Pietro (Peter) di Morrone was the born in Isernia, Italy. He was the eleventh of twelve children and his father died when he was small. The family was poor, but Peter’s mother raised her children with great love. She sent Peter to school because he showed such promise and an eagerness to learn. Once she asked as usual, “Which one of you is going to become a saint?” Little Peter who was to become Pope Celestine answered with all his heart, “Me, Mama! I’ll become a saint!” And he did. But it wasn’t easy.
When he was twenty, Peter became a hermit. He spent his days praying, reading the Bible and doing his work. Other hermits kept coming to him and asking him to guide them. Eventually, he started a new order of monks.
When Peter was eighty-four years of age, he was made pope. It came about in a very unusual way. For two years there had been no pope. This was because the cardinals could not agree on whom to choose. Peter sent them a message. He warned them to decide quickly, because God was not pleased with the long delay. The cardinals did as the monk said. Then and there, they chose Peter the hermit to be pope! The poor man wept when he heard the news. He accepted sadly and took the name Celestine V.
He was pope only about five months. Because he was so humble and simple, people took advantage of him. He could not say “no” to anyone. Soon there was great confusion. Pope Celestine felt very responsible for all the trouble. He decided that the best thing he could do for the Church was give up his position. He did so. He asked forgiveness for not having governed the Church well.
All St. Celestine wanted was to live in one of his monasteries in peace. But the new pope, Boniface VIII, thought it would be safer to keep him hidden in a small room in one of the Roman palaces. St. Celestine spent the last ten months of his life in a plain cell-like room. But he became his cheerful self again. “All you wanted was a cell, Peter,” he would repeat to himself. “Well, you’ve got it.” He died on May 19, 1296. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement VI in 1313.
Reflection: When we feel discouraged because we do not see the fruits of our work, this might be an invitation from the Lord to simply do our best and leave the results up to him.
Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, who chose blessed Celestine V to preside over your whole people and benefit them by word and example, keep safe, we pray, by his intercession, the shepherds of your Church along with the flocks entrusted to their care, and direct them in the way of eternal salvation. 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.