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 Saint Peter Armengol is a model of confidence. His life inspires everyone who, amid the crisis of the modern world, needs special graces from Our Lady to remain completely faithful.

 

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From Gangster to Convert

Coat of ArmsPeter Armengol was born in Guardia dels Prats, a small village in the archdiocese of Tarragon, Spain in 1238. He belonged to the noble house of the barons of Rocafort, descendants of the counts of Urgel, whose ancestors were directly linked to the counts of Barcelona and the monarchs of Aragon and Castile.

Despite the great care taken by his parents regarding his education, young Peter gave himself over to a life of total dissipation, vice and caprice. “Abyssus abyssum invocat” (Deep calleth on deep), say the Scriptures. Thus Peter joined a gang of criminals who, pursued by Justice, led the life of bandits in the mountains. Soon, young Armengol became the leader of that gang.

On account of his son’s bad behavior, Arnold Armengol de Moncada moved to the kingdom of Valencia, recently conquered from the Moors by King Jaime. This monarch had to embark on a trip to Montpellier in order to meet with the King of France on matters of interest to both crowns.

To travel safely, he commissioned Arnold to go before him and rout the assailants who often robbed and killed travelers in the Pyrenees region.

At the most dangerous part of the journey, the retinue of the noble Spaniard saw itself surrounded by brigands. Arnold, with his troops, rushed at them, wounding some and apprehending others. He spurred his horse forward with sword in hand and urged his men to defeat the leader of the bandits. Indeed, Arnold himself was the first to engage the leader in hand-to-hand combat.

Suddenly, grief came upon both noble and brigand, when they discovered their identity. Bathed in tears, Peter prostrated himself at the feet of his father, delivered his sword and, with it, his heart.

 

Penance for His Misdeeds

Filled with shame, the repentant youth retired to a Mercedarian monastery in Barcelona. With an ardent desire to repair the injuries done to God, he become a monk in that religious order founded by Saint Peter Nolasco to ransom Catholics captured by the Mohammedans. He requested the habit with such insistence and gave such conclusive proofs of his vocation that he was received into the Mercedarian Order by the Venerable William de Bas, the French-born successor of the holy founder.

The disorderly passions were now conquered by Peter Armengol in religious life. He understood how to subdue them with such promptitude, through penance, mortification of the senses and continual prayer, that even before he reached the end of his novitiate he had managed to subject them to the dominion of his will and reason.

During the eight years of his profession, he was entrusted with the important task of dealing directly with the ransom of captives. He carried out this function in the provinces of Spain that were still in the power of the Saracens. Nonetheless, his greatest desire was to go to Africa and become a captive for the ransom of Christians.

On an expedition to that continent, he arrived in Bugia in the company of Friar William Florentino. There they ransomed 119 captives without any incident. However, before departing, Friar Armengol learned of a prison with 18 children who, impelled by the threats of punishments of the barbarous Mohammedans, remained in danger of denying the Faith. The religious happily offered himself as hostage for the ransom of the innocent captives.

His release was promised in exchange for a stipulated sum. But, if the payment did not arrive within the set time, he would suffer harsh punishments. Divine Providence had disposed that this man of God would thus give proof of his special confidence in the omnipotent mediation of the Blessed Virgin, to whom he was deeply devoted.

 

Flaming Torch of Confidence

Statue of Friar Armengol with a rope around his neckIn captivity, Friar Armengol worked prodigies of charity among the infidels, converting many by the efficacy of his preaching. The time prescribed for the delivery of the money came and passed without the payment being made. The infidels threw him in prison and even denied the food necessary for his sustenance, but Our Lord, by means of His angels, miraculously provided for his survival.

Tired of tormenting him, the Moors conspired to take his life. They accused him of blaspheming Mohammed and of being a spy sent by the Christian kings, thus raising the ire of the Saracen Judge who condemned Friar Peter to death by hanging.

When everything seemed lost, Friar Armengol prayed to Our Lady and confided in her.

The unjust execution was carried out and Peter’s body was left hanging from the gallows. The Moors wanted his corpse to feed birds of prey. Thus, the holy man’s body remained suspended. Six days had elapsed when Friar William arrived with the ransom money. Learning what had happened, he went with great sorrow, in the company of some captives, to see the lamentable sight.

Reaching the site of the execution, he noticed that the body did not emit a bad odor, but rather exhaled a heavenly fragrance. To their astonishment, Friar Armengol spoke, telling them that the Blessed Mother saved his life. Astounded by the stupendous miracle, some pagans converted to the Catholic religion.

 

Conversation with the Queen of Angels

Virgin of RansomLearning of the portentous miracle, Barcelona impatiently awaited the return of the unconquerable martyr of Jesus Christ.

In the city, they received him with great joy, escorting him from the port to his monastery, giving thanks to Our Lord for His marvels. The religious wanted to hear from Friar Peter’s mouth what had happened, but despite their earnest pleas, he would not speak. Finally, the superior ordered him to tell all that had occurred.

