Saint of the Day – 4 March – Saint Peter of Pappacarbone (c 1038-1123) Bishop, Abbot, Reformer. Born in Salerno, Italy and died in 1123 of natural causes. Patronage – Policastro, Italy. Also known as – Pieror de Cava, Peter of La Cava, Peter I of Cava.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “In the Monastery of Cava de Tirreni in Campania, St Peter, Abbot, admirably renewed the discipline.”
Peter was a native of Salerno in Italy, a nephew of St Alferius, founder of the Monastery of Cava. Peter entered the religious life at a very early age under St Leo, the 2nd Abbot of Cava. He distinguished himself at once by his piety, mortifications and love of solitude.
At this time, the fame of the Abbey of Cluny had spread far and wide, and the young monk was so attracted by what he had heard, that in about 1062 he obtained Permission to leave Cava and go to France to investigate the way of life at Cluny When the older Monks at Cluny would have sent him to the school to be trained, their Abbot, St Hugh disagreed, saying that Peter might be young in years but that he was a full-grown man in devotion. The Abbot’s opinion was abundantly justified, for Peter proved himself well amongst that household of holy men and he remained there for some six years.
He was then recalled to Italy, having been released by St Hugh apparently at the request of the Archdeacon of Rome, Hildebrand (who was afterwards Pope St Gregory VII). Peter was appointed the first Bishop of Policastro but he found himself unfitted for the turmoil of the world and for the secular cares which devolved upon him. He obtained permission to resign and retired to Cava, where Abbot Leo, realising that he himself was becoming too old to govern, nominated him as his successor and withdrew. The Monks, by their votes, had confirmed the election of their new superior but soon found the strict rule he had brought from Cluny extremely irksome: they began to murmur and rebel and some of them carried their complaints to the aged Leo in his retirement.
Peter, far from resisting and equally far from relaxing the rule, quietly left and betook himself to another Monastery. It was not long before the Monks of Cava, urged by Abbot Leo, came to entreat Peter to return, which he consented to do. Thereafter it was remarked, that those who had the most vehemently opposed him ,were now foremost in welcoming the rule they had previously spurned.
Under the government of Abbot Peter the Monastery flourished amazingly. Not only did numbers of aspirants to the religious life, flock to him from all sides but men and women in the world, showered money and lands upon the community, which was then enabled to minister far and wide, to the sick and the poor. The Abbey itself had to be enlarged to admit the new members and a new Church was built, to the dedication of which, came Pope Urban II, who had been with Peter at Cluny and had remained his close friend. The description of this occasion was preserved in the chronicles of Cava, where it is stated that Blessed Urban talked freely with the Abbot and Monks, as though “forgetting that he was the Pope.”
Peter lived to a great age and died in 1123. He was succeeded by St Constabilis, who had served as Peter’s Assistant and Auxiallary.
The Abbey of Cava still exists and in 1912 the Monks gave proof of their devotion to the Founders of their observance by reprinting, from the unique ancient manuscript in their possession, the Lives of the Saints Alferius, Peter and two other early Sainted Abbots, purporting to be written by Hugh of Venosa, a younger contemporary of St Peter. It is to this biography, which may be found in the Acta Sanctorum (March, vol. i), that we owe all our knowledge of St Peter of Cava.
The first four Abbots of Cava were officially recognised and Canonised as Saints on 21 December 1893, by Pope Leo XIII. They are Alferius, the Founder and first Abbot (1050), Leo I (1050–79), Peter of Pappacarbone (1079–1123) and Constabilis (1122-1124). Their relics rest in the Abbey Church in the Chapel of the Saintly Fathers.’
If you would like to discover St Alferius, his Biography is here:
St Constabilis here: