Amputation Miracles: St. Peter of Verona

There are similar stories about the healing of an amputated foot by St. Peter of Verona (a Dominican killed by hitmen, aka St. Peter Martyr) and St. Anthony of Padua (a Franciscan). Since Franciscans and Dominicans had a great rivalry back then, it’s hard to say which source has the real info, although St. Anthony’s version appeared in books about fifty years before St Peter’s version. (Or Italians being Italians, maybe it did happen more than once.) It is definitely a cautionary tale against taking hyperbole too literally.

Since I found the St. Peter Martyr version first, here it is.

Taegio, Vita S. Petri Veronensis, section 23. Collected and printed by the Bollandists in Acta Sanctorum, Aprilis vol. iii, 700 E. Translation by me.

“At the time when Blessed Peter was most fruitfully performing the duty of preaching throughout Italy, it happened that a certain youth felt pricked with repentance by his preaching, and approached him for his confession of sins. Among the rest of his sins, he confessed that in a certain disturbance, he had kicked his mother around with his foot.

“Arguing against such a sin of presumption to scare him, St. Peter indeed said, among other things, that “This foot which kicked his mother deserved to be cut off.” Then, having given him a healthy penance, he allowed him to leave, absolved of sin.

“But the young man, his mind continually pulled again and again toward Blessed Peter’s words about the amputation of his foot, was deceived by diabolical persuasion. Secretly taking a pick-axe, he cut off his own foot as vengeance against its wicked deed.

“And when he let out screams from the excessive pain, his father and mother and the rest of the household quickly ran to him. Then on hearing that he had received the happenstance of Blessed Peter’s words to himself as how he should proceed to judgment, his father went out for Blessed Peter, putting all delay behind him, and exposed the painful case, asking that he not refuse to see the suffering youth, and that he be helped by his prayers to the Lord.

“So joined by a companion, the tender Father [Peter] came near him. And shaken by tender compassion and relying on the tenderness of Christ, he threw out all who were in attendance but kept those parents and his companion. And most devoutly, on bended knees and with many tears, he called on the clemency of God. And rising, with great confidence in God, he took the foot in his hands, and applying it to the stump of his leg and sealing it with the Sign of the Cross, he healed it instantly and as if he had never had any wound. But as a sign of the miracle, a thin scar remained at the joining of the foot, with all inward deformity absent.”

Here’s a later miracle account.

St. Antoninus of Florence, giving an incident from the life of St. Peter of Verona. Collected in Acta Sanctorum, Aprilis vol. iii, 702 B.

“At that time, when he was roaming around preaching throughout Lombardy and Tuscany and Romagna, it happened that he heard in confession a certain adolescent, feeling pricked to repentance by his teaching. And among the rest of his sins, he confessed that he had kicked his mother around with his foot.

But the saint, shuddering at the crime, argued against him with bitter tears, showing him the seriousness of his wicked deed.

Shaken by his word and example, he asked, “What do you ask me to do, Father, in satisfaction for my disgraceful act? Look, I am ready for anything.”

“Surely,” said the holy man, “this foot which was the instrument of such impiety deserved to be cut off; and as when Christ said in the Gospel, ‘If… your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you.”* Yet I do not say that you should do this. So beware in the future. Do such and such a penance for satisfaction [of the sin].”

The adolescent went away with no moderate zeal for avenging the accomplished departure [from what is right], but of course not according to understanding. Returning home, he got a dagger (not a small one) and in a boiling passion of spirit, cut off his foot. Intense pain followed, which did not remove or diminish his fervor. He screamed from pain, and the noise was heard, and his blood poured copiously onto the ground.

His mother quickly ran to him. She noticed the cut off foot pouring out blood, and putting the distress away as if outside her, she called out to her female friends and neighbors. They hurried to help, totally filled with astonishment. Not knowing the cause of the matter, they exerted themselves to staunch the blood flow soonest. And having applied what care could be given, they questioned the adolescent how and for what reason he had done this to himself.

The youth responded that he had confessed himself to that preacher Peter, and among the rest of his sins, about spurning his mother with his heel; which sin he had shown him was so enormous, that it had not looked to the adolescent that he could satisfy it sufficiently unless by punishing the foot through cutting it off.

The mother lamented; her familiar friends joined in; the neighborhood was filled with whispers insulting Father Peter and the convent, holding the Brothers, who would impose the penance of cutting off feet upon adolescents, to be indiscreet and fatuous. Hurriedly, they proceeded to the convent; they called out the Prior. They set forth their complain against Father Peter; they explained the case.

