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 Saint Peter Armengol is a model of confidence. His life inspires everyone who, amid the crisis of the modern world, needs special graces from Our Lady to remain completely faithful.

 

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From Gangster to Convert

Coat of ArmsPeter Armengol was born in Guardia dels Prats, a small village in the archdiocese of Tarragon, Spain in 1238. He belonged to the noble house of the barons of Rocafort, descendants of the counts of Urgel, whose ancestors were directly linked to the counts of Barcelona and the monarchs of Aragon and Castile.

Despite the great care taken by his parents regarding his education, young Peter gave himself over to a life of total dissipation, vice and caprice. “Abyssus abyssum invocat” (Deep calleth on deep), say the Scriptures. Thus Peter joined a gang of criminals who, pursued by Justice, led the life of bandits in the mountains. Soon, young Armengol became the leader of that gang.

On account of his son’s bad behavior, Arnold Armengol de Moncada moved to the kingdom of Valencia, recently conquered from the Moors by King Jaime. This monarch had to embark on a trip to Montpellier in order to meet with the King of France on matters of interest to both crowns.

To travel safely, he commissioned Arnold to go before him and rout the assailants who often robbed and killed travelers in the Pyrenees region.

At the most dangerous part of the journey, the retinue of the noble Spaniard saw itself surrounded by brigands. Arnold, with his troops, rushed at them, wounding some and apprehending others. He spurred his horse forward with sword in hand and urged his men to defeat the leader of the bandits. Indeed, Arnold himself was the first to engage the leader in hand-to-hand combat.

Suddenly, grief came upon both noble and brigand, when they discovered their identity. Bathed in tears, Peter prostrated himself at the feet of his father, delivered his sword and, with it, his heart.

 

Penance for His Misdeeds

Filled with shame, the repentant youth retired to a Mercedarian monastery in Barcelona. With an ardent desire to repair the injuries done to God, he become a monk in that religious order founded by Saint Peter Nolasco to ransom Catholics captured by the Mohammedans. He requested the habit with such insistence and gave such conclusive proofs of his vocation that he was received into the Mercedarian Order by the Venerable William de Bas, the French-born successor of the holy founder.

The disorderly passions were now conquered by Peter Armengol in religious life. He understood how to subdue them with such promptitude, through penance, mortification of the senses and continual prayer, that even before he reached the end of his novitiate he had managed to subject them to the dominion of his will and reason.

During the eight years of his profession, he was entrusted with the important task of dealing directly with the ransom of captives. He carried out this function in the provinces of Spain that were still in the power of the Saracens. Nonetheless, his greatest desire was to go to Africa and become a captive for the ransom of Christians.

On an expedition to that continent, he arrived in Bugia in the company of Friar William Florentino. There they ransomed 119 captives without any incident. However, before departing, Friar Armengol learned of a prison with 18 children who, impelled by the threats of punishments of the barbarous Mohammedans, remained in danger of denying the Faith. The religious happily offered himself as hostage for the ransom of the innocent captives.

His release was promised in exchange for a stipulated sum. But, if the payment did not arrive within the set time, he would suffer harsh punishments. Divine Providence had disposed that this man of God would thus give proof of his special confidence in the omnipotent mediation of the Blessed Virgin, to whom he was deeply devoted.

 

Flaming Torch of Confidence

Statue of Friar Armengol with a rope around his neckIn captivity, Friar Armengol worked prodigies of charity among the infidels, converting many by the efficacy of his preaching. The time prescribed for the delivery of the money came and passed without the payment being made. The infidels threw him in prison and even denied the food necessary for his sustenance, but Our Lord, by means of His angels, miraculously provided for his survival.

Tired of tormenting him, the Moors conspired to take his life. They accused him of blaspheming Mohammed and of being a spy sent by the Christian kings, thus raising the ire of the Saracen Judge who condemned Friar Peter to death by hanging.

When everything seemed lost, Friar Armengol prayed to Our Lady and confided in her.

The unjust execution was carried out and Peter’s body was left hanging from the gallows. The Moors wanted his corpse to feed birds of prey. Thus, the holy man’s body remained suspended. Six days had elapsed when Friar William arrived with the ransom money. Learning what had happened, he went with great sorrow, in the company of some captives, to see the lamentable sight.

Reaching the site of the execution, he noticed that the body did not emit a bad odor, but rather exhaled a heavenly fragrance. To their astonishment, Friar Armengol spoke, telling them that the Blessed Mother saved his life. Astounded by the stupendous miracle, some pagans converted to the Catholic religion.

