.  Albigensianism, or Catharism, was a dualist heresy that believed, among other things, that there were two gods, one of the spirit who was good and one of the flesh who was evil.  Yet, by some miraculous gift, he was preserved from their heresy.  While he was young, his uncle asked him what he had been taught.  He then began to recite the Creed.  This truth was too much for the heretical uncle who began to chide him for saying that he believed that God made the earth and the material world.  Yet, the faithful proponent of truth defending what he believed. This defense of the truth continued all throughout St. Peter Martyr’s life as he went throughout Italy preaching the truth for the salvation of souls.  His staunch defense of the teachings of the faith led to countless conversions.  Because of this, he greatly angered the heretics who began to have enough of him.  So they plotted his death. On Easter Saturday in 1252, after solemnly celebrating Mass, he set out to for the city of Milan.  As he was walking back he was beset by assassins hired by the Albigensians in Milan.  He took an axe to the head, fell to the ground, and began his last profession of truth.  In the ground, with the blood from the wound in his head, he wrote the words with which he first began his defense of the faith as a child – Credo in Deum.  He died a noble martyr’s death. Yet, the truth he preached throughout his life did not end here.  Soon after his death, most of the Albigensians in the areas where he preached converted back to the faith.  His assassin even converted.  He later entered the Dominican Order as a laybrother and spent the rest of his life in penance for martyring his newly found brother.  He became so holy that the Order refers to him as Bl. Carino. May St. Peter Martyr’s fidelity to the truth be a witness to us of the beauty and the urgency of proclaiming the truth, even in our own difficult times. 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 Christ our Lord.

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