This was set forth to the holy man. He justified himself; he had not imposed such a work. But to make provision for the simplicity of the adolescent, he ordered him to be brought to him, along with the cut off foot.

When this was done, after sending ahead a prayer, he joined the cut off foot and fastened it to the tibia in the place where it had been cut. And instantly, it was grafted on and the tibia was incarnated with the foot, and it was as if nothing had been cut there. And those who were in attendance seeing it, they glorified God who gave such power to human beings, and turned the simple fatuity of a youth into glory for his saint.”

* (Matthew 18:8)

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St. Columbanus Refutes Genghis and Conan

What is best in the world?

To please one’s Maker.

St. Columbanus. Instructiones variae, “Instructio III: De sectando mundi contemptu et coelestium bonorum amore.” Migne, Patrologiae Latinae, vol. 80, 235.

UPDATE: St. Columbanus may be riffing off the philosopher Seneca, in his creepy Epistle LXX to Lucilius, on the topic of why suicide is a good plan if you’re a Stoic:

“Optima est, quae placet.”

The best [means of suicide] is what pleases [oneself].

If it really is a reference, it is pretty bold. It’s basically a big swipe at Seneca, turning his entire point on its head. We aren’t here to please ourselves and especially not in a destructive way; we should be trying to please God.

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Amputation Miracles: St. Columbanus

There’s an atheist meme going around that there are never any miracles of healing amputations or other serious limb injuries.

They’re wrong, although it’s true that we don’t usually see this in modern times. Miraculous limb transplants and miraculous regrowth of feet, hands, and tongues are pretty common miracle stories. (And obviously the Lord healed St. Malchus’ ear that St. Peter chopped off.) Of course, as soon as one does point out such miracles, the atheist usually tends to change his ground and say that “legendary” or “historical” miracles don’t count. But because that is an atheist meme, I figure that I ought to record some examples in my blog as I run across them.

The interesting thing about this miracle is that the saint’s biographer, Jonas of Bobbio, isn’t particularly impressed by it and doesn’t regard it as one of the saint’s more important miracles or signs. Another interesting thing is that he heard it from the man who was healed, and saw the results. Also, the miracle happened in the full view of many onlookers, who knew both participants well. Finally, while Jesus’ use of His Own saliva for miraculous healing is in the Gospels, it clearly isn’t within natural abilities for someone to use spit as surgical glue, or to be able to heal nerves, muscles, and veins instantly.

Vita S. Columbani, by Jonas of Bobbio (aka Jonae Abbatis Elnonensis). Migne, Patrologiae Latinae, vol. 87, 1025. Translated in The Life of St. Columban, ed. Dana Carleton Munro, Department of History of the University of Pennsylvania, 1895. Slightly adapted by me.

23. If we try to include some things which may seem of little importance, the goodness of the Creator (Who is equally merciful in very small matters and in great, Who does not delay to turn His pitying ear to trifling details, just as in the very important matters He grants the desire of the suppliant) will be manifest to those who bawl envious detractions.

For on a certain day when the excellent man of God had gone with the brethren to cut the harvest near Calmem, which is called Baniaritia, and they were cutting the crop while the south wind blew, one of them, named Theudegisil, happened to sever his finger with a sickle, and the finger hung by only a small strip of skin. [Theudegisilus nomine, digitum falce praecideret, nec prorsus haereret praeter pellis parvo retentaculo.]

The man of God, seeing Theudegisil standing apart, commanded him to continue the work with his companions. But the latter told the reason for his actions. Columban hastened to him, and with his own saliva restored the wounded finger to its former health. [celer ille ad ipsum properat, digitumque illitum saliva pristinae sanitati statim reddit.] Then he ordered Theudegisil to make haste and put forth more strength.

The latter, who had grieved for a long time over his severed finger, joyfully began to work doubly hard and to press on before the others in cutting the grain.

Theudegisil told us this and showed us his finger. [Theudegisilus narravit, digitumque monstravit.]

A similar thing happened on another occasion at the monastery of Luxeuil.

24. For a parish priest named Winnoc, the father of Babolen who is now abbot of Bobbio, went to St. Columban. The latter was in the forest with the brethren, getting a supply of wood. When Winnoc arrived, and was watching with wonder how they split the trunk of an oak so easily with their mallet and wedges, one of the wedges flying from the trunk cut him in the middle of the forehead, so that great waves of blood ran from his veins. The man of God, Columban, seeing the blood flowing and the bone uncovered, immediately fell on the ground in prayer, then rising, healed the wound with his saliva, so that hardly a sign of a scar remained.


