30 April 2009

Ag. Petros the Wonderworker of Argos

Peter of Argos, whose feastday is May 3, was born in Constantinople in 855 and died in Argos at the age of seventy. He came from a generous and loving family, and was early offered high advancement in the church. He refused, came to Corinth where his brother Paul was serving as bishop, and took up his preferred life as a hermit.

He was a good and generous hermit, and word got around. Argos was in need of a bishop, and after much persuasion -- and threats -- Petros agreed to go to Argos. One of his many acts of generosity and intelligence there was not only to provide free public education for the children, whether of Argos or of foreigners, but when they were through with school he made sure they had the tools necessary to earn their living.

He was much-loved, as his miracles below might suggest, and when he died the men of Nauplion came over and fought with the men of Argos for possession of his body. Argos kept it, but in time the remains were moved to the Agia Moni, a monastery outside Nauplion, as his Greek church was taken over by the Latin church from the conquests of the 4th crusade. In 1425, Segundo Nani, Venetian bishop of Nauplion, ordered the tomb opened -- he was claiming the monastery as part of his private fief. When the tomb was opened, a great light exploded from it, and thunder and lightening, and the scent of myrrh. Nani's reaction is not recorded, but at some point Petros' relics were removed to Italy.

In the 1990s, monks from Argos began a methodical search of records and churches in Italy, and found Petros' relics in a monastery near Rome. Those monks graciously agreed to return them, and in January 2001, Petros of Argos was brought home.

There are four surviving miracle stories of Ag. Petros, translated below. The author of his vita, his disciple the Blessed Theodosius (whose tomb and miraculous spring are not far from Argos) said there was no point writing things down because everyone knew all about them.
1. A great famine befell the Peloponnesos. The inhabitants try to sustain life with roots and grass; they barely have the strength to bury their dead who fill the roads and footpaths. In that difficult tragic time, the Saint remains firm. He kneels and raises his hands to Heaven. He beseeches mercy and help for his flock. At the same time, he collects wheat, grinds it, fills great storage jars, and instructs the backers to bake and share out the bread with the people in town and from the villages. O! The miracle! With the prayer and blessing of the Saint, the flour does not run out. The amazed bakers want to proclaim the deed but he does not permit them. The storage jars, however, which do not run out at all, show forth the miracle which is much greater than that of the Prophet Elijah who fed only the household of the widow.
For this, the hymn praises him: "He speaks to God and he lives by faith, the most blessed one, storing the left-over inexhaustible flour in the jar, nourishing those suffering famine, his starving people, of godly mind in the midst of famine and death, praising his Christ unto the ages."
2. In those years, the barbarian Saracens [Spanish Arabs] attack from Crete, which they had seized, making raids, pillaging towns and villages, taking with them hordes of prisoners. Learning of the generosity of the Saint, they come often to the shore of the Argolic gulf. They scatter calamity and catastrophe but they sell their slaves to his men.

One day, the Saracens arrive very early with their pirate ship. The representatives of the Bishop give money and ransom a number of slaves. The barbarians, however, do not give up one woman, a young virgin. They want her for their commander. They become angry at the insistence of the representatives, return to the ship with all of them, and remain there. The Saint is deeply saddened. Tears pour down his face. He goes to his room and kneels in prayer. He will not rise if the ransomed girl does not come back to his grieving Christians. That afternoon comes the joyful news: the pirate ship is stuck on a reef and a coastal patrol ship encounters it. The next day, in the moming, the coastal patrol come back triumphantly and, having tied up the Saracen pirates, immediately disembarks the freed prisoners.

The Saint weeps again, this time from holy emotion at the answer to his prayer and from the satisfactory solution to so many difficulties. He kneels, he gives thanks and he praises.

3. One day, a terrified young girl, crying heartbreakingly, takes refuge with the Saint. An officer is after her. She asks the protection of the Saint. He questions her. The officer bursts in cursing loudly. The holy Petros turns to him: "If we have no fear of God, neither will we have shame before men." The officer flees. Then frightful shuddering and violent fever seize him. He sends to ask pardon from the Saint and gives the order to free the girl. With forgiveness, the fever and shaking goes away and he returns to health. The girl is saved.
For these miracles of the Saint. the hymn-writer sings of him: "Our Father never failing, fifty come back from the pillagers, censuring the unjust, inhibiting the mind in its evil at hand."
4. One day, with tears in his eyes, a distraught father falls at the feet of the Saint and askes his help. His daughter, possessed since the day of her wedding, cannot face her husband at all. When he approaches her, she falls rigid and foaming.
The Saint calls his priests immediately, they prepare the blessed oil, and he gives the instruction to the father to anoint her with the oil for seven days. The seventh day, the daemon fled from the woman, and she became a good wife, a mother and mistress of a household.
This miracle the hymn-writer relates: "Just as her father in the spirit freed the dead girl of her pain, prayer unceasing, anointing with oil, freeing singing from suffering, 0 God of our fathers, be praised."

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