On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Peter of Verona, also known as St. Peter Martyr.
In The First Disciples of St. Dominic, Fr. Victor F. O'Daniel, O.P., quotes the verses St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in 1263 during his visit to St. Eustorgio's Convent in Milan, where the martyred St. Peter was entombed.
Praeco, lucerna, pugil Christi, populi, fideique,
Hic silet, hic tegitur, jacet hic mactatus inique.
Vox ovibus dulcis, gratissima lux animorum.
Et verbi gladius gladiis cecidit Catharorum.
Christus mirificat, populus devotus adorat,
Martyrioque fides sanctum servata decorat.
Sed Christus nova signa loqui facit, ac nova turbae
Lux datur, atque fides vulgata refulget in urbe.
The Cathars hired Carino of Balsamo to kill the Inquisitor General of the Faith. "In the week after Easter, I lay in wait in the woods, and fell upon brother Peter of Verona, I stabbed his back and then repeatedly hacked his head until it caved in, and then I murdered his companion in cold blood . . . and all of this I did for money." Carino spent the rest of his life as a lay penitent at a Dominican convent.
Peter was born in Verona, in Lombardy, in 1205 or 1206 to parents who were Cathars or Cathar sympathizers. In spite of that, they sent him to a Catholic school. As a youth, he left Verona to study at the University of Bologna. There he met St. Dominic. He joined the Order in June, 1221, just weeks before Dominic's death.
In the next three decades, Peter became a famous preacher and a relentless crusader against the Cathars.
The Martyred Inquisitor: The Life and Cult of Peter of Verona (†1252), by Donald Prudio, Ashgate, 2008, an impressive example of modern scholarship, describes the saint's life and death and immediate canonization. Peter's martyrdom by the hated Cathars made him more useful to the Dominicans after death than during his life. He had predicted as much a couple of weeks before his murder on the Saturday after Easter, 1252. Prudio gives fascinating details about the saint's cult, which was promoted for centuries by popes and Dominicans and various lay organizations for various purposes, but is now forgotten. The Introduction and the chapter on "The Bleeding Loom" are particularly interesting, as are the footnotes, the Index, and information found by using search terms such as "Cathars", and "women".
Click here for some images of St. Peter Martyr.