SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE (1102-1175), bishop and abbot
There are two men named Peter of Tarentaise who lived one century apart. The saint whom the Church honors today is the earlier Peter, born in Vienne, France in the year 1102. (The other Peter from the 13th century became Pope Innocent V.)
At the age of twenty, Peter joined the Cistercian Order at Bonneveaux with his two brothers and father. At the age of thirty and known for his piety, he was sent to serve as the first abbot of Tamie, in the Tarentaise Mountains, between Geneva and Savoy. There, he built a hospice for travelers.
In the year 1142, he was appointed archbishop of Tarentaise, replacing a bishop who had been deposed because of corruption. Peter wanted to decline the post and remain where he was happiest as a Cistercian monk. He reluctantly accepted, however, because of the urgings of Saint Bernard and the other monks in his Order, seeing their insistence as the will of God.
Peter tackled his new assignment with vigor. He brought reform into his diocese, replaced lax clergy and set about providing education and distributing food to the poor, a tradition called the “May Bread” which lasted until the French Revolution in 1789. He was renowned for visiting all parts of the mountainous regions of his diocese on a regular basis.
Never able to sever himself completely from his personal longing for the monastic life, and after faithfully serving thirteen years as bishop, Peter suddenly disappeared, yearning for the contemplative life in a Cistercian abbey in Switzerland. After about a year, he was eventually discovered serving as a lay brother and was convinced by his superiors to return to Tarentaise and resume his episcopal duties. He again focused many of his energies on the poor.
He came to be trusted as an advisor by both popes and kings: he defended papal rights in France and was called upon to assist in bringing about a reconciliation between King Louis VII of France and Prince Henry II of England.
Archbishop Peter died in 1175 of an illness shortly after meeting and unsuccessfully trying to reconcile the two rulers.
Peter of Tarentaise was canonized a saint in the year 1191 by Pope Celestine III.
We commemorate his feastday on May 8.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, americancatholic.org, catholic.org/saints and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Pastors ~ bishop)
“Lord God, You counted Saint Peter of Tarentaise among Your holy pastors, renowned for faith and love which conquered evil in this world. By the help of his prayers, keep us strong in faith and love and let us come to share his glory.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”