Peter's Pence

June 24, 2015 (Communicationes).- Fr Óscar I. Aparicio. As everyone knows, this is an offering that Catholics throughout the whole world give to the Pope for his material needs. This gift originated towards the end of the 8th century, when the newly-converted Anglo-Saxons felt so united with the Bishop of Rome that they decided to send an annual help to the Holy Father in a stable manner. Thus was born the “Denarius Sancti Petri” (Peter’s Pence) which afterwards extended throughout the Christian globe.

With the passage of time this almsgiving suffered somewhat until it was restored by Pope Pius IX, with the Encyclical Saepe venerabilis issued on 5th August 1871, due in great deal to the unification of the Kingdom of Italy and the previous expropriation of the Church’s goods. What mfew know is that behind this gift lies the hand and brilliant idea of a Discalced Carmellite brother. We are referring to Br Charles of all the Saints (Damaso Cesaroli, 1802-1886). This brother spent a part of his life gathering alms throughout Europe and other countries to restore in the Holy Land the great Sanctuary and Monastery of Mount Carmel and its pilgrim hospice.

He returned to Italy and first of all lived in the monastery of Santa Maria della Vittoria and mafterward in Santa Maria della Scala, both in Rome. Seeing the needs of the Pope and having spent half of his life seeking alms for Mount Carmel, he decided to organize two concerts, one in the Campo Pretoriano and the other in the Campidoglio, in order to obtain money for the successor of Peter. Taking part in them was the great pianist Franz Liszt, whom Brother Charles had known in Paris. This is why Br Charles is known as the predecessor, in modern times, of St Peter’s pence.

In the archives we keep, as precious material, his voyage notebooks, in which he has jotted down not only the alms received for Mount Carmel but reflections on his voyages through Europe and the Middle East. His reference number is OCD General Archives, Section A, compartments 257 and 258. There we keep his travel books, precious material to know about life and customs of the 19th century, from the point of view of a Discalced Carmelite brother.