19 January 2010

Blessed Andrew of Peschiera


19 JANUARY 2010. Today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Andrew of Peschiera, a fifteenth century Dominican priest that was a missionary to heretics of his day.

Andrew Grego was born in the beginning of the fifteenth century at Peschiera, on the shores of Lake Garda (pictured), in northern Italy. During his childhood, Blessed Andrew was remarkable for his prayer, abstinence, charity for the poor, and obedience to his father. Blessed Andrew, as a child, always fasted on only bread and water during the whole of Lent. From a young age Blessed Andrew yearned to be a hermit, but because of his youth was only able to live at home, where he lived a mortified and religious life with his family. Blessed Andrew's brothers, however, bore a resentment toward him and treated him badly. After his father's death, Blessed Andrew went to join a cloister and his brothers went with him to the city gate. At the city gate Blessed Andrew gave them a stick he had taken from his father's house, the only thing he had taken, and, on his knees, kissed their feet, forgave their injustices, and renounced any inheritance that he may have. The stick was set forgotten in a corner of the house, but on Blessed Andrew's death many years later, it bloomed with flowers.

At the age of 15 Blessed Andrew joined the Dominican Order at the priory at Brescia, Italy and was educated at the San Marco monastery in Florence, Italy. For 45 years afterward, Blessed Andrew worked as a traveling  preacher in the northern Italian Alps, traveling on foot, working with the poor, hiding from bandits and heretics, and sleeping where he could.

The area where Blessed Andrew preached was overtaken at the time by heresy and poverty. Blessed Andrew worked tirelessly and without fear in the area preaching against heresy and founding many orphanages and refuges for the poor. He caused several churches and monasteries to be erected, and was so loved by the poor that he was given the popular title, "Father of the poor." One historical account of Blessed Andrew's preaching tells that he was engaged in a dispute with heretics when they produced a book that contained many errors and blasphemous statements against the Church's veneration of saints. When Blessed Andrew asked them to open the book to see what it contained, a large viper sprang from the book, as to bear witness to the poison in its pages.

Blessed Andrew, tradition tells, had a tender devotion to the Passion of Our Lord, and in the ancient pictures of him (none of which appear to be electronically available today) Blessed Andrew is usually pictured with a crucifix. There is also historical accounts that Blessed Andrew is pictured, at the chapel in Peschiera dedicated to him, near a crucifix, from which issues a light that is directed at Blessed Andrew's heart. This is said to refer to some miraculous favor that was granted to Blessed Andrew while he was contemplating Our Lord's passion. Tradition also tells that on Fridays, Blessed Andrew wore a crown of sharp thorns which he concealed with under the hood of his habit.

Blessed Andrew died on 18 January 1485 among his Dominican brethren at the priory of Morbegno, Valtellina, Italy. So many miracles were reported to have occurred at his tomb, that Blessed Andrew's mortal remains were moved twice to allow better access for pilgrims. Blessed Andrew was beatified (cultus confirmed) by Pope Pius VII in 1820.

Prayer
(from Short Lives of the Dominican Saints (1901))

O Lord Jesus Christ, 
who didst adorn Blessed Andrew, Thy Confessor,
with the apostolic spirit,
grant us, in imitation of him, 
so to benefit others, both by word and example,
as to reap abundant fruit.
Who livest and reignest world without end.

Amen.

IMAGE: Shore of Lake Garda.

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