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Blessed Jordan of Saxony: Charisma Score of 25

Blessed Jordan of Saxony was a university friend of St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican friars (real name: the Order of Preachers). He was already famous for scholarship and charisma while he was still at the University of Paris. He didn’t actually join the Dominicans until St. Dominic had left town and his second Dominican mentor had passed away. But when St. Dominic died unexpectedly in Bologna and then Jordan showed up in town, the local Dominicans found themselves leaning on him and choosing him as their new leader. Two years after becoming a friar, he was voted leader of the whole Order.

But that’s not why I say he had a charisma score of 25.

Nope, he’s the kind of guy who would tool around Europe’s university towns, routinely persuading thousands of young men to give up their noble birth and worldly wealth to follow the evangelical counsels. He had an uncanny ability to know how people were thinking and feeling, and to be able to console them with just his presence, or a few words, or by laying on hands. He was also able to bring other people to feel compassion, or to teach them to understand why a novice was having trouble. And yet he was far from being anti-intellectual. He was that rare person who had both emotional and intellectual gifts, and it made him a great administrator. He was also able to be a deep friend to both men and women, without ever causing a hint of scandal. He loved and appreciated nature. He was also humble, and much more delighted by other people’s success than by his own. He made it his practice to rejoice whenever anything annoying happened.

He enjoyed singing, and loved to walk ahead of his companions singing a hymn and contemplating God. On some of his journeys across the lands of Europe, he managed to take wrong turnings during his contemplations, so that the friars had to go find him. This didn’t bother him. He said there was only one road worth troubling about — the road to heaven.

On one occasion, a local lord who hated friars was annoyed to find Friar Jordan and his company ensconced at table in the house when he came in. He didn’t go so far as to throw them out, but he ordered them to be served from a barrel of sour nasty wine down in the cellar. The servers complied, and the friars responded with delight and praise for the excellent vintage. The lord was sure the servants had disobeyed and stormed down to the cellar. He found that all the sour wine in the barrel had turned into a really beautiful wine, and was struck with repentance.

One of the things that happened after St. Dominic died was that the Dominicans of Bologna, and of convents in other places throughout Europe, began to be harassed by strange dreams, sinister visions, weird apparitions, and various more psychological attacks of the devil, like depression and despair. The friars were forced to have people take turns keeping watch and praying. To deal with this demonic harassment, Blessed Jordan first tried a hymn sung to the angels, but eventually settled on having the friars process every night after Compline while singing the “Salve Regina.” This did the trick, and Dominicans still do it today.

I could go on and on. Blessed Jordan of Saxony was an interesting guy.

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The Guardian Strikes Again

Here’s an interesting article about a book on visiting illuminated manuscripts. Hopefully the content doesn’t reflect the book.

Moses is described as “horned” throughout the Middle Ages, and of course Michelangelo’s famous statue shows Moses with horns. This was not because people thought Jews had horns.

(Obviously an idea that couldn’t survive any city where Jews lived. Jews got their hats knocked off a lot; it was a common harassment thing. However, it is true that people in the waybacks always seem to tell kids that various minority ethnic or religious groups who don’t live around them have tails and horns, like the Russian eretik monsters. You sometimes hear people on the Internet who say that their grandparents were taught that about Catholics.)

The reason Moses was called “horned” was because the Vulgate said the same thing. This was how St. Jerome, who studied Hebrew with Jews, translated Exodus 34:35:

“Qui videbant faciem egredientis Moysi esse cornutam, sed operiebat ille rursus faciem suam, siquando loquebatur ad eos.”

“Upon Moses coming out, they saw his face was horned, but he covered his face back up whenever he spoke to them.”

The usual English translation these days is that “the skin of Moses’ face shone.” So what people think is, “How dumb St. Jerome was! What a terrible translation error!”

But the Hebrew word used in this passage for “shine” is “karan,” which literally means “horn.”

As this gentleman Taylor Marshall explains, the Hebrew idea was that a ray of light was shaped like a horn. Horns were also symbols of power, as we see again and again in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. So after seeing God, Moses suddenly had some kind of frightening light of power coming out from his head. Horns.

Mr. Marshall also points out that Hebrew altars had horns, and altars were veiled. He suggests that the wording means that Moses was now a living altar of God.


