st.Celestine V-Hermit, founder of the Celestines, pope

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  st.Celestine V

Feast Day : May 19



Also known as: Peter Celestine V, Peter of Morone (or Morrone), Pietro di Murrone



Patronage: Bookbinders



Celestine was born to a peasant family in the Neapolitan province of Moline about 1211, the 11th of 12 children. When he was between 17 and 20, he became a hermit, though he later studied for the priesthood and was ordained in Rome. He joined the Benedictines at Faizola in 1246. Five years later, he retired to Mt. Morone (Morrone) in the Abruzzi (hence his surname), though he spent some time also on the even more remote Mt. Majella. Taking St. John the Baptist as his model, he wore a haircloth roughened with knots, draped himself with an iron chain, and fasted every day except Sunday. Each year he kept four Lents, passing three of them on bread and water, devoting entire days and the better parts of nights to prayer, reading, copying books or even hard labor, busying himself so that he would not be found and tempted by the devil. His austerities and penances attracted many imitators, leading to the establishment of a Benedictine suborder, the Celestines, approved by Pope Urban IV (r. 1261–64) in 1264. At first Peter led the Celestines, but in 1284, tired of governance, he appointed a vicar, and once again departed for the wilderness. His peace was not to last, however. After the death of Pope Nicholas IV (r. 1288–92) in April 1292, the Sacred College of Cardinals was unable to agree on a successor. They had wrestled with the problem for over two years when Cardinal Latino Orisini told the assembly that God had revealed to a saintly hermit (whom they understood to be Peter) that if they did not fill the see of Rome within four months, there would be severe repercussions. This was enough for the cardinals to elect Peter, which they did on July 5, 1294. A month later a large delegation arrived to notify him. Peter, who was then in his 80s, is said to have been in tears, but acquiesced in what he believed was God’s plan for him. The cardinals asked Peter to come to Perugia, where they had been meeting, for his coronation, but under the influence of King Charles of Naples, he summoned them to Aquila (a town within the kingdom of Naples) instead. Although only three of the cardinals had arrived by the time that Peter had arrived, Charles ordered him to be crowned, and the ceremony had to be repeated a few days later (on August 29, 1294), when all were in attendance—the only instance of a double papal coronation in history. Upon his consecration, Peter assumed the name Celestine V. Peter’s elevation was welcomed by the extremist spiritual movement within the Church, which saw it as the fulfillment of prophecies that the Holy Spirit would soon reign on Earth through a monk. However, Cardinal Latino was—it is said—so grief-stricken by the way things were turning out that he fell ill and died. Indeed, Celestine soon showed himself to be entirely unprepared to lead the Church. He was easily swayed by persons wishing to take advantage of him, especially King Charles. It took only a few months before the cardinals’ second thoughts reached the point of investigating the possibility of papal abdication, another unprecedented event. The possibility being decided in the affirmative, the choice was put to Peter, who issued his resignation to the Sacred College meeting in Naples on December 13, 1294. The cardinals then elected one of their own, Cardinal Gaetani, who took the name Boniface VIII (r. 1294–1303). Fearing Celestine’s popularity would cause a schism within the Church, Boniface had him arrested and imprisoned in the castle of Fumone, near Anagni, Italy. Celestine was reportedly pleased with this latest turn. He is quoted as saying: “I wanted nothing in the world but a cell, and a cell they have given me.” He died in Fumone on May 19, 1296, and was buried at Anagni. A half-century later his relics were translated to the church of his order at Aquila, where they remain the object of great veneration. In art, Celestine is depicted as a pope with a dove at his ear and the devil trying to disturb him

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