The Cancer Saint, St. Peregrine, O.S.M.

Author: By Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D.


Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V. D.

From Sinner To Saint

It will be encouraging and helpful for people to know that there is a patron of America's most deadly disease. He is St. Peregrine, O.S.M., a priest of the Order of the Servants of Mary. This is his story.

The only son of well-to-do and noble parents St. Peregrine was born in 1260 at Forli, Italy. As a young man of eighteen he took an active part in the politics of his native city, which belonged to the anti-papal party that disturbed the peace of Italy. On the occasion of a popular rising, St. Philip Benizi, who had been sent by Pope Martin IV to act as a mediator and preach peace at Forli, was severely mishandled by the popular leaders. Peregrine himself, hotheaded and impetuous, with a gang of followers met the Saint at the gates of the city. The gentle words of St. Philip in behalf of peace were met with abusive language, rocks and clubs. To prove his leadership, the proud Peregrine went so far as to strike the holy man on the face with his fist, knocking him down. The saintly Servite's only reply was to offer the other cheek and to pray for this misguided youth. This heroic meekness deeply impressed Peregrine. He soon realized what a fool he had made of himself and how rude he had been, so he ran three miles to catch up to the retreating Saint. With tears he confessed his guilt and begged forgiveness on his knees and promised to change his way of living. St. Philip consoled his penitent, exhorting him at the same time to amend his life and to cultivate a childlike devotion to the Mother of God.

This incident was God's way of calling Peregrine from the world, to dedicate himself to the service of Christ and the souls for whom he died. He spent long hours upon his knees in the Chapel of Our Lady in the Cathedral. It was the Blessed Mother who led him closer to her loving son. One day she appeared to him in the Cathedral and said to him: "Go to Siena. There you will find the devout men who call themselves my servants. Join them." Peregrine being deeply touched by this tender consideration of the Mother of God, obeyed her command at once.

Having reached Siena, he was received into the Order of the Servants of Mary by the same St. Philip. He set about following with zeal the path of perfection. Only because of the vow of obedience did he consent to be ordained a priest. For sixty-two years he lived a life of austere penance and prolonged prayer. It is said that for thirty years he never sat down, and when forced to sleep, it was most often on the bare ground with a stone for a pillow or leaning against a wall. As far as he could, he observed silence and solitude, for he considered this a most necessary aid in fostering the spiritual life. He was a fervent priest and displayed his fervor above all in celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He was untiring in preaching and bringing sinners back to God. After having spent some years in Siena, his superiors sent him to Forli to found a new house for the Order. The grace of God had worked wonders in transforming this sinful, misguided youth into a Saint.

The Test By Cancer

The genuine worth of Peregrine's sanctity was tested by a great affliction which befell him in the form of a loathsome cancer of the foot. Besides being very painful, it made him repulsive to his associates. The gangrenous stench from the wound was so foul that no one dared approach him. He bore this trial without a murmur. At last the surgeon decided that the only thing to do was to cut off the foot. But that would never do. Peregrine had great dreams for the future. Constant meditation on the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary had made him realize the infinite value of souls—the great price Mother and Son had paid to save them from Hell. Amputation of his leg would mean he would lose a golden opportunity to suffer with the Queen of Sorrows.

How well Peregrine understood that souls are saved by sacrifice and prayer! This was entirely in keeping with the spirit of the Blessed Mother. Did she not emphasize the need of penance and prayer both at Lourdes and Fatima? She wants the world to make reparation to the good God and to her Immaculate Heart in order that souls may be saved from eternal damnation. How earnestly she pleaded at Fatima: "Pray, pray very much; and make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls are lost, because there are none to make sacrifices for them." Devoted child of Mary that he was, Peregrine wished to carry out her desires. He, too, wanted to sacrifice and pray for sinners.

Peregrine spent the night before the operation in trustful prayer to God. He even crawled into the monastery chapel and offered a prayer of resignation, mixed with the plea, that his leg would not be amputated. He fell asleep before the image of the Crucified Savior. In a dream Christ seemed to stretch out His hand from the Cross and touched his diseased foot. On awakening he discovered that it was more than a mere dream—he was completely cured! The doctors were amazed and they testified that they could no longer detect any trace of the disease.

