05 October 2010

Bl. Peter of Imola - Prior Order of Malta

Today is the feast of Bl. Peter of Imola the Prior of the Grand Priory of Rome. Although there is little know of his life there is an interesting account of an incident involving him after his death.
Again thanks to Fr. Gerard of the South African Association of the Order of Malta for his work in putting together these biographies.

He was born about 1250 at Imola (Italy) into the family of the lords of Linasio. An able lawyer, he mediated between the Guelphs and Ghibellines at Romagna in 1297. He became a knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and was elected Grand Prior at Rome. He devoted great energy to caring for the sick at Florence (Italy) where he died on 5 October 1320: he was buried in the Church of St. James in the Campo Corbolini.


O God, who gave to blessed Peter, Prior of our Order, the gift of healing discord and division, grant to us through his prayers the grace of striving for peace and so being called the children of God. Through the same Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(From: The Missal with readings of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes, & of Malta, London 1997)
With the Blessed Fra Peter d' Imola we find another aspect of the Order, which has always been interested in matters of the spirit. In fact, that Knight was also a well-known jurist of his times. Of his earthly life few things are known. He was born at Imola, Emilia, and was the Prior of the Hospital in Rome. Was he the Commander in Florence? That is a supposition which takes its likelihood from the fact that, after his death (October 15, 1320); he was buried in that city in the church of Saint James in Campo Corbellini, which belonged to the Order.

But if the existence of the Blessed Peter passed almost unnoticed here on earth, (it is enough to be a real saint, no one except God knowing it no one including the saint himself !), that was not the case after he died.

One day the brothers were preparing and adorning the church to celebrate the feast of Saint James in a worthy fashion. A high ladder had been placed against the tomb of the Blessed Peter, and one of the priests auras working hard to attach to the wall some hanging. His precautions support began to slip, threatening greatly to fall and shatter the bones of its religious burden. It was then that the clerics present saw the arm of the holy man open the tomb slightly and hold the falling ladder as it passed him.

In consequence of that miracle, which was charitable though macabre, and well-authenticated by witnesses. the venerable body was taken out of its resting place - relative rest - and placed under the main altar in a reliquary that Commander Fra Augustine Mego had made for it, not without having set aside the miracle-working arm in a little box.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that our saint is particularly humble, for, though we already knew so little about him, he allowed the documents concerning him - both his life and his miracles - to disappear. When his church was flooded during the great inundation of the Arno, in 1557. The reliquary was submerged for several days; evidently, it must have suffered much damage, together with the relics it contained. But in the 17th century, they still venerated the arm, which had been preserved with its flesh and nails.

May we, like Peter d'Imola, be learned, pious, courageous and beneficent, alive and dead, without, however acting too much the ghost. His humility, his charity, his knowledge, are virtues which we shall try to imitate without risking error, in the great simplicity of God.

(From: Ducaud-Bourget, Msgr. Fran├žois: The Spiritual Heritage of The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Vatican 1958)

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