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Medieval Party Mix

A very nice selection of medieval dance music.

Of course, the thing with medieval groups is that they have the notes for a lot of songs, and they have the words for some; but there are very few markings for things like tempo or instrumentation. So they have to do things like look at paintings and carvings of musical groups, and read verbal descriptions. Finally, they embark upon the advanced musical process called “make a guess and see what works.”

So medieval music groups are not sure they are authentic; but they are making informed and reasonable tries at it.

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Pope Without Ceremony: Or, Nothing New Under the Sun

The Servant of God Pope Benedict XIII, born Pierfrancisco Orsini, took the name of Friar Vincenzo Maria when he became a Dominican. (Before that, he was the 12th Duke of Gravina, along with other titles.) He was made a cardinal by Pope Clement X in 1672 — against his will, people said. The pope deployed him as a bishop first in Manfredonia, then Cesena, and then Benevento. Despite his reluctance, he was a hardworking bishop with a hands-on approach to correcting things, and of course he was a good preacher who was interested in making sure everybody got a good education. After two years in Benevento, the earthquake of June 5, 1688 hit. He attributed his escape from certain death to the prayers of St. Philip Neri.

Benevento is earthquake-prone, so he ended up rebuilding the town twice during his service. Meanwhile, he participated without incident in the papal conclaves that elected Popes Innocent XI, Alexander VIII, Innocent XII, Clement XI, and Innocent XIII.

But in the conclave of 1724, we are told by the Chevalier Artaud de Montor, things were a little bit different. The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that the bishop was worried because after two months, no particular candidate had any particular majority. He wanted to get on back to Benevento with the Church on track. So on May 25, he quietly started a novena to St. Philip Neri, asking that the election not be delayed much longer.

Be careful what you pray for.

Suddenly the good bishop found himself in the uncomfortable position of a papabile; and worse, he got the feeling that he was the one who was going to win! He was known to be a great pastor as well as a man of holy and austere life who took his religious vows seriously, and that sounded good. More and more cardinals kept voting for him, while he got more and more distressed. Finally, on the last ballot on May 29, we are told that the voting was unanimous — except for the vote of the bishop himself. Everybody congratulated him.

He refused the papacy.

A staredown resulted. Cardinals kept trying to persuade him. He kept refusing. They kept refusing to reconsider. Some say this lasted more than a day, while others that it was only three hours.

Finally, somebody sent for tbe head of the Dominican Order (since technically the conclave was over and the doors could be unlocked). The cardinals asked him to order his friar to become pope!

The guy agreed to speak to his friar. We don’t know if he would have ordered him. As soon as they started talking, the bishop apparently revealed that he had made a secret vow not to accept any kind of honors at the conclave, either as the pope or a member of his court. Since he was a priest as well as a friar, the head Dominican had the authority to dissolve the vow, which he promptly did. The unhappy new pope reluctantly accepted his election.

As was then the custom, the new Pope was dressed in his new robes and the papal triple tiara. He was then placed on a sedan chair (the sedia gestatoria) and carried outside through the Square and over to St. Peter’s, so that the people could see him. At the door of St. Peter’s, the new pope startled everyone by ordering the chair to be lowered. He got out and pressed himself to the earth, kissing the threshold of the doors. He spent a long enough time on the ground that many people in the crowd thought he had collapsed and died. The cardinals, who could see what was going on, were confused about whether they should also prostrate themselves, kneel, bow, or just keep standing there. Finally, everyone was released from suspense when the new pope got up and walked inside on foot, and then went over to the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

The papal masters of ceremony were worried and upset by all this. But the contemporary joke was that there was no reason to sing the traditional antiphon “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus” (“Behold the great priest”), because nobody would be able to “behold” him through the crowd!

Later that day, when the Pope was taken back into the papal palace, he initially refused to sleep in the papal bed (until reason prevailed or it got to be silly). The next day, he sent for his Dominican convent bed with its normal sheets and bedclothes, all either wool or of rough-textured cloth. He slept on that for the rest of his papacy. He also delayed his papal installation Mass for the next three days, spending it all in prayer. The Mass was finally held on June 4th.

After that, things went pretty normally until June 11, when the pope interrupted his visit to Holy Ghost Hospital to give last rites to a dying nun.

On June 26th, he announced a Jubilee Year or Holy Year to ask God’s favor.

