Bl. Pietro Geremia
Memorial: March 10
Although from a family of Bolognese aristocrats, Pietro Geremia (b. 1381) was born and raised in Palermo, Sicily. At first he wanted to be a lawyer. But in 1422, just before graduating from law school in Bologna, he had a complete conversion of heart and longing for God, and so he decided to enter the Dominicans, despite his father’s opposition.
What happened was this: One night as he lay in bed in his third floor room, he was daydreaming about all the great things his life would bring after he had earned his shingle. At that moment, someone repeatedly knocked at his window. Remember he was on the third floor. There was no ledge, no way for anyone to stand outside and rap on the pane.
Frightened, he called out, “Who’s there.”
“A hollow voice responded that he was a relative who had just died, a successful lawyer who had wanted human praise so badly that he had lied to win it, and now was eternally lost because of his pride.”
As another source puts it, he who had defended so many causes in his life now had no one to defend his cause before the divine tribunal.
“Peter was terrified, and acted at once upon the suggestion to turn, while there was still time, from the vanity of public acclaim. He went the next day to a locksmith and bought an iron chain, which he riveted tightly about him. He began praying seriously to know his vocation.
“Soon thereafter, God made known to him that he should enter the Dominican Order.
It is said his father traveled to Bologna to retrieve his son, screaming at and demanding of the prior that he fetch the young man. He was prepared to vent his full fury on the boy for having ruined his dreams for him and choosing to “waste” his life in this fashion when he saw Pietro walking down the hall, a smile brightening his face. The father immediately recognized his son had found happiness, and his heart softened. He thus give his child his blessing.
After receiving ordination in 1424, he became an itinerant preacher (the Dominicans are officially known as the “Order of Preachers”). His preaching became so well known, he always had to preach in a town’s piazza (or square) or in a field “because there was no church large enough to hold the crowds that flocked to hear him.”
In 1433, his superiors made him prior at the ex-Convent of Santa Cita in Palermo, Sicily (it is now the Oratorio del Rosario in Santa City).
One day, his monks informed him there was no food, so he went to the water and asked some fishermen to donate a portion of the catch they were just then hauling in. They rudely dismissed his request.
So he got in a boat, put out a short distance away and called for the netted fish to come to his boat. The fish strained and broke through the net and did as he had commanded.
The frightened fishermen saw their sin and asked forgiveness. Pietro then gave a sign to the fish, which swam back into the nets. From that day on, the monastery had fish to eat.
Pope Eugene IV (1431-47) had a great appreciation for his skills, and during the Council of Florence (1431-45), which briefly reconciled the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the Pontiff relied on Pietro to help mediate between the two sides.
“At one time, when Peter was preaching at Catania, Mount Etna erupted and torrents of flame and lava flowed down on the city. The people cast themselves at his feet, begging him to save them. After preaching a brief and pointed sermon on repentance, Peter went into the nearby shrine of Saint Agatha, removed the veil of the [eponymous] saint, which was there honored as a relic, and held it towards the approaching tide of destruction. The eruption ceased and the town was saved.
“This and countless other miracles he performed caused him to be revered as a saint. He raised the dead to life, healed the crippled and the blind, and brought obstinate sinners to the feet of God.”
In addition to his miracles, he founded the University of Catania and help established several Dominican monasteries. He died at Santa Cita in 1452.
Peter’s life teaches us that, “God has a mission for each of us and has given us the gifts to successfully complete the purpose for which He created us. Our job is to discern our role in His creation. The gifts He has given us can be the instrument of our damnation when used against His purposes; when we discern correctly through prayer and spiritual direction these same talents and abilities can sanctify us and those around us. It’s not too late to seek God’s will for your life—in fact, we should attempt to understand His will for our every action, each day, using all the gifts his has given us.”