Monday, May 18, 2015

St. Celestine V: The Holy Hermit who served as Pope for Five Months

The saint of the day for May 19 is Saint Celestine V, Pope, a holy hermit and the founder of the Celestine Order. He is also known as Peter Celestine, Peter Morrone, and Pietro del Morrone.

Born in Isernia, Italy, in 1215, Peter was the eleventh of twelve children of humble, pious parents. His father died when he was very young. When his mother would ask, "Which one of you is going to become a saint?" little Peter would answer "Me, Mama! I'll become a saint!".

He became a Benedictine at the age of 17 and at the age of 20, he became a hermit and spent his days praying and reading the Holy Bible. He left his hermitage to study for the priesthood and was ordained in Rome. He then became a Benedictine monk and founded the Celestine order in 1274.

After the death of Nicholas IV, a conclave which lasted more than two years elected him pope on July 5, 1294. He became known as Celestine V. On December 13, 1294, feeling overwhelmed by the position and his limited abilities in handling them, only five months after receiving the tiara, he resigned and resumed the cherished, simple life of a monk. How humbling this must have been for him! He died on May 19, 1296 and was buried in the church of Saint Agatha, Ferentino, Italy.

St. Celestine V is the patron saint of Aquila, Italy, and of bookbinders.

Why would God ask St. Celestine to serve as pope for just five months?  It also seems odd that a hermit, who has little social interaction, would be called to such a position, where one is constantly mingling with people. God calls each of us to do things that we don't always understand in this life. Perhaps God wanted him to serve as pope to increase his humility or to test his obedience. It is difficult to say, we can only conjecture. However, whatever the reason, St. Celestine taught us an important lesson by his example. He taught us that it is important to listen to the voice of God and to be obedient to His will at all times, embracing it, although we are unable to see the fruits of our labor. God loves us unconditionally and has a purpose for each of our lives. We need only approach Him with complete trust and surrender. He will take us by the hand and lead us to where He wants us to go.

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