This miracle greatly enhanced the reputation which the holy man had already acquired by his exemplary life. It gave faith to those fearing cancer or suffering from it or any form of running sores. But most of all, his personal sanctity bore fruit in countless miracles. He multiplied bread for the poor, breathed the name of Jesus over the sick and they were cured. By prayer and fasting he brought hardened sinners to repentance and at one time brought to God's side forty outlaws who had been the terror of the country.

Wonder Working St. Peregrine

St. Peregrine lived to be eighty years of age. He died in the year 1345. So great was the number of miracles at his death and later at his tomb, that he was beatified by the Church in 1609. The Apostolic Delegate to Spain remarked: "What St. Anthony with his signs and miracles is to Italy, St. Peregrine is to Spain." He was once solemnly declared Universal Patron of Spain. Vienna considers him her most popular saint. He is invoked and well known in Austria, Hungary, Bavaria, and Italy.

Spain especially was the scene of many miracles. In one city alone, Citta de Castello, from the year 1694 to 1726 more than 300 cures were authenticated by ecclesiastical authorities. In Barcelona, Catholics speak of him as "the Mighty," "the Marvelous," the "wonder working St. Peregrine." It will suffice to mention but two of these cures. Rev. Isidore Costa, S.J., Rector of the Seminary of the Society of Jesus in Barcelona, had been long afflicted with a painful, cancerous growth on his leg. Physicians held no hope for him. Father Isidore then prayed with confidence to St. Peregrine. The pain and stench stopped. The wound was instantly cured. This Father attested to under oath.

The body of a seven-year-old Italian boy was completely covered with ulcers. On the advice of his physician, the child's mother went to the Church of the Servite Fathers at Forli and had a Mass offered in honor of St. Peregrine. When she returned home, her child was completely cured of the terrible disease.

Pope Benedict XIII solemnly canonized St. Peregrine in 1726. His feast is celebrated May 2. His body was exhumed and found incorrupt. In contrast to the onetime cancerous foul stench, it emitted a heavenly odor which men and women found impossible to describe by comparison to earthly flowers. His body is still preserved intact.

The Cancer Saint

St. Peregrine of the Servite Order has been picked by the Church as Patron of those suffering from Running Sores and Cancer. Certain saints, because of events in their lives, seem to specialize in interceding for definite types of peoples. As St. Joseph is patron of a happy death, St. Christopher, guardian of travel, so, too, St. Peregrine, because of the miraculous cure of his cancerous growth, is known as "the Cancer Saint."

St. Peregrine is not well known in America. And yet, the most dread disease in America is Cancer. It takes second place among fatal diseases in our country. Of the American children born this year, about 20 per cent of the boys and 22 per cent of the girls will become its victims sometime during their lives. Though millions of dollars are being spent by the government and private agencies on research and care, and thousands spending themselves, cancer is still the nation's second biggest killer.

But there is still one hope, and that lies in confident and persevering prayer. God who created the world and fashioned the human body with all its mysterious functions, is Master of His own creation. He can and does suspend the laws of nature for those who have faith in His goodness. Prayer is omnipotent. It can also take away impossible-to-cure diseases. We have but to remember the solemn promise of the Savior: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened" (Matt. 7, 7-8).

Furthermore, the saints are our friends in heaven. They favor no special nationalities, for the Church is universal. They intercede for all who pray to them with confidence. Since St. Peregrine is the "Cancer Saint, " why should not people who fear or who suffer from cancer or any form of running sores pray to him, when there is so little hope in the natural powers of men to cure? The fact that thousands of miraculous cures were already reported—and many thousands more that were never made known to the public—should inspire confidence in St. Peregrine's prayers before God and the Virgin Mary. If it is God's Will, these prayers will be answered, that God may reward our confidence and that He may be glorified in His Saints!

Following are various prayers to St. Peregrine:

Saint Peregrine Patron Of Cancer Patients

O God, You gave St. Peregrine an angel for his companion, the Mother of God for his teacher, and Jesus for the Physician of his illness. Grant us, through his prayers, a greater love for our Guardian Angel, the Blessed Virgin, and our Savior.

Prayer To St. Peregrine

St. Peregrine, whom Holy Mother Church has declared Patron of those suffering from Cancer, I confidently turn to you for help in my present sickness.