In August on St. Dominic’s Day, he went back to his old convent and dined in the normal refectory dining room. So as to show no favor, he then proceeded to do the same thing on St. Francis’ Day in October. In later years, he often visited his old convent’s refectory, and kissed the hand of whoever was running the Dominican Order at the time.

Pope Benedict XIII was also known for canonizing many saints. He did equipollent canonizations of Pope St. Gregory VII and St. Wenceslas.

In 1727, as part of his administration of the Papal States, he went out by sea to the very rural town of Terracina to see what was going on with the Pontine Marshes (which badly needed draining). Two ships of the Barbary Pirates found out about this and attempted to capture him, landing raiders at San Felice Circeo. (Mind you, the Barbary States had just concluded a treaty with the Papal States, agreeing not to attack them. So yeah, that worked out.)

Luckily for the Pope, the hurried imprudence that led him to go out to the marshes without enough guard also hurried him back home again. The raiders found that they were too late. (But we are told that many old people and children were kidnapped and enslaved by the disappointed Muslim raiders.) On later papal trips by sea, the pope took a Papal States war galley.

Pope Benedict XIII was still very fond of his old diocese of Benevento, and he visited the city several times during his papacy. He was also criticized for placing too much confidence in men from Benevento whom he knew, because he picked so many of them to be his ministers and bureaucrats, while overlooking many able Romans. The worst example was Cardinal Nicolo Coscia, formerly his coadjutor bishop at Benevento. He was a total crook, and apparently Pope Benedict XIII was the only one who didn’t realize it. (As soon as the pope died, Coscia was arrested, tried, and sent to prison for ten years for all his stealing.)

On the other hand, Pope Benedict XIII deliberately didn’t give special favors to his own Orsini family. (He wasn’t even the first pope from his noble family. The others were Celestine III, best known for excommunicating the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI for imprisoning Richard the Lionheart; and Nicholas III, whose dad had been a personal friend of St. Francis of Assisi.)

So far, you probably are thinking that this guy was a lot like our current Pope Francis.

But he also did a lot of stuff that was prudent administration. He ordered that cardinals who weren’t from wealthy backgrounds should be given a geneous stipend, sufficient for doing their jobs, paying their staff, and giving out alms. He also got out the books of ceremonials for bishops and had all the iffy passages corrected in a new edition, according to how he had seen bishops do it correctly over his long years of pre-papal epicopizing. He replaced a confraternity for laypeople that had been suppressed with another confraternity of the same name, run along exactly the same lines, but under Franciscan supervision.

With the help of a personal friendship which he had formed with the dissident Cardinal Noailles of France during the long two months of papal conclave, he convinced Noailles to publicly agree with the old bull Unigenitus before the cardinal died. (Unigenitus is a condemnation list of 101 Jansenist statements, said in a popular book by a guy named Quesnel. His argument was that God was perfectly okay with running over people’s free will. The popes consistently said this was nonsense.)

He also acted as a friend of theater. There was a plague in Pamplona, Navarre. The desperate people of the city assembled in the public square and collectively vowed several things if God would spare their lives, among which was that no comedy would ever be played in Pamplona. They kept the vow and closed down the theater. The problem was that the local orphanage for illegitimate kids was supported by theater revenues. Should the citizenry’s vow be dissolved? Or were comedy plays something evil that should not be allowed in a Catholic city, as some insisted? Pope Benedict XIII dissolved the vow. He argued that it was the King of Navarre’s job and the theater’s job to make sure that the plays were good ones, and that the citizens should give the orphanage a named amount of money to replace the lost revenues.

He also built the Spanish Steps.

He died on February 21, 1730. An autopsy showed that his heart was abnormally large, much like that of St. Philip Neri. His funeral Mass was at St. Peter’s, but he was interred in the Chapel of St. Dominic at Santa Maria sopra Minerva, right next to the Dominican convent he loved. Here’s his tomb.

People have started causes for his sainthood several times, including soon after his death; but it always stalled. The process was started again in 2004 and the diocesan bit was officially reopened on February 24, 2012, under Pope Benedict XVI. The dioceses sponsoring it are: Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti, Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, Cesena- Sarsina and Tortona.

Anyone who has new information or documents relating to his life, whether positive or negative, is requested to send authenticated photocopies of them to the Diocesan Tribunal of the Vicariate of Rome.

There doesn’t seem to be any website for his cause. However, back in Gravina, the Centro Studi Benedetto XIII seems to be keeping his fame alive. (Website in Italian.)

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