St. Peregrine Once Punched Another Saint — Now He’s the Patron Saint of Cancer Sufferers
May 1 is the feast day of St. Peregrine Laziosi, a 14th-century Servite priest
Not many saints begin their road to sanctity by punching other saints, but such was the case of St. Peregrine Laziosi.
Peregrine (Pellegrino) was born to a wealthy Italian family in 1260. He was a rebellious and worldly youth, active in the anti-papal Ghibelline political party. The Holy Father sent Philip Benizi (later St. Philip Benizi), superior general of the Servants of Mary (Servites), to a heated gathering to act as a peacemaker. Philip, however, was badly treated by the partisans, culminating in Peregrine striking the holy priest.
Heeding the words of Scripture, Philip meekly turned his face and offered Peregrine his other cheek. Peregrine was moved by the saint’s gesture, and started down the road to conversion. He spent hours in prayer at a local cathedral, until one day the Blessed Mother herself appeared to him. She said, “Go to Siena. There you will find the devout men who call themselves my servants. Attach yourself to them.”
Peregrine obeyed, and received the Servite habit in 1292. Henceforth, the dominant theme in his life was never to rest in the pursuit of virtue; it was said that for 30 years he never sat down, and did his best to observe silence and live in solitude.
While going about his duties, however, a malignant cancer developed in his foot. Although it was painful and unsightly, Peregrine bore his suffering with patience and resignation. Surgeons told him the only remedy was to amputate the foot. The night before the operation, Peregrine spent much time in prayer before dozing off. When he awoke, he found the cancer had miraculously disappeared. Today, he is the patron of cancer sufferers.
Peregrine died in 1345 at age 80, and was canonized in 1726. He is remembered in the liturgy May 1. A chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano, California’s most famous mission, has been dedicated in his honor, which many cancer victims visit each year seeking St. Peregrine’s intercession. It is a side chapel of Serra chapel, California’s oldest church in which St. Junípero Serra himself once said Mass.