I beg your kind intercession. Ask God to relieve me of this sickness, if it be his Holy Will. Plead with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, whom you loved so tenderly and in union with whom you have suffered the pains of Cancer, that she may help me with her powerful prayers and loving consolation.

But if it should be God's Holy Will that I bear this sickness, obtain for me courage and strength to accept these trials from the loving hand of God with patience and resignation, because he knows what is best for the salvation of my soul.

St Peregrine, be my friend and patron. Help me to imitate you in accepting suffering, and to unite myself with Jesus Crucified and the Mother of Sorrows, as you did. I offer my pains to God with all the love of my heart, for his glory and the salvation of souls, especially my own. Amen.

Litany In Honor Of St. Peregrine

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us. God, the Father of heaven, <Have mercy on us.> God the Son, Redeemer of the world, <Have mercy, etc.> God the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, one God,
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Mother of Sorrows, pray etc. Health of the sick,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
St. Peregrine,
Converted by the prayers of St. Philip,
Afflicted with a cancerous growth,
Completely cured by the outstretched hand of Jesus Crucified, Who performed many miracles in your lifetime, Who multiplied food and drink,
Who cured the sick by the power of the Name of Jesus, Who converted hardened sinners by prayer and fasting, Who received every favor you ask of God,
Most confident in prayer,
Most austere in penance,
Most patient in suffering,
Most humble in the Holy Priesthood,
Most zealous for souls,
Most kind toward the afflicted,
Most devoted to the Passion of Jesus and the Sorrows of Mary, Victim with Jesus and Mary for the salvation of souls, Wonder-worker for the sick and diseased,
Hope of incurable cases,
Universal patron of those afflicted with cancer and running sores, Beloved Patron of Spain,
Glory of the Order of the Servants of Mary,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, <spare us O Lord.> Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, <Graciously hear us, O Lord.> Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, <Have mercy on us.> V. Pray for us O glorious Saint Peregrine, R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

<Let us pray>

O God, graciously hear the prayers which we present to You in honor of Saint Peregrine, Your beloved servant and Patron of Cancer patients, so that we, who do not rely on our own merits, may receive help in our needs through the intercession of him whose life had been so pleasing to You. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Prayer To Jesus, The Divine Physician

Jesus, Divine Physician, You have created nature and all the wondrous functions of the human body. You are the Master of Your creation. You can and do suspend the laws of nature for those who have faith in Your goodness and entreat You in fervent prayer. You promised that my prayers would be heard when You said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened" (Matt. 7, 7).You also said, "All things whatsoever you ask in prayer, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come to you" (Mark 11, 24). Full of confidence in these promises, I beg You to help me in my present affliction. (<Here mention your request.>)

Jesus, Divine Physician, during Your lifetime You have cured sickness and disease, and even raised the dead to life, because people asked You to do so in prayer. You stretched out Your hand from the Cross and touched the diseased leg of St. Peregrine and completely cured him because he prayed that his leg might not be amputated. I firmly believe that You will hear my prayer also if this should be the Will of God.

Through the intercession of St. Peregrine, who was so devoted to Your holy Passion and to Your Mother of Sorrows, I ask for the grace to understand more and more the infinite love of Your Sacred Heart for me. I firmly believe that You love me with a love that ordains all things for my own good even though this should be difficult for my nature to bear; a love that would turn to good all that I may at the moment consider evil. I love Your Heart that loves me so much.

Jesus, Divine Physician, I thank You for being my best Friend in my illness and my Companion in suffering, loving me with a Heart human like my own; a Heart that can understand my sorrows and problems since It has experienced all that I must bear; a Heart that can sympathize with me and befriend me in my hour of need; a Heart that can love me with the love of the best of friends. Like a real furnace of fire Your Heart burns all for me with a love that knows no end because It has its source in the depths of the Godhead-all for me, as if there were no other to share its infinite warmth. Not all the affection You pour out upon countless other souls lessens Your love for me. Even when I forget You and begin to complain in my illness, You pray for me. Even when I disappoint You by trying to shake off the cross You have placed upon my shoulders, You sacrifice Yourself for me at Holy Mass. When I have pain, You are ready to console and strengthen me, for Your Sacred Heart ever calls to me, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11, 29). Dearest Jesus, Divine Physician, behold how I am burdened with this cross of illness. I come to You and beg You to give me rest.

