Pope Saint Peter Celestine V (1215-1296), example of profound humility, and reluctant pope. Saint Celestine serves as a remarkable example of obedience to the Lord, serving only to glorify God, and running from personal glory during his life. He is referred to as the “Phoenix of the Church,” and was truly unique in that upon being placed on the Throne of Saint Peter, he spontaneously abdicated from his position, though none contested his election, for the glory of the Lord and the good of the Church and her people.
"Which one of you is going to become a saint?" Without exception, Peter would answer "Me, Mama! I'll become a saint!" In his daily prayers Peter received visits from Angels, Saints and the Virgin Mary. He recounted everything with simplicity to his mother. Recognizing his piety and faith, Peter’s mother ensured that he was well educated, preparing him for a religious life.
"Let us attend the dedication." While celebrating the office, a beautiful seamless garment, like that worn by the angels, fell upon the shoulders of Saint Peter, a sign of Heaven's approval of his sanctity.
“I am not worthy of offering the Holy Sacrifice,” Peter protested. The Lord replied: “And who is worthy of such a thing? Celebrate it, despite your unworthiness, but offer it in fear.”
Peter Celestine became Pope Celestine V, although reluctantly. In delivering his message from the Lord, he had not sought the position, nor did he consider himself qualified. Such was his humility that upon hearing of his appointment—at age 84-- he wept sorrowfully, but accepted the will of the Lord obediently.
Despite these positive reformations, during Celestine’s five month papacy, due to his humble nature and simplicity—many took advantage of him. He was, in his simple trust, no match for the corruption that plagued the Church at that time. He could not say "no" to anyone, and soon the Vatican found itself surrounded by great confusion. At last, the humble man, also quite wise, decided to give up his position as Pope, lest he do permanent damage to the Church and place his own position above that of the will of God. Therefore, on December 13, 1294, clothed in full pontifical vesture, he read before the Cardinals this act of his great renunciation, asking for forgiveness for his inability to lead the Church:
“Inspired by many legitimate reasons, desiring a more humble state and a more perfect life, fearing to compromise my conscience and seeing my weakness and incapacity, considering the malice of men and yearning for the rest and spiritual consolation I enjoyed before I was raised to this position, I, Celestine V, Pope, do hereby freely and voluntarily renounce the Sovereign Pontificate and abandon the dignity and position to which I was raised.”
"You wanted a cell, Peter," he would repeat to himself, "and a cell you have."
Saint Celestine died on May 19, 1296 and was buried in the church of Saint Agatha in Ferentino, Italy. He was later re-interred in the Church of Saint Maria di Collemaggio, in Aquila, Italy—the church that he was asked to build by the Blessed Virgin in a vision while living as a hermit. The church was greatly damaged during an earthquake in 2009, but the saint’s relics, still venerated today—were spared destruction. While inspecting the earthquake damage, Pope Benedict XVI visited Celestine's remains in the badly damaged Santa Maria di Collemaggio and left the woolen pallium he wore during his papal inauguration in April 2005 on his glass casket as a gift. To mark the 800th anniversary of Celestine's birth, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed the Celestine year from August 28, 2009 through August 29, 2010. The Apostolic Penitentiary has granted a special plenary indulgence to those who pray before the remains of Saint Celestine V during the year dedicated to him.
The simple and humble life of Saint Celestine inspires each of us to pray for humility:
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
(Litany of Humility, written by Cardinal Merry del Val)
Year 2: Day 139 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Humility
Requested Intentions: For personal intentions (A); Restoration of lost hearing (C); Resolution of relational and financial challenges (S); Comfort following loss of husband, security for family, assistance with housing (B); Healing and return of brother (O); Successful hermitage foundation (S); Support from family, permission to marry (H); Recovery of wife following surgery, freedom from depression (W); Protection and recovery of mentally ill daughter (J); Successful resolution to legal proceedings (N); Freedom from worry and successful employment (M); For successful sale of home and freedom from debt (J); Freedom from pain and illness (E); For successful living arrangements, travels, health, and studies (F); Healing, successful studies, financial success (F); For husband’s successful employment (Y); For children’s faith journey; Recovery of a friend suffering from addiction (M); Successful employment (P); Obedience to the will of the Lord (J); Financial recovery (S); Freedom from evil influence (I); Recovery from illness (J); Freedom from addiction (J); Successful transplant surgery (K); Healing for a daughter (T); Acceptance into school (V); Successful immigration; for a sister’s career and marriage (F); Financial recovery; Successful ministry (A); Financial ability to send children to school (S); Safe return of a runaway (J); Healing of a family (J).
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."