Great Dominicans: Bl. Peter Ruffia

Great Dominicans: Bl. Peter Ruffia

Peter Cambiano was born in Chieri, in Piedmont, in 1320. He was drawn to the Dominicans by his devotion to the rosary. Our Lady of the Rosary was the special patroness of the region where he lived. He joined the Dominican Order at an early age. Among his talents, it is said that he had a loud clear voice, which was very useful at that time when he had to preach in the open air. He received an appropriate formation that allowed him to be prepared for controversy with the Waldensians, a heretic sect spread in northern Italy.


The inquisition had been set up to deal with those people in Lombardy before the death of Peter Martyr, a century before. So well did young Peter of Ruffia carry out the work of preaching among them that the Order sent him to Rome to obtain a higher degree. The Pope, impressed by his talents and his family name, appointed him Inquisitor General in Piedmont.


In January 1365 Peter and two Dominican brothers went on a preaching mission through the mountains between Italy and Switzerland, working from the Franciscan friary at Susa, Italy. Peter’s preaching brought many back to the faith, which earned him the anger of the Waldensians. Three of the heretics came to the friary, asked to see Peter, and then murdered him at the gate. Peter of Ruffia was beatified in 1856.


 It is obvious to say that each martyrdom is a sharing in the Lord’s passion and death. But it is striking how Peter’s context of martyrdom looks in a sense similar to that of Jesus. In today’s Gospel, we are told that the Jews fetched stones to stone Jesus, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God (Jn 10:31-33). And therefore, they wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them. He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him (Jn 10:39-42). Many were converted by Jesus’s sayings and actions, so that some others became jealous and tried to kill him, likewise the Waldensians. This time, Jesus’s hour has not yet come. But soon, we will see the heavens open and the Son of Man in his glory.

(Peter’s biography is taken from Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy OP, St Dominic’s Family: over 300 famous Dominicans, TAN Books, 1983)