December 6 – Martyr of the Muslims

December 5, 2011

St. Peter Paschal, Bishop and Martyr

Painting by Jeroni Jacint Espinosa

This saint was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1227, and descended of the ancient family of the Paschals, which had edified the Church by the triumphs of five glorious martyrs, which it produced under the Moors.

Peter’s parents were virtuous and exceedingly charitable; and St. Peter Nolasco often lodged with them in his travels. The birth of our saint was ascribed by them to his prayers and blessing, and the child received from him an early tincture of sincere piety. Peter Paschal performed his studies under domestic tutors, and, having received the tonsure, was made canon at Valencia, soon after the king of Arragon had won that city from the Moors.

St. Peter Nolasco

His preceptor was a priest of Narbonne, a doctor of divinity, of the faculty of Paris, whom our saint’s parents had ransomed from the Moors, who had made him a captive. St. Peter Paschal went with him to Paris, and having studied, preached and taught with great reputation, proceeded doctor: then returned to Valencia, and, after employing a year in preparing himself, took the habit of the Order of our Lady, for the redemption of captives (Mercedarians,) in 1251. St. Peter Nolasco was his spiritual director at Barcelona, and by the instructions of that experienced master, our saint made great progress in the exercises of an interior life.

King James I of Aragon

James I, king of Aragon, chose him preceptor to his son Sanchez, who embraced an ecclesiastical state, afterwards entered himself in this Order, and was soon after made archbishop of Toledo, in 1262. The prince being at that time too young to receive the episcopal consecration, St. Peter Paschal was appointed his suffragan to govern his diocess, and was ordained titular bishop of Granada: which city was at that time in the hands of the Mahometans. The prince archbishop died a martyr of the wounds he received by the Moors, who had invaded the territory of his diocese, making great havoc in his flock, in 1275.

St. Peter Paschal was by this accident restored to his convent; but joined the functions of the ministry with those of a contemplative and penitential life. He founded several new convents of his Order at Toledo, Baëza, Xerez, and particularly at Jaën, twenty-two miles from Granada, endeavouring by this last to procure the means of affording some spiritual succours to the afflicted Church of Granada, which he regarded as his own peculiar charge, though he was not suffered to serve it. The martyrdom of B. Peter of Chemin, a religious man of the same Order which our saint professed, and who was put to death at Tunis in 1284, kindled in his breast an ardent desire of martyrdom.

The emblem of Mercedarians (Order of Our Lady of Mercy).

Being made bishop of Jaën in 1696, fearless of all dangers, he went often to Granada, and there not only ransomed the captives, and instructed and comforted the Christians, but also preached to the infidels, and reconciled to the Church several apostates, renegades, and others. On this account he was at length shut up in a dark dungeon, with a severe prohibition that no one should be allowed to speak to him. Yet he found means there to write an excellent treatise against Mohammedanism, by which several were converted. Whereat some of the infidels took great offense, and complained to the king, who gave them authority to put him to death in whatever manner they should think fit. Whilst he was at his prayers, after having said mass in his dungeon, he was murdered, receiving two stabs in his body: after which his head was struck off.

St. Peter Paschal

His martyrdom happened on the 6th of December, in the year of Christ 1300, of his age seventy-two. The Christians procured his chalice, sacred ornaments, and discipline, and secretly buried his body in a grotto, in a mountain near Mazzomores. Not long after, it was translated to Baëza, where it still remains. His name occurs in the Roman Martyrology on the 6th of December, and on the 23d of October.

See the memorials drawn up for his canonization, and Hist. des Ord. Relig.

Cfr. The Lives of the Saints, 1866, by Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume XII: December. pp. 647-648

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