St Peter the Tax-Collector

Saint Peter, Former Tax-Collector, was the chief collector of taxes in Africa in the service of the emperor Justinian (527-565). He was a cruel and merciless man.

One day he threw a morsel of bread to a beggar who annoyed him by incessantly begging alms. In a vision Peter saw himself as dead and how the holy Angels weighed his deeds on the scale of the righteous judgment of God. On the side of good deeds nothing was placed except a morsel of bread, thrown at the beggar, but this prevented the opposite side from being pulled down by his vicious deeds.

Peter pondered the meaning of the dream, and thought that if one loaf of bread, thrown involontarily, was of such help to him, then he might receive much more help for good deeds performed with compassion and from the heart. He repented and completely changed his life. He liberally distributed alms to the needy, and fed and clothed many.

On day, in a dream, Peter saw Jesus Christ. The Lord was dressed in clothes which the saint once gave to a beggar. Peter then distributed his substance to the poor and ordered his slave to sell him into slavery and to give the money to the poor. The slave reluctantly carried out the orders of his master.

For many years St Peter worked diligently and humbly for his master. One day he was recognized by tradesmen to whom he had been known earlier. They told the master who his servant was. Having overheard this conversation, the saint quickly fled from the city. In departing, he worked a miracle: the gatekeeper, a deaf-mute slave, was ordered by St Peter to open the gates in the name of Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the command, and at once received his hearing and speech. He rushed around everywhere to tell his master and added moreover, that when the saint commanded him to open the gates, fire came forth from his mouth touching his face, after which he began to hear and speak. Everyone went to look for Peter, but the search proved in vain. The saint hid and remained hidden until his death.

The Life of St Peter was passed along by St John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria (November 12), who in turn knew it from a man personally acquainted with the saint.