St. Peter Martyr and the Foundation of the Servites

Like the Mercedarians, who were helped in their foundation by St. Raymond of Penafort, OP, so too were the Seven Holy Founders of the Servites (today’s feast) aided by a Dominican in their foundation: St. Peter Martyr (1206-1252).

The early chronicles of the Servite Order place great emphasis on the importance of St. Peter Martyr in the foundation of their Order.  He is said to have personally presented the case of their Papal approval to Pope Innocent IV.  He is said to have had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in which she described to him what their habit should look like (which looks mostly like the Dominican habit but black).  One legenda even has him placing their Order under the Rule of St. Augustine (which the Dominicans follow).  While that last part doesn’t appear to be historically true, it is true that their constitutions are almost a direct copy of the Dominican Constitutions codified by St. Raymond of Penafort.  Thus, it is not surprising to find this comment in a 14th century Servite chronicle:

“Brother Peter of Verona of the order of Saint Dominic, the Holy Martyr, of whom not enough can be said of the good that he wished, the good that he did, and the good that he still does daily for us.  If her were still among us, there would be nothing more he could do for us.  Let us pray therefore that he continue to protect us from heaven, as much as he did on earth.  Let us venerate Saint Peter of Verona, who has done much good for us.”

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that while the last of the Seven Holy Founders, St. Alexis Falconieri, was still alive, the Servite general chapter “mandated that the feast of Peter was to be celebrated as a duplex: the highest liturgical rank” and that “a statue of Peter was placed in the refectory of the convent of Monte Senario in Florence, the home monastery of the order.”  No wonder, St. Peter Martyr is sometimes referred to as the Second Founder of the Servites.

Quotes from: Donald Prudlo, The Martyred Inquisitor: The Life and Cult of Peter of Verona (+ 1252) (Burlington: Ashgate, 2008), page 52, footnote 62.