Tuesday, January 07, 2003

8 JANUARY – ST. PETER THOMAS, O. CARM.

The second great bishop of Carmel was St. Peter Thomas, born in 1305, at Perigord. Unlike St. Andrew Corsini, he was of humble parentage and very poor, but with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. He made every sacrifice, even depriving himself of necessaries, to obtain his education, and soon was able to instruct himself and teach others, so that the Carmelite Fathers engaged him for their classes, and the young students were the first to avail of his extraordinary genius. Soon he begged for admission, and the Professor became a monk at twenty.

He was sent to the University of Paris and was there at the same time as Andrew Corsini, though history does not record the meeting of the young French and Italian Carmelites. The nations were apt to hold together amid the multitudes there. Peter Thomas was among the first teachers of Bologna. His sanctity was soon recognized as being equal to his learning, and he was given the highest Offices in the Order. His life may be summarized in three words: Mary, Union of the Greeks, and Jerusalem.

“Mary,” for his devotion to Our Lady, his treatises on her Immaculate Conception, his visions, his inexpressible love for her; “Union of the Greeks,” for it was his special mission and for that he was sent to Constantinople by the Sovereign Pontiff; and “Jerusalem,” for the Holy City was his Patriarchal See.

Clement VI had for him a marked affection, and called him to Avignon to be Doctor of Theology for the Papal Court. It was while there, on the eve of Pentecost, 1351, that he had a vision of Our Lady which hung as a bow of promise over the awful years so soon to follow. Even then the sinister shadow was cast upon the Mountain, and the great heart of Peter Thomas was rent with anguish. Prostrate, he prayed and pleaded with Mary his Queen and his Mother, to protect her Order, and she appeared to him in glory saying: “Peter, fear not, the Order of Carmel will endure unto the end of the world; Elias has obtained this from my Son.” We read that promise with joy and devotion, but the, in view of what followed, it was a vision of hope almost necessary to uphold the “Brothers of Our Lady” from despair, as pestilence, heresy, and, worst of all, schism, were to walk abroad and threaten the existence of Carmel on every side. . . . . .

. . . . .He was appointed Bishop of Patti and Archbishop of Candia. Charged by Innocent VI with no less than fourteen important embassies, he was sent to the Court of Louis, King of Pouille, to the Emperor Charles IV, and to John VI, Emperor of Constantinople. This City he reconciled to the See of Rome. In 1356, he was sent as Legate to the East and Examiner on questions of faith. In 1360 he anointed Peter I of Lusignan, King of Cyprus and Jerusalem, and the following year the pestilence attacked the Isle of Cyprus. The population were in consternation at the horrors they witnessed; death everywhere and in a horrible form. Peter multiplied himself, and his devotion during the pest has become a tradition in the Order. He was everywhere and everything; consoler, physician, father to the sick, to the dying, and to those who wept and could not die, for death was easier than life amid such scenes. His history would require a large volume, and through all his embassies, missions and legations, we see the humble servant of Our Lady, the Saint, moving obdurate hearts, inspiring heroic deeds, advancing the interests of the Holy See, and shrinking from the honors that were thrust upon him.

In the midst of the splendor of the times and with his rank as Bishop and Legate, he lived simply like his Brethren; went on foot when possible, lived in his own Monasteries whenever he could, though his presence was claimed as an honor by Kings and Princes.

In 1365, he was made Legate and sent to preach the Crusade against the Turks. He blessed the fleets of the Crusaders amid repeated cries of “Live, Peter of Jerusalem!” “Live, the King of Cyprus against the Saracens!” Thanks to his prudence and prayers, the army of the infidels was routed, and the city of Alexandria taken October 4, 1365. As was his wont, after the battle he went at once to the Carmelite Monastery of Famagusta, to remain for the celebration of Christmas. He had been wounded during the siege, by a Turkish arrow, and this was the cause of his lingering death.

He looked forward with joy to the feast so dear to him, and, just as she did later to St. Andrew Corsini, so did Our Lady appear to Peter Thomas to prepare him and warn him of his coming end, on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. As the hour approached, he commanded his brothers to lay him on the ground with a sack and a cord about his neck, that he might beg pardon of all the Religious gathered about him. He then tried to say the Canonical Hours which he had never missed since his entrance into Religion, but his strength failed. His Confessor finished them with him, and a little after, he died, on January 6, 1366, as Our Lady had predicted. He was buried where he died, in the Church of the Carmelites at Famagusta. He is especially invoked against pestilence and epidemics. In the allocution pronounced by Benedict XIV in 1744, at the Chapter General of the Carmelites, the illustrious Pontiff affirmed that his native city of Bologna was under great obligation to Blessed Peter Thomas, the ornament of Carmel, - “Carmelitanum alumnum et ornamentum,” – because it was owing to his care that peace was established between Pope Urban V, and the Viscount Barnabas, and also because he was the first to have theology taught in the Academy of Bologna, already so famous for its learning.
-from Carmel, Its History, Spirit, and Saints, compiled from approved sources by The Discalced Carmelites of Boston and Santa Clara.(1927)

And my godson is named after St. Peter Thomas. Ad multos annos, Peter.