This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 2 -- Feast of Saint Peter of Ruffia

The Arms of the Dominicans
Peter was born in the Piedmont region of Italy around 1320, but our story begins in Lyon, France around 1177.  Another Peter, bearing the surname Waldo, started preaching a strict, perhaps even puritanical form of Christianity.  Lots of folks stepped up in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to offer course corrections to the Church.  Some of those, like Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) and Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) were encouraged, granted favor, and eventually hailed as saints.  Peter Waldo was among those who were discouraged, labeled heretics, and hounded into hiding.  Waldensians, as Peter's followers came to be known, were convicted of heresy and witchcraft and burned at the stake.

What do we do with Waldensian witches?
Peter of Ruffia was a privileged and pious young man who joined the Dominican Order.  He was ordained at age twenty-five and sent out preaching.  In an age before amplification, the first level of requirements for successful preachers was to be loud and clear.  Peter had the gifts of volume and clarity, which was a start.  The second level of requirement, of course, was to have something worth saying the words to say it well.  Peter met this also.  He went through the Piedmont region, pointing out the theological errors (as he and the Church Establishment saw it) of the Waldensians who had settled in the region. 

Peter did so well preaching that he was sent to Rome to study more deeply.  Pope Innocent VI appointed him Inquisitor General for the Piedmont region, a title that conjures sinister associations today but was a highly respected (though feared) position back then.  Peter pursued his responsibilities with vigor.  I cannot say whether he tortured and killed suspects or merely questioned and argued with them, but to say that he was not beloved of the Waldensians is understatement.  In 1365 he was staying at the Franciscan monastery in Susa, about thirty-five miles west of Torino.  A few men arrived at the gate, saying they had some important information for the IG.  Peter went to speak with them, but they quickly surrounded him and stabbed him to death.  Then they fled into the countryside where fellow Waldensians were sure to harbor them. 

Santo Domingo, Torino: final resting place
The Franciscans insisted on burying Peter among their own dead rather than sending his body back to the Dominicans.  I do not suppose this was a case of coveting the martyr's relics, especially since the Church did not formally confirm his cult until 1865.  Rather, as they said at the time, it would be unwise to transport his body through that region, since the Waldensians were strong there and might well have snatched the corpse for desecration or at very least secret disposal.  In spite of their good intentions, their monastery was destroyed as an army swept through the region.  Eventually, the relics were all exhumed from the ruins and Peter the Martyr was translated to the Church of Santo Domingo in Torino. 

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