Blessed Peter of Siena

Blessed Peter of Siena
(Beato Pietro di Siena)

Feast Day – December 5

Peter was a simple combmaker of Siena, and was faithfully devoted to his work. He sanctified it by prayer and united his hardships with the fatigue of our Savior in His work at Nazareth. In his love for penance he joined the Third Order of St Francis, and not only observed its rule exactly, but added still more rigorous works of penance. If work piled up, so that he was kept from spending more time in prayer, he would offer up his work instead. He managed always to find time for certain special devotions which he performed each evening with his devout wife.

When his wife died at an early age leaving no children, Peter found he was free to lead a life wholly in accord with his pious wishes. He saw in the poor and the sick, children whom God entrusted to his care. He shared his goods with them, visited them, comforted and nursed them in need. He continued to work at his trade, but devoted more time to prayer, even many hours of the night. He had the grace of intimate union with God and fostered special devotion to our Blessed Lady. She frequently appeared to him and treated him as a mother does a beloved son.

The more intimately Peter was permitted to enjoy this heavenly intercourse, the less he conversed with men. He spoke only when necessity or charity required it. In selling his combs, he would state the price and then place his finger on his lips so as to keep from speaking unnecessarily. His price always suited his customers, because they knew that his wares were good and that he never overcharged anyone.

In his great love for our holy Father St Francis, peter asked the friars of the Franciscan convent of Siena for permission to live there. The friars, aware of his extraordinary virtue, arranged a cell for him. This cell became for him an abode of delight. He would spend entire nights in prayer, enjoying the company of the holy angels and their queen, of the holy apostles, and of St Francis himself, who would instruct him and fill his soul with heavenly consolation.

For a long time Peter also had to endure apparitions and temptations from the evil spirits. Peter overcame them by his humility; and the higher he was raised by God, the more deeply did he descend in the opinion he had of himself. He confessed his smallest failings amid torrents of tears. One day he wrote out the sins and failings of his whole life, and then for his own humiliation, he read the whole list. God gave Blessed Peter of Siena the assurance that all his sins were forgiven, and all that he had written and read was miraculously erased.

His humble reserve never permitted him to speak when older people, priests, or religious were present, unless he was invited to do so. But, as everyone knew that Blessed Peter of Siena was favored with heavenly enlightenment, he was frequently called on to give advice. A religious once asked him what he should do regarding weariness at prayer. He answered: “Do not on that account curtail the time allotted to it. Sometimes we gain more by patient waiting than by receiving.”

God wrought many miracles through His humble servant. Blessed Peter of Siena died December 4, 1289. His tomb in the Franciscan church in Siena was adorned with a beautiful marble memorial. So many miraculous cures occurred at his grave that pilgrims came there from all parts of Italy. The veneration paid to him from the time of his death was approved by Pope Pius VII.

From: The Franciscan Book of Saints, Marion A. Habig, OFM

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