Jesus, Divine Physician, help me to realize that it is only through the cross that I can attain to glory; that it is only through suffering that I can possess the kingdom of heaven. Before Your own dear Mother was crowned Queen of heaven, she became the Mother of Sorrows. All the saints suffered during their lifetime. Good Saint Peregrine has spent sixty-two years in penance and prayer. A cancerous growth on his leg consumed his flesh to the bone and he suffered intensely. I, too, have been blessed with suffering. This is the only way I can follow You, for You said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. 16, 24).

Jesus, Divine Physician, I unite myself with You as You offer Yourself during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and renew Your Sacrifice of Calvary. Give my heart sentiments like Your own, so that through frequent Holy Communion and prayer I may become a worthy co-victim with You, holy and pleasing to God, and that all the actions, sufferings, tears, and disappointments of my life may be thus consecrated to You as a sacrifice for the glory of God. Everything that You send me, or permit in my life, whether favorable or unfavorable, sweet or bitter-even this illness which I must bear, is acceptable to me, for I have resolved to conform myself to the Divine Will in all things. You invite me to do so, for You said, "Take my yoke upon you . . .My yoke is easy and My burden light" (Matt. 11, 29). May God's Will always be my will! Jesus, Divine Physician, cure me! Amen.

Our Father . . .Hail Mary . . . Glory be . . .

Jesus, Divine Physician, have mercy on us.

Mother of Sorrows, pray for us.

St. Peregrine, the cancer saint, pray for us.

Novena Of Confidence

Lord Jesus Christ, to Your most Sacred Heart I confide this intention: (<Mention your request.>)

Only look upon me, then do what Your Heart inspires. Let Your Sacred Heart decide. I count on It. I trust in It. I throw myself on Its mercy. Sacred Heart of Jesus, You will not fail me! Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You! Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Your love for me! Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your kingdom come! Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have asked You for many favors, but I earnestly implore this one. Take it, place it in Your open, broken Heart, and when the Eternal Father looks upon it, covered with Your Precious Blood, He will not refuse it. It will be no longer my prayer, but Yours, O Jesus.

I ask this favor through the intercession of Your Blessed Mother, the Comforter of the Afflicted and the Health of the Sick, and also of St. Peregrine, the Patron of cancer patients. If it be God's holy will, hear my prayer, O Sacred Heart of Jesus. Amen.

Prayer To The Mother Of Sorrows

My dearest Mother, Virgin Mother of God and Mother of Sorrows, behold me, your child, in prayer before you. I plead for a special favor through the intercession of your faithful servant, Saint Peregrine, who was so devoted to you. (<Mention your favor>.)

Sorrowful Mother, I beg you to present my petition to your Divine Son. I know you want me to seek God's Will in all things, as you always did. Therefore, with childlike trust I abandon myself to God's Holy Will concerning my request. If what I ask for should not be granted, pray that I may receive that which will be of greater benefit to my soul.

Dear Mother of Sorrows, I love you! I put all my confidence in you, because your prayers before God are most powerful. For the sake of Jesus who suffered for my soul as you also did, and through the intercession of Saint Peregrine, hear and grant my prayer. Amen.

Prayer For Someone Afflicted With Cancer

Lord Jesus Christ, You have willed that Saint Peregrine should be invoked by thousands of clients as the patron of those suffering with cancer, and have caused that through his intercession many cures should be wrought. I thank You for this tender compassion for suffering mankind, and for answering the prayers of this compassionate saint. I recommend to You the following person. (<Mention the person or persons you wish to pray for>.)

Be pleased to hear the prayers of Saint Peregrine, as well as those of Your Blessed Mother, the Health of the Sick, in behalf of the person whom I recommend to the love and mercy of Your Sacred Heart. Give him (her) patience in bearing suffering, and resignation. to Your Divine Will. Give him (her) the consolation he (she) needs and especially a cure, if it be Your Holy Will.

THE CANCER SAINT, St. Peregrine, O.S.M. By Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D. 18th Printing 1990. Father Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D. 211 West 7th Avenue, Tarentum, PA 15084.