Saint of the Day – 18 January – Blessed Andrés Grego de Peschiera OP (1400-1485) Priest and Friar of the Order of Preachers, Confessor, Missionary, miracle-worker, known as “the Apostle of the Valtelline,” “Father of the poor.” Born in 1400 in Peschiera del Garda, Italy and died on 18 January 1485 in the Dominican convent at Morbegno, Sondrio, Lombardy, Italy of natural causes.
Roman Martyrology – In the convent of Morbegno near the Italian Alps, Blessed Andrew Grego of Peschiera, a priest of the Order of Preachers, who for a long time walked all over the region, where he lived austerely with the poor and tried to reconcile everyone fraternally (1485). Also known as – Andrés Gregho, Andrés of Peschiera, Andrew… Patronages – Peschiera and Valtelline, Italy.
Born early 15th Century in Peschiera, Italy. As a child, Andrés lived on the southern shore of Lake Garda, in northern Italy. His training for a life of heroic sanctity began early, with voluntary penances and unquestioning obedience to his father. Andrés’ first desire was to be a hermit, an ambition that was met with ridicule from his brothers. Failing to realise this hope, he made for himself a severe schedule of prayer and penance and, in his own house, lived the life of one wholly given to God. He was remarkable for his prayer, abstinence, charity for the poor and obedience to his father. Blessed Andrés, as a child, always fasted on only bread and water during the whole of Lent.
After the death of his father, it became increasingly difficult to carry out his plan, so he resolved to enter the cloister. Although his brothers had persecuted him without mercy, he knelt and humbly begged their prayers and forgiveness for having annoyed them. Then he gave them the only possession he had, a walking stick. This stick, thrown carelessly in a corner by the brothers, was forgotten until, long afterwards, it bloomed with flowers, like the legendary rod of Saint Joseph in token of Andrés’ holiness.
The 15-year old received the Dominican habit at Brescia and then was sent to San Marco in Florence. This convent was then at its peak of glory, stamped with the saintly personalities of Saint Antoninus and the Blessed Lawrence of Riprafratta, Constantius and Antony della Chiesa. Andrés soul caught the fire of their apostolic zeal and set forth on his mission in the mountains of northern Italy.
Heresy and poverty had combined to draw almost this entire region from the Church. It was a country of great physical difficulties and, in his travels in the Alps, he risked death from snowstorms and avalanches as often as from the daggers of the heretics. Nevertheless, he travelled tirelessly, preaching, teaching and building–for his entire lifetime (45 years). He worked tirelessly and without fear in the area preaching against heresy and founding many orphanages and refuges for the poor. He caused several churches and monasteries to be erected and was so loved by the poor that he was given the popular title, “Father of the poor.”
He would retire from time to time to these convents for periods of prayer and spiritual refreshment, so that he could return with renewed courage and zeal to the difficult apostolate. He was known as “the Apostle of the Valtelline” because of the district he evangelised.
Andrés performed many miracles. Probably his greatest miracle was his preaching, which produced such fruits in the face of great obstacles. At one time, when he was preaching to the people, the heretics presented him with a book in which they had written down their beliefs. He told them to open the book and see for themselves what their teachings amounted to. They did so and a large viper emerged from the book.
Andrés had a tender devotion to the Passion of Our Lord and in the ancient pictures of him (none of which appear to be electronically available today) Blessed Andrés is usually pictured with a Crucifix. There is also historical accounts that Blessed Andrew is pictured, at the Chapel in Peschiera dedicated to him, near a Crucifix, from which issues a light that is directed at Andrés’ heart. This is said to refer to some miraculous favour that was granted to Blessed Andrés while he was contemplating Our Lord’s passion. Tradition also tells that on Fridays, Andrés wore a crown of sharp thorns which he concealed under the hood of his habit.
Blessed Andrés died on 18 January 1485 among his Dominican brethren at the priory of Morbegno, Valtellina, Italy. So many miracles were reported to have occurred at his tomb, that Blessed Andrew’s mortal remains were moved twice to allow better access for pilgrims. Blessed Andrés was Beatified (cultus confirmed) by Pope Pius VII in on 26 September 1820.
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who didst adorn Blessed Andrés, Thy Confessor,
with the apostolic spirit,
grant us, in imitation of him,
so to benefit others, both by word and example,
as to reap abundant fruit.
Who livest and reignest world without end.