 

Conversation with the Queen of Angels

Virgin of RansomLearning of the portentous miracle, Barcelona impatiently awaited the return of the unconquerable martyr of Jesus Christ.

In the city, they received him with great joy, escorting him from the port to his monastery, giving thanks to Our Lord for His marvels. The religious wanted to hear from Friar Peter’s mouth what had happened, but despite their earnest pleas, he would not speak. Finally, the superior ordered him to tell all that had occurred.

Obedient, the man of God spoke: “The Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our own mother, asked her Most Holy Son to conserve my life; having obtained this favor, this same sovereign Queen sustained me with her most holy hands, so that the weight of my body would not hang upon the rope by which I was suspended.”

For the rest of his life, Friar Armengol had a twisted neck and a pale completion, authentic signs of what had taken place. He retired to the monastery of Our Lady de los Prados, where he practiced heroic virtue and spent his days in familiar conversation with the Queen of Angels, whom he loved so dearly with filial devotion.

Recalling the miracle of his hanging, he frequently told the religious of the monastery of this marvel: “Believe me, my dear brothers, that I do not believe myself to have lived except for those few but most happy days when, hanging from the gallows, I was held to be dead.”

He rendered his soul to God on April 27, 1304. Our Lord deigned to give proofs of the glorification of His servant with seven miracles, the cures of three men and four women, even before his death. On March 28, 1686 Pope Innocent the XI approved the public cult to the saint and, in the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV inscribed Saint Peter Armengol in the Roman Martyrology.

 

The Tomb of the Saint

Today the remains of Saint Armengol can be found in Guardia dels Prats. The small village still preserves much of its medieval character: tortuous, narrow stone-studded streets; buildings that recall old palaces or noble residences; and a charming Romanesque–style church.

The body of Saint Peter Armengol was preserved incorrupt until 1936. During the Spanish Civil War, however, communist marauders invaded and sacked the church, carrying off his venerable body to the public square where they burned it. Some children gathered up what they could of these ashes and took the precious remains to their homes, where their mothers kept them with great care.

Later, after the communists were vanquished, the precious relics were returned to the church, where they are kept in a reliquary over the main altar – largely forgotten by “progressive” Catholics – in silent testimony of the sanctity of the Catholic Church and Christian Civilization.

In our times of profound moral crisis, let us ask Saint Armengol to obtain for us before the throne of God, graces of unbending fidelity, unwavering hope and heroic confidence in the powerful intercession of Our Lady.

 


Source: Cf. Abbe Rohrbacher, Histoire Universelle de l'Eglise Catholique, vol. 20, Gaume Freres Libraires, Paris, 1845, pp. 40-43.
Photo Attribution:

  • Coat of Arms - Heralder  
  • Statue of Pedro Armengol - Noucho
  • Virgin of Ransom - Volorik

 

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DAILY QUOTE for September 17, 2021

Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without which...

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September 17

 

Charity is that with which

no man is lost, and

without which

no man is saved.

St. Robert Bellarmine


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Robert Bellarmine

Under Elizabeth I, his writings were forbidden reading under...

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St. Robert Bellarmine

Roberto Bellarmino was born into impoverished Tuscan nobility at Montepulciano on October 4, 1542. He was the third of ten children born to Vincenzo Bellarmino and Cinthia Cervini, a sister of Cardinal Marcello Cervini, who later became Pope Marcellus II. Educated at the Jesuit College in Montepulciano, he entered the Society of Jesus at the age of eighteen. After studying philosophy at the Roman College, he taught first at Florence and then at Mondovi. He began his theological studies in Padua in 1567, but was sent to Louvain two years later in order that he might obtain a fuller acquaintance with the heretical teachings of the time.  

Bellarmine was ordained a priest in Flanders and quickly obtained a reputation both as a professor and a preacher, attracting Catholics and Protestants alike by his sermons. In 1576 he was recalled to Italy, and entrusted with the chair of Controversies recently founded at the Roman College. He proved himself equal to the arduous task, and the lectures he delivered were later compiled into his most renowned work, “De Controversiis” - Disputations on the Controversies of the Christian Faith. Bellarmine's monumental work was the earliest attempt to systematize the various controversies of the time, and made an immense impression throughout Europe. It dealt such a blow to Protestantism in Germany and England that special university chairs were founded in order to provide replies to it. Theodore of Blaise, an important Protestant leader who succeeded Calvin, acknowledged that “This is the work that defeated us.” So numerous were the conversions wrought by it that Queen Elizabeth I of England decreed that anyone who was not a doctor in theology was forbidden to read Bellarmine’s writings under penalty of death. To the present day, it remains an uncontested standard of orthodoxy that has yet to be superseded. In recognition of this, Benedict XV gave Bellarmine the title of “Hammer of Heresies” in 1921.  

