Household Stories from the Land of Hofer; or, Popular Myths of Tirol | Annotated Tale

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Two Cousins of St. Peter, The


ST. PETER had two young cousins whom he sought to bring up in the way of righteousness according to Christian doctrine. As they were very docile, and listened gladly to his word, he strove to lead them in the way of all perfection; and to this end counselled them to give themselves up entirely to serve God in a community of His handmaidens, where they should live for the Divine spouse of their souls, and for Him alone.

               The work of the Church called St. Peter away from the East, and he was already gone to establish the faith in Rome before the maidens had decided as to their vocation. It was not till many years after that St. Peter heard, to his surprise, on occasion of St. Timothy coming to visit St. Paul in Rome, that while the youngest indeed had fulfilled his expectations, and had given herself up to the religious life, the elder had married and established herself in the world, and become the mother of a large family.

               During his long confinement in the dark dungeon of the Mamertine prison, St. Peter's thoughts would often revert from the immense cares of his sublime office to the quiet hours he had passed in the lowly dwelling by the Lake of Tiberias, where his pious cousins had so often sat at his feet listening to his instructions. And he found a peaceful pleasure in recalling the way in which they had responded to them; the spontaneity with which they had apprehended the maxims of the new religion; their fervour in applying them to their own rule of life; their readiness to go beyond what was bidden them, that so they might testify their love for their Divine Master; their delight in all that reminded them of God and His law.

               "And to think that one of them should have gone back from all this! should have been content to give up these exalted aspirations! How sadly her ardour must have cooled! What could have worked this change?" the apostle would muse, in his distress, and pray silently for her forgiveness and guidance; but his thoughts would revert with greater affection and satisfaction to the more favoured state of the soul of the younger sister.

               It was not long before the terrible decree of Nero consigning St. Peter to the death of the cross was pronounced, and from the height of the Janiculum he was received into the celestial mansion to keep the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven.

               He had not exercised this office many years when our Lord called him to Him one day, and bid him open the gate of heaven to its widest stretch and deck its approaches as for a high festival, for that one of the holiest of earth and the dearest to Himself was to be received into the abode of the Blessed.

               "That must be my youngest cousin," said St. Peter, "there is no doubt; she who generously gave up a world in which she was so well adapted to shine, to live a life of perfection with God above only for its object;" and he strained his eyes to see far along the approach to Paradise, that he might catch the first glimpse of her glorified soul and greet it with the earliest welcome.

               How great was his surprise then, when roused by the melodious strains of the angelic host escorting her, to hear in the refrain of their chant the name of the Sorellona [2], not of the younger of the sisters! Meantime the celestial cortége was wafted by, and the beautiful spirit was welcomed by the Divine Master Himself, and placed on one of the highest seats in His kingdom.

               Not many days after our Lord called St. Peter to Him again, and told him to open the gate a little, very little way, and to make no preparations for rejoicing, for He had promised admission to a soul who, though of his family, yet had only escaped being excluded by a hair's breadth.

               St. Peter went away perplexed, for he knew there was no one of his family who could be coming to heaven just at that time except the younger of the two cousins, and how could the Lord's words apply to her?

               He durst do no more than open the gate a very little way, but stationed himself opposite that small cleft to obtain the earliest information as to who the new comer really was.

               Presently a solitary angel came soaring--the only escort of a trembling soul--and, as he approached, without chorus or melody, he begged admission for one whom, by the name, St. Peter discerned was actually the Sorellotta [3] he had deemed so meritorious! With great difficulty, and by the help of the angel who conducted her, and of St. Peter himself, she succeeded in passing the sacred portal; and after she had been led to the footstool of the Heavenly Throne in silence, He who sat on it pointed to a very little, low, distant seat, as the one assigned to her.

               When St. Peter afterwards came to discourse with the Lord about His dealings with the two souls, he learnt that she who performed her duty with great exactness and perfection in the world was more pleasing in His sight than she who, while straining after the fulfilment of a higher rule, yet fell short of correspondence with so great a grace.


From Wälsch-Tirol,


[1] I must beg my readers to apply the apology contained in the note to the last story, in its measure to this one also.

[2] Sorella, sister; with the augmentative ona, the bigger or elder sister.

[3] The little, or younger, sister.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Two Cousins of St. Peter, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Household Stories from the Land of Hofer; or, Popular Myths of Tirol
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1871
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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