Obedient, the man of God spoke: “The Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our own mother, asked her Most Holy Son to conserve my life; having obtained this favor, this same sovereign Queen sustained me with her most holy hands, so that the weight of my body would not hang upon the rope by which I was suspended.”

For the rest of his life, Friar Armengol had a twisted neck and a pale completion, authentic signs of what had taken place. He retired to the monastery of Our Lady de los Prados, where he practiced heroic virtue and spent his days in familiar conversation with the Queen of Angels, whom he loved so dearly with filial devotion.

Recalling the miracle of his hanging, he frequently told the religious of the monastery of this marvel: “Believe me, my dear brothers, that I do not believe myself to have lived except for those few but most happy days when, hanging from the gallows, I was held to be dead.”

He rendered his soul to God on April 27, 1304. Our Lord deigned to give proofs of the glorification of His servant with seven miracles, the cures of three men and four women, even before his death. On March 28, 1686 Pope Innocent the XI approved the public cult to the saint and, in the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV inscribed Saint Peter Armengol in the Roman Martyrology.

 

The Tomb of the Saint

Today the remains of Saint Armengol can be found in Guardia dels Prats. The small village still preserves much of its medieval character: tortuous, narrow stone-studded streets; buildings that recall old palaces or noble residences; and a charming Romanesque–style church.

The body of Saint Peter Armengol was preserved incorrupt until 1936. During the Spanish Civil War, however, communist marauders invaded and sacked the church, carrying off his venerable body to the public square where they burned it. Some children gathered up what they could of these ashes and took the precious remains to their homes, where their mothers kept them with great care.

Later, after the communists were vanquished, the precious relics were returned to the church, where they are kept in a reliquary over the main altar – largely forgotten by “progressive” Catholics – in silent testimony of the sanctity of the Catholic Church and Christian Civilization.

In our times of profound moral crisis, let us ask Saint Armengol to obtain for us before the throne of God, graces of unbending fidelity, unwavering hope and heroic confidence in the powerful intercession of Our Lady.

 


Source: Cf. Abbe Rohrbacher, Histoire Universelle de l'Eglise Catholique, vol. 20, Gaume Freres Libraires, Paris, 1845, pp. 40-43.
Photo Attribution:

  • Coat of Arms - Heralder  
  • Statue of Pedro Armengol - Noucho
  • Virgin of Ransom - Volorik

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 23, 2020

The purer are your words and your glances, the more pleasing...

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November 23

 

The purer are your words and your
glances,
the more pleasing will you be to the
Blessed Virgin. And
the greater will be the
graces that she will obtain for you
from her Divine Son.


St. John Bosco


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Columban

He struggled with purity, and desperate to dedicate himself...

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St. Columban

Columban was born about the year 543 in County Meath, in the Irish province of Leinster, to respectable parents. He was well-educated in grammar, rhetoric, geometry, and the Holy Scriptures. The young Columban resolved early to embrace monastic asceticism and dedicate himself to a strict and disciplined life, abstaining from many of the pleasures of the world. However, he struggled with purity, and desperate to dedicate himself wholly to God, asked the advice of a religious woman who had lived as a hermit for many years.

His mother tried her utmost to deter him from the course of action proposed by the saintly hermit, but Columban took the holy woman’s advice and left Leinster to become a cloistered monk at the monastery of Bangor in County Down. He remained there a number of years before gaining permission from his superior, St. Congall, to evangelize in foreign lands. With twelve companions he traveled to Gaul and set about preaching and teaching the Gospel.

In 590, news of these monks reached Guntramnus, the King of Burgundy, who was so inspired by the holy men that he gave the Irish monk and his companions the ancient Roman castle of Annegray, in the region’s Vosges Mountains, in which to establish a monastery. Within a few years, the increasing number of followers obliged Columban to expand and, with the help of one of the King’s ministers, he obtained from the King another ancient Roman fortification named Luxeuil, on the site of some ancient Roman baths. A third monastery soon followed to house the growing number of disciples. The monks followed a harsh discipline similar to the unusual characteristics of Celtic Christianity: they carried out penances for every transgression, no matter how small, fasted, performed bodily mortifications and prayed at length.

Twenty years after his first monastic foundation, Columban and his fellow Irishmen were expelled from the country. Brunhilda, the wicked and corrupt queen regent, disliked the holy man for his reproach of the immoral ways of her court and ultimately exiled him in 610.

Columban and his monks traveled to Italy where they were welcomed by Agilulf, King of the Lombards. Agilulf gave the monks a dilapidated church at Bobbio to reestablish themselves. Columban himself did much of the repairs in spite of his seventy years of age.

He died at Bobbio in 615 having spent the last few years of his life praying and preparing for death. His followers established monasteries all over Europe.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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