In 1588 Bellarmine was made Spiritual Father to the Roman College, but in 1590 he went with Cardinal Gaetano as theologian to the embassy Sixtus V was then sending into France to protect the interests of the Church amidst the troubles of the civil wars. While in France news reached him that Sixtus, who had warmly accepted the dedication of his “De Controversiis”, was now proposing to put its first volume on the Index. This was because he had discovered that it assigned to the Holy See not a direct but only an indirect power over temporal authorities. Bellarmine, whose loyalty to the Holy See was intense, took this greatly to heart; it was, however, averted by the death of Sixtus, and the new pope, Gregory XIV, even granted to Bellarmine’s work the distinction of a special approbation. Gaetano’s mission now terminating, Bellarmine resumed his work as Spiritual Father, and had the consolation of guiding the last years of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died in the Roman College in 1591. Many years later he had the further consolation of successfully promoting the beatification of the saintly youth. It was also at this time that he sat on the final commission for the revision of the Vulgate translation of the Holy Scriptures.

In 1592 Bellarmine was made Rector of the Roman College, and in 1595 Provincial of Naples. In 1597 Clement VIII recalled him to Rome and made him his own theologian as well as Examiner of Bishops and Consultor of the Holy Office. “The Church of God has not his equal in learning,” he stated when making him a Cardinal in 1599. Bellarmine’s appointment as Cardinal Inquisitor soon followed. In 1602 Bellarmine was appointed as the Archbishop of Capua and consecrated by Pope Clement VIII himself, an honor usually accorded as a mark of special regard.

Three years later, Clement VIII died, and was succeeded by Leo XI who reigned only twenty-six days, and then by Paul V. In both conclaves, especially that latter, the name of Bellarmine was much before the electors, greatly to his own distress. The new pope insisted on keeping him at Rome, and the cardinal, obediently complying, demanded that at least he should be released from an episcopal charge the duties of which he could no longer fulfill. He was now made a member of the Holy Office and of other congregations, and thenceforth was the chief advisor of the Holy See in the theological department of its administration.

Bellarmine became one of the most important figures of the Counter-Reformation and the period will be forever marked by his method of confronting heresy: he understood that one cannot do away with a heresy by only preaching the truth; it was also necessary to attack and smash the error. By this method he converted heretics, bringing them back into union with the Church. The profound spiritual treatises that emanated from his pen earned for him the title of Doctor of the Church. But while he was a champion of orthodoxy and a brilliant polemicist, Bellarmine was also a man of capable of dealing with the most sensitive souls guiding them to sanctity as he did with St. Louis Gonzaga. This prodigious apostolate could only spring from a great calmness of spirit and deep interior life.

His death in the summer of 1621 was most edifying and a fitting end to a life which had been no less remarkable for its virtues than for its tremendous achievements. Accordingly, there was a general expectation amongst those who knew him intimately that his cause would be promptly introduced and swiftly concluded. However, reality proved to be otherwise. Although he was declared Venerable in 1627, technical obstacles arose in regards to the beatification process, delaying the progress of his cause for 300 years. Bellarmine was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930 and declared a Doctor of the Church and patron saint of catechists the following year.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the so...

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One Good Turn Deserves Another

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the sorrows of Mary. He would often remain alone in the chapel to commiserate the sorrows of his Lady.

So intently did he meditate on the sorrows endured by Mary Most Holy that, moved by compassion, he was accustomed to wipe the face of a statue of the sorrowful Virgin with a little cloth, as though real tears flowed there.

Now this good priest became quite ill. When he was given up by his physicians, and was going to breathe his last, he saw a beautiful Lady by his side. She consoled him with her words, and with a handkerchief gently wiped the sweat from his brow.

With this, the priest was miraculously cured.

When he found himself well, he said: "But, my Lady, who are you who practice such charity towards me?" "I am she," answered Mary, "whose tears you have so often dried,” and she disappeared.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the sorrows of Mary. He would often remain alone in the chapel to commiserate the sorrows of his Lady.