Let me share a story dating back to the late 1200's. A young Peregrine Laziosi was part of a anti-papal political party, and during one uprising he heckled and then struck St. Philip Benizi in the face. If we were in St Philips position our natural instinct would have us duck or attempt to defend ourselves, but what would the Gospel have to say in this situation???
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5:39
If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Luke 6:29
Peregrine joined the monastery and became widely known for his preaching, penances, and counsel in the confessional. It is believed that he was very dedicated, forsaking all the comforts of a life of ease. One of the special penances he imposed on himself was to stand whenever it was not necessary to sit. When tired he would support himself on a choir stall. As a result of this type of life, at the age of 60 he developed varicose veins which degenerated into cancer of the left leg. His condition deteriorated to the point that the physician decided to amputate his leg.
Did you know that cancerous cells can arise from almost any type of tissue cell and the word cancer actually refers to about 100 different diseases.
Anyway, On the night before the operation Peregrine spent time praying before a fresco of the Crucifixion. That night as he slept he had a vision where Jesus descended from the cross and touched the diseased leg with His divine hand. The following day, when the doctor arrived to perform the amputation he found no sign of the cancer. Peregrine was completely cured. Peregrine survived for a further 20 years or so, until he eventually died of a fever.
Did you realise that, according to the Cancer Council of Australia, at the current rates it is expected 1 in 2 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. This year, an estimated 124,910 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the Australian population. It is a leading cause of death in Australia – more than 43,700 people are estimated to have died from cancer in 2011.
Advances in our knowledge about prevention, early detection and treatment mean that over 60% of people diagnosed with cancer today can be effectively treated. Almost nine out of 10 children with cancer are effectively treated and go on to live normal lives. We have a lot more knowledge about the disease now than we did in St Peregrines time. Peregrine had the grace to answer every call of God and to fulfill His will in all the events of life, enduring painful sufferings with incredible patience while demonstrating to us through his total surrender to God that we should keep our trust and faith.
Remember that I said 1 in 2 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. That suggests it will either directly or indirectly effect all of us at some stage of our life. Many of us have heard the dreaded "C" word used in association with family and friends. Some of us have heard the doctor use the word referring to our own health. The medical profession can offer information and treatments, we can try changes in diet and lifestyle to avoid or combat cancers and we can offer words of encouragement to those we love, but more importantly we can turn to God. We can offer service and prayer. The lesson of Peregrine’s life is not that God worked a miracle, but that a faithful servant placed himself, unconditionally, in the hands of God. Peregrine’s trust in God therefore serves as a model for those dealing with sickness.
St Peregrine is recognised as the patron saint to cancer sufferers. Patiently enduring his painful suffering he continually laboured for God and the salvation of souls, setting an amazing example for determination and commitment. If we think of our trials in life as God testing or strengthening us then St Peregrine passed with honours.
This is one of the many St Peregrine intercessory prayers available online:
St. Peregrine, we come to you confidently to implore your aid with God in our necessity. You were converted instantly from a worldly life by the good example of one holy person. You were cured instantaneously of cancer by God's grace and unceasing prayer. In your gracious kindness please ask the Lord to heal us also in body, mind, and soul. May we then also imitate you in doing His work with renewed vigor and strength. Amen.
Prayers for the sick from the Book of Common Prayer:
O LORD and heavenly Father, who dost relieve those who suffer in soul and body: Stretch forth thine hand, we beseech thee, to heal thy servant N., and to ease his pain; that by thy mercy he may be restored to health of body and mind, and show forth his thankfulness in love to thee and service to his fellow men; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
O LORD Jesu Christ, thou great Physician: Look with thy gracious favour upon this thy servant; give wisdom and discretion to those who minister to him in his sickness; bless all the means used for his recovery; stretch forth thy hand and, according to thy will, restore him to health and strength, that he may live to praise thee for thy goodness and thy grace; to the glory of thy holy Name. Amen