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LIFE OF BLESSED PEREGRINE OF FORLÌ

posted Sep 14, 2014, 9:18 PM by Vidal Martinez

in the humanist transcription of Nicholas Borghese (1483)

Introduction

The most authoritative life of Saint Peregrine is
without doubt his Life or Legenda, written about 1350,
shortly after his death which tradition places about 1345.
With all probability it was written by a Servite friar who
knew Peregrine personally or who had gathered information
from eye witnesses.

At the present time we do not have the original text
of this Legenda of Saint Peregrine. It was written in medieval
Latin which was in use in the fourteenth century. We do,
however, possess a transcription of this Legenda in classical
humanistic Latin written not later than 1483 by Nicholas
Borghese (1432-1500), a noted statesman and humanist of
Siena. Besides the life of Saint Peregrine he became interested
in the lives of other Servite saints and blessed. He composed
a biography of Blessed James Philip of Faenza, through
whose intercession he was cured of a type of dark depression.
And since the friars in Faenza had given him such warm hospitality
he agreed to write also the lives of Saint Philip Benizi,
Blessed Joachim of Siena, and Blessed Francis of Siena.
From detailed analysis of the manner in which
Borghese used his sources it is possible to reach the following
conclusions:

1. The subject matter is given substantially in its entirety
and in the same order as the original.

2. For the sake of brevity, the author makes frequent
omissions. For example:
a. The miracles which the saint or blessed worked
during his lifetime, which are quite numerous in the original
texts, are reduced to one or two. No more than four of the
miracles worked after death are given.
b. Elements of Marian theology are frequently omitted
or notably abbreviated.
c. Even biblical quotations are often omitted.

3. Out of reverence for a classical outline, Borghese
organizes the material chosen from the sources into three
periods. The first period is that preceding birth, with information
about his place of origin and parents, and at times
the future holiness of the child is foreseen. Second, the period
of his life, with episodes of his infancy, adolescence,
signs foretelling his greatness, entrance into the Order, testimony
of his holiness as proven by signs and miracles, and
his death, usually announced by divine omens. Third, the
period after death, characterized by miracles.

