Quote/s of the Day – 19 October – St Peter of Alcantara OFM (1499-1562) Confessor
“Truly, matters in the world, are in a bad state but if you and I begin, in earnest, to reform ourselves, a really good beginning will have been made.”
“Our Lord, in the Blessed Sacrament, has His Hands full of graces and He is ready to bestow them on anyone, who asks for them”
“No tongue is able to declare the greatness of the love which Jesus bears to every soul and, therefore, this Spouse, when He would leave this earth, in order that His absence might not cause us to forget Him, left us, as a memorial, this Blessed Sacrament, in which He Himself remained; for He would not, that there