By Susan Ciancio
Saturday is the feast of St. Peregrine. St. Peregrine is known as the patron of those with cancer, but also the patron of those with other illnesses as well.
His is a beautiful story of faith and of putting trust in the Lord.
St. Peregrine Laziosi was born to wealthy parents in Forli, Italy, in 1265. While a teenager, he joined the anti-papists and led a group of rebels who protested the pope and his authority, even taking part in violent protests.
To quell the unrest in Forli, Pope Martin IV sent a Servite (Servant of Mary) priest named Philip Benizi to attempt to bring peace.
As Philip spoke to an angry crowd one day, some of the people began beating him with clubs and pelting him with rocks. Peregrine took part in this violence. He knocked Philip down by brutally hitting him on the head.
But at once Peregrine felt remorse. He bent down to help the priest, asking for forgiveness.
From that day forward, Peregrine was a changed man. Philip advised him to go to the local cathedral and pray for Mary’s intercession. While there one day, Peregrine had a vision of Our Lady holding a black habit—like the ones that the Servites wore. In the vision, she told Peregrine to go to Siena. Peregrine said that Mary told him: “There you will find devout men who call themselves my servants. Attach yourself to them.”
Peregrine did as Mary told him. Every day he worked at increasing his devotion and helping others. He had a special affinity for the poor and the sick, as he understood that all people matter, and all people have value.
He studied and became a priest. He even founded a monastery.
A few years after he founded the monastery, Peregrine noticed a cancerous growth on his right foot. The pain became unbearable, and he suffered greatly. Doctors had no recourse but to suggest amputation.
The night before the surgery, Peregrine prayed fervently. When he finally fell asleep, he dreamed that Christ got down off the cross and touched his foot, completely healing it. When he woke up, he found that his foot had, indeed, been healed.
Peregrine continued to work for the sick and the poor until his death on May 1, 1345.
Trusting in God
We can learn so much from St. Peregrine about suffering and about trust in God. Suffering is something we all go through. But it’s not something we have to go through alone. God is always there with us, as are the saints—especially saints like Peregrine. They understand our pain, our anguish, our sadness, and our frustration.
Trust in God is vital when we’re suffering. We know that, whether our suffering is mental, physical, or emotional, trusting in God’s love and mercy will help us derive good from it.
How do we do this?
When we suffer, we can unite our suffering to Christ’s on the cross. We can offer up our sufferings for other people or for those suffering in Purgatory. In doing so, we help alleviate the pain someone else feels. We help others grow closer to God. Or we help a poor soul in Purgatory get a step closer to heaven. Knowing that we have helped someone, we begin to see suffering in a different way. We begin to enjoy making good come from the bad.
These are important concepts for adults to understand. And they’re just as important for kids—especially teens—to understand. Uniting our suffering with Christ’s and offering our suffering for someone else are ways we can build a culture of life here on Earth.
So how do we teach our kids? We start with the little things.
1. Teach kids why they should offer up suffering.
Teaching our children about the souls in Purgatory who need our prayers and who benefit from our suffering is integral. As is teaching them about those suffering on Earth. Helping them understand that good can come from their suffering and that we all play a part in helping others is an important lesson for kids to learn because it helps them see things from someone else’s perspective. It takes the focus off them and puts it on someone else, thus laying the foundation for future selfless acts.
2. Teach kids to deny themselves something and instead do an act of kindness for others.
Suffering doesn’t always have to be a sickness. Suffering could be the denial of something pleasurable for the sake of someone else. Maybe kids turn the TV off and play a game with a younger sibling. Maybe they help Mom or Dad by doing an extra chore. Maybe they give up an afternoon at the movies with friends to help an overwhelmed parent with yard work. Maybe they deny themselves the pleasure of that piece of cake and offer up that little bit of suffering for a child in a hospital. The possibilities are endless. By doing these things, kids learn the importance of giving of themselves.
3. Teach teens using CLSP’s lesson on euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Without Mercy: An Introduction to Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and Other Threats to the Medically Vulnerable examines the complex topics of euthanasia and assisted suicide and teaches students the reality behind what the culture of death advocates regarding end-of-life issues. Using Church documents, the Catechism, and subject-matter experts, this four-class supplement provides students with a basic understanding of the Catholic Church’s teachings on euthanasia and gives students the tools they need to defend those teachings against current cultural attitudes and pro-euthanasia arguments. In addition, students will learn the redemptive value of suffering and why we should use our suffering to unite with Christ on the cross.
4. Teach empathy.
Kids have no reference point for how adults feel, and that’s normal. But when they suffer, they begin to learn. They become empathetic. And when they learn to feel what others feel, they naturally want to help. Teaching them to offer things up is a great way to show them that they are not powerless. They can do something. Their actions—offering things up and praying—can greatly help others. This leads to hope and to a deeper trust in God.
5. Teach kids to suffer joyfully and not wallow.
Suffering joyfully does not mean they have to smile and laugh while lying in bed with a 102 fever or a broken leg. It just means that they shouldn’t take on a “woe is me” attitude or make others feel miserable because they do. When we teach kids to embrace suffering and unite their suffering with Christ’s on the cross, we create human beings who feel for others, who don’t feel so alone or isolated, and who grow in their relationship with Christ.
It is critically important to have role models like St. Peregrine. His trust in God can be a model for us as we deal with our own crosses and work to build a culture of life here on Earth. We desperately need that today.
So, as his feast day approaches, let us look to him for guidance and pray for his intercession.
St. Peregrine, pray for us!