Friday, September 26, 2008

St. Peter's Mother

Among the Tagalogs, this story of St. Peter's mother is a very popular folk tale. I remember reading a version of this story way back in second grade, with some of the circumstances altered; still, the essence of the story remained. This version was the one I often heard from my relatives groqing up.

It was said that St. Peter's mother was a very avaricious and greedy woman. One day, when she had lived almost the whole of her life, she summoned St. Peter to her bedside. With a weak but firm voice, she said to St. Peter, 'Entreat you the Lord for me that I be granted many more years to come'. St. Peter, being the obedient son that he was, went to the Lord to seek His help.

So it came to pass that St. Peter saw the Lord one day, after He had just performed a miracle. He flung himself to the Master's feet, and said 'O Lord, You are great and powerful indeed, and no earthly praise is fit to honor You. But my mother is old and sick, and has asked me to spare her life.'

The Lord looked at St. Peter and said, 'When a tree is old its leaves wither and die. But since your mother has asked to be given more years to her life, it shall be done. Plant this seed in your garden, and as long as the tree shall bloom, your mother will live.' St. Peter fell before the Lord and thanked Him. He reached home, when, in his excitement, he forgot to plant the seed in his garden. It remained in his pocket for days, until finally, St. Peter's mother died. The saint was inconsolable, and wept and cursed, but he resigned himself to the will of God.

Nine days after his mother's death, St. Peter had a vision. In that vision, he saw his mother, wrapped in flames, and once again, St. Peter's mother asked her son a favor. 'My son, I am trapped in purgatory, and I am parched beyond relief. Tell the Lord to snatch me away from these unbearable flames'.

Guilt gnawing at his conscience, but at the same time afraid of being rebuked by the Lord for his incompetence, St. Peter debated whether or not to go to the Lord. But in the end, he decided to muster up his courage, and ask the Lord for another favor. So it happened that he chanced upon the Master once more; and again, he flung himself at His feet, and asked 'My Lord, my mother has died because of my incompetence; but now she is in purgatory, and the flames, she says, are unbearable. She asks you to free her from that unspeakable prison!'

The Lord looked at St. Peter and said, 'As I told you, a tree that withers is near death. But since your mother asked for a respite against the pains of purgatory, it shall be granted her. Take you this rope, and when you see her again in your visions, throw the rope to her, and she shall enter Paradise. But be you warned, this is the last favor I will grant your mother.'

That very night, St. Peter's mother appeared to him. 'Mother, the Lord has granted your request! Take the end of this rope and climb up, and you shall enter the gates of paradise!' Overjoyed, St. Peter's mother quickly snatched the rope, and began to climb up in earnest; but just as she was about to escape the mouth of purgatory, she felt a tug on her ankle. Below, she saw a chain of souls, all miserable and yet at the same time hopeful. The soul immediately below her said, 'Take us with you that we too may quench our thirst!' But St. Peter's mother, being greedy and avaricious, tried to shake away the souls clinging to her feet.

And suddenly, in the midst of it all, the rope snapped, and St. Peter's mother fell into the deepest pit of purgatory, eventually landing at the gates of Hell. She alone fell to such a great depth. There she remains to this day, waiting, beyond all mortal rescue, until that Day known to the Lord alone, when heaven and earth shall pass.

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