Feast of Blessed Peter To Rot, Martyr.
Genesis 23: 1-4
Matthew 9:9- 13
Today’s readings tell of Abraham, our father in faith, as he prepares to bury his wife Sarah. Matthew’s gospel recounts the call of Matthew by Jesus.
But today is also the feast of Peter To Rot. He brings the Good News right home to us in the South Pacific and I thought he deserves our attention today. Peter was an extraordinary man. His parents were still new to the Catholic faith. But they treasured it and gave Peter the chance for education. He grew to be a man who loved Jesus and was ready to give his life to help his brothers and sisters live lives that were faithful to the way of life that Jesus offered.
He is a wonderful model for Papua New Guinea. Blessed Peter reminds us that holiness comes in all shapes and sizes. He was young. He was a husband, a father, a family man, a teacher and a protector of the sanctity of marriage. He and his wife Paula had a good marriage. They prayed together morning and night to make Christ the centre of their marriage.
When war came to the Pacific, the Japanese invaded the island of Rakunai. They put all foreign missionaries in prison. Peter was a layman trained as a catechist. Peter became the unofficial “pastor” of the parish. He taught the people quietly, baptized babies and converts, visited the sick, led the people in their Sunday “Lotu” and secretly took the Holy Eucharist to the priests in prison.
The Japanese restricted religious services and soon forbade them altogether. To try to break the hold the faith had on the people, the invaders decided to return the old practice of polygamy. Peter, remembering his Christian training on the sanctity of marriage, objected to this and was arrested in the spring of 1945 and was confined to a cave.
When his wife and mother came to visit, he told them a Japanese doctor was coming to visit, but he was not sick. He suspected a trick. So he asked Paula to bring his good clothes—he wanted to be ready to meet his God.
The doctor arrived and gave Peter an injection and Peter began to convulse, the doctor covered his mouth, and the soldiers held his down until he suffocated. Soon the rest of the prison camp found out what happened to Peter.
The next morning, the Japanese guards acted surprised to find Peter dead. They said he had died of an infection, but the crowd attending Peter’s funeral knew the truth: Peter was a martyr for the faith.
Fr. Kevin Dance CP is the vicar of the St.Brigid’s Retreat, Marrickville. He is very actively involved in ministries locally and at Passionist International where he served as the Executive Director for many years.