4. Borghese transcribes his sources in a sober, faithful,
even servile way, using various synthetic and literary devices.
For example: a series of episodes or long sentences
are summarized on the basis of qualitative value; or they are
synthesized with recourse to relative clauses and participles,
to indirect discourse rather than direct.
In conclusion: Borghese follows his sources scrupulously,
adding nothing, even the smallest amount of his own.
The omissions, as we have said, impoverish the biblical and
Marian aspects. Nevertheless, what he conserves of his original
texts is interpreted accurately according to the texts
themselves. His is simply a literary dressing. The medieval
Latin of the sources given to him were thought at that time
to be outdated and little attractive to the renewed tastes of
the Renaissance, and so the medieval Latin was converted
into the harmonious and bright Latin of classical antiquity.
Once this conversion was made, it often happened that the
original texts fell into disuse, even to the point of disappearing.
Unfortunately, the original text which Borghese
used for the life of Saint Peregrine is still unknown to us,
but I would like to reiterate the judgment I formulated years
ago: the scrupulosity, which Borghese shows when we can
check his work, is such as “to guarantee morally the same
carefulness of method in transcribing even a source unknown
to us, such as the one from which he wrote the life
of Saint Peregrine”.
That Borghese had a written source before him can
be seen from external and especially internal arguments.
Two external arguments are of noteworthy importance:
the commitment of Prior General Christopher
Tornielli of Giustinopoli, who died 16 June 1485, thanks to
whom many compositions about the saints of the Order
were written at this time; and the comparison of the life of
Saint Peregrine by Nicholas Borghese with that written by
Pino di James Cedri of Forli in 1528, using an authentic text
of the same medieval life which at that time was found in
the Servite priory of Forli. This text was lost about 1594
“because of the negligence of the fathers”. The life by
Cedri, as can be determined by an internal examination, depends
in fact on a written source. And since the life by
Cedri is very similar to that of Borghese, one may deduce indirectly
(but validly) that Borghese also depended upon a
written source.
The second type of proof, founded on internal evidence,
is based on a comparison with the life of Blessed
James Philip, written directly by Borghese from oral information.
There are numerous differences between these two
texts. A few are:
1. Direct discourse and supernatural intervention is
very frequent in the life of Saint Peregrine; but rather sporadic
in the life of Blessed James Philip.
2. The life of Saint Peregrine is sprinkled with numerous
biblical quotations (about thirty), while there are
only two references to the gospels in the life of Blessed
James Philip.
3. But the most important difference is the complete
absence of Marian elements in the life of Blessed
James Philip. On the contrary they are of great importance
in the life of Saint Peregrine, which from start to finish is
imbued with a Marian Christocentrism and a Christocentric
Marianism.
The Mother of Jesus, in fact, performs a role of utmost
importance in the journey of Peregrine toward Christ.
From the beginning to the end she is present as the “way”
which leads to her Son. In a motherly way, Mary is most attentive
to the events of Peregrine’s life. On his part, Peregrine
lives in all sincerity that Marian devotion which was
found in all the faithful at that period. He knows that he is
the spiritual “son” of the Mother of Jesus after whom he patterns
his actions. As a true Servant of Mary, he reproduces in
himself the evangelical traits of the Virgin, his Lady.
To demonstrate Peregrine’s choice of life, the
source used by Borghese follows a literary outline frequently
found in medieval lives of saints. These authors often like
to parallel the episodes of the life of a saint with those of the
life of Christ or Mary. It is a technique of composition used
to prove the thesis that the saint is one who patterned his
life on that of Christ and his Mother.
The life of Saint Peregrine applies this hagiographical
canon in a captivating manner. We see that the apparition
of Mary to Peregrine and the subsequent journey of
Peregrine to Siena are patterned respectively on the apparition
of the angel to Mary (Lk 1, 26-38) and on the journey
of Mary to Zachary’s house (Lk 1, 39-56). The principle that
rules this literary pattern is rather evident: the role of the angel
Gabriel is taken by Mary; and vice versa, the role of
Mary is assumed by Peregrine.
We have listed a series of clear external and internal
arguments to show that Nicholas Borghese followed the
pattern of a written text when he wrote the short biography
of Saint Peregrine. Now we want to say more: The source
which he had before his eyes was the ancient legenda of the
saint, written by a confrere shortly after his death, that is,
about 1350. This conclusion is based on the biography’s solid
biblical foundation, its clearly medieval flavor, and especially
the extraordinary richness of its Marian doctrine and
spirituality, which is so similar to that of the Servite lives of
saints of the fourteenth century.
In other words, in the life of Saint Peregrine written
in 1483 by Nicholas Borghese we certainly hear the echo of
the flowing and incisive testimony of the confrere who knew
the Saint. Even more, because of its rich biblical and spiritual
orientation and the exceptional Marian inspiration
which enriches it, the Legenda of Saint Peregrine can be
called an authentic pearl of the hagiographical literature
which flourished among the Servants of Mary in the first
century and a half of their existence.
Editions
Vita beati Peregrini Foroliviensis Ordinis Servorum sanctae Mariae a Nicolao
Burgensio equestri clarissimo edita. [Ed. P. SOULIER]. In Monumenta
OSM, 4 (1900-1901), p. 58-62.
An English translation, The Life of Saint Peregrine Laziosi, is found in
Origins and Early Saints of the Order of Servants of Mary: Writings of the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Chicago, Friar Servants of Mary,
1984), p. 115-133.


LIFE OF BLESSED PEREGRINE OF FORLÌ
OF THE ORDER OF SERVANTS OF SAINT MARY


1. Forlì, renowned city of Romagna, was the birthplace
of blessed Peregrine. His father was a wise man, of the
illustrious and ancient house of Laziosi, a man richer in gifts
of the Spirit and virtues than in material goods.
Peregrine was the only child of his parents and
therefore tenderly loved by them. He had already decided
to put aside the vanities of this world in order to follow the
way of virtue and if he would keep to the right way during
life, death itself would be gain. He used to say that the condition
of this mortal life is illusory and vile.

2. Strengthened by this firm and holy decision, he
went one day to the Church of the Holy Cross. He remained
for a long time kneeling before the image of the Virgin
Mary. He then besought her to show him the way to his
salvation. Immediately the Blessed Virgin, adorned with
precious and festive clothing, appeared quite openly to him
and made this reply: “It is also my wish, my son, to direct
your steps along the way of salvation”.
Considering within himself this vision and these
words, he feared that, like an ingenuous dove, he might
have been deceived by the great deceiver and enemy of the
human race. Seeing him thus doubtful and dismayed, the
Virgin Mary spoke more gently still: “Do not fear, son, I am
indeed the Mother of him whom you adore crucified, and I
have been sent by him to show you the road of future happiness”.
Peregrine answered her in this way: “I am ready to
follow your commands, for in my heart I have always desired
above all other things that in no way would I turn
from your precepts. You therefore shall command, O
Queen; I shall promptly and willingly obey”. Then the glorious
Virgin said, “Do you know the religious called the friar
Servants of the Virgin Mary?”. Peregrine replied, “I recall
having heard many speak of them with great praise for their
Order and their holy life, but I do not know where they
live”. He said this because there was not yet a monastery of
the friar Servants of the Virgin Mary at Forlì. Immediately
the Virgin Mary replied, “You are called Peregrine. Therefore
you shall be a pilgrim in fact as well as name, for you
must go to Siena. When you get there you will find those
holy men intent on prayer. Ask to be admitted among
them”.

3. When he had heard these things, Peregrine immediately
set out and, accompanied by an angel, went to
Siena. When he arrived at the monastery he immediately
knocked at the door. An old porter came out and asked
him, “Whom are you looking for?”. He added that it was
now the prescribed time of silence. When the porter had
thus spoken, Peregrine prostrated himself at the porter’s
feet, as if he were excessively tired. He humbly begged the
old man not to forbid him entrance, especially since he
wished to reveal some secrets to the prior. The porter then
let him in and at the end of the silence period brought him
to the prior. The prior looked him over carefully and inquired
where he was from. Peregrine replied, “I am from
Forlì”. The prior listened to Peregrine’s account and his decision;
then he and the friars who had gathered together
were easily persuaded to believe Peregrine was sent to them
by the Virgin Mary. They regarded the fact as a miracle of
the Virgin Mary, who often enlightens her faithful and with
great concern makes them sharers in happiness. Therefore
the friars willingly accepted Peregrine and invested him in
the holy habit of the Virgin Mary’s widowhood. As soon as
this was done, an amazing brilliance encircled his head as if
to testify he would faithfully keep the chastity, obedience,
and poverty which he had professed.

4. By the age of thirty he was an example to all of
virtue and a holy life. Afterwards, by command of his superior,
he returned to his own city, Forlì, to observe and keep
the precepts of the Lord. He mortified his flesh in an extraordinary
way, keeping vigils and fasts, beating his body
and (unbelievable as it is) for thirty years was never seen
seated. He always stood while he ate; he prayed on his
knees. If he were overcome with fatigue or sleep he would
rest for a short time on a rock, or if he were in choir, on the
benches. At night he did not sleep in a bed, but he spent almost
the whole night reading hymns and psalms. He meditated
continually on the law of God. He sought to imitate
the example of Christ with all his energy.
Each day he would examine his actions, shedding
tears for the offenses and mistakes which he thought he had
committed. And these he revealed daily to a priest and confessed
with many tears. The holy man accused himself of
many things because of his burning desire to observe fully
the law of God.

5. The most good and merciful God,, who usually
tests and by testing strengthens those who burn with supernatural
love, gave Peregrine a most grievous kind of disease.
One leg was so swollen and eaten away that all those who
came to take care of Peregrine could not restrain their tears.
The putrefying and extraordinary swelling of the
leg induced that terrible disease they call cancer. From this
came forth such a foul smell that it was unbearable for those
who came near him. For this reason he had been abandoned
by the others, and he even had a great loathing for
himself. He was called another Job, so afflicted and decayed
did he appear. Nevertheless, reduced to such great and distasteful
suffering, he did not complain about his lot. Rather
he endured this wasting away and torment with tranquil
spirit, trusting in the words of the Apostle, who says that
virtue is made strong in weakness.

6. A fellow townsman and physician named Paul de
Salaghi, grieving over Peregrine’s sickness, came to see the
suffering servant of God at home. He examined the leg, and
sought more detailed information about the extent of the
disease. Finally, with the consent of all, he came to the conclusion
that no remedy now remained for Peregrine to regain
his health except that the swollen leg be immediately
amputated, for the disease would soon spread and infect the
rest of his body. All agreed and it was decided to carry out
this decision. They thought it was better to sacrifice one
limb than lose the entire body.

7. On the night preceding the operation, Peregrine
meditated long on that decision and he decided to seek
refuge in Jesus Christ his Savior. He therefore arose, as best
he could, and unassisted dragged his body with great difficulty
to the chapter room, in which there was an image of
the crucified Jesus Christ. He humbly spoke these words to
him: “O Redeemer of the human race, you willed to undergo
the torment of the cross and a most painful death to
wipe away our sins. While you were on earth among mortals,
you healed many afflicted by various diseases. You
cleansed the leper, you gave sight to the blind man when he
said, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me’. In the same
way, deign, O Lord my God, to free this leg of mine from
this incurable disease. Unless you do this, it must be cut
off”. When he had said this, he fell asleep in great pain from
his disease and while asleep saw the crucified Jesus come
down from the cross and take away all sickness from the leg.
Soon he awoke, and felt the leg healed. It was as strong as if
it had never been diseased. Then he gave thanks to the most
kind God for so great a gift, and returned to his cell.

8. In the morning, when day brought its light, the
doctor arrived with his instruments and ointments to amputate
the leg. Peregrine said to him, “Go home, you who
have come to cure me. That doctor who restored me to
perfect health spoke thus to me: ‘I am he who gives and
takes away both health and sickness. I undertake the care
of both soul and body together. I am he who gave sight to
the blind; I cleansed lepers; I cured the paralytic; I brought
the dead back from the lower world. Behold, I am he who
refused no effort, no shame, nor the cruelest kind of death
for your salvation’. He who spoke thus has completely
freed me, doctor”.

When the doctor heard this, he thought Peregrine
had become delirious because of the disease and said,
“Show me your leg so that I can free you from this contagion
which is spreading to your whole body”. Peregrine
replied, “Doctor, cure yourself. I do not need your skill. The
prince of medicine and author of human salvation has by his
divine power taken away all my sickness”. Then he showed
the doctor his leg. “See with your own eyes” he said, “and
understand whom I have had as my doctor”. The doctor
was amazed beyond belief when he saw the leg thus healed
and well, for no signs of the great swelling, no scars of the
devouring cancer could be seen, and he said to his companions,
“What a great miracle!”.

He then left and spoke about the wonderful work
of God in his servant to all he met and spread the word
throughout the entire city. Report of such great happiness
quickly spread in all directions, and brought with it a great
veneration of all toward the friend of God, Peregrine.
He was made even more pleasing to God after this
and followed the way of the Lord with all his strength, longing
for the heavenly joys prepared for all who keep the lifegiving
commands of the Lord.

9. He died at the age of almost eighty, consumed by
a burning fever. The Virgin Mary accompanied by blessed
Philip of Florence and blessed Francis of Siena of the same
Order conducted his soul to the dignity of the heavenly
kingdom. Immediately after his death, his lifeless body gave
off a most fragrant odor, so that those present wondered in
amazement at this sweetness.

The holy body which had covered the now triumphant
soul lay, as is the custom, on a litter in the choir.
Then as if the death of the holy man had been announced
by a trumpeter, it was on the mouths of all the townspeople
and they rushed to see the remains venerated in the choir.
Likewise the inhabitants of the countryside poured through
all the city gates, drawn by the report of the death of the
holy servant of God. Indeed that night the gates of the city
could not be closed because of the multitudes coming in.
Nor was Blessed Peregrine lacking the heaven-sent
confirmation of his holiness by means of miracles. We shall
content ourselves here to mention two or three, while in the
church of the Servants of the Virgin Mary in Forlì the memory
of many others is conserved with authentic writings and
notarized documents.

Miracle of the blind man who saw.
10. While the body of Blessed Peregrine was lying
in state in the choir, a poor blind beggar approached the
holy remains and from the depths of his heart asked that his
sight be restored.
O the infinite power and grace of God who manifests
himself in his servants! Then the body of Blessed Peregrine
rose up and, in front of an innumerable crowd,
blessed the blind man with a sign of the cross and immediately
scales were seen to fall from his eyes. The man who
had been blind shouted for joy and before all declared that
he could see well; then, after having thanked God and
Blessed Peregrine, went away a happy man.

Healing of a possessed woman.
A woman of Forlì was possessed by one or many of
the worse type of demon. She was so filled with anger and
enraged that she could not be restrained by fetters or
chains. On the contrary, she had such great power that she
would break the bonds or escape from them. Since the
renown of the miracles had spread rather widely, her family
members dragged her to the sacred relics of Blessed
Peregrine which had been placed in the church. As soon as
she touched them, the evil spirit was expelled with a horrendous
shriek, while those present saw many animals being
spewed from the mouth of the possessed woman and they
heard these words: “Your prayers, O Peregrine, have tormented
me most harshly”. The woman, freed from all power
of the devil, gave great thanks to God and to Blessed
Peregrine, and then she returned happy with her family to
her home.

Healing of a men who fell from a tree.
A man had climbed a rather tall tree; but then he
slipped and fell to the ground. Because of this his intestines
burst forth and there was no hope that he could live. But
then, through the intercession of Blessed Peregrine, he regained
perfect health. Mindful of this grace, he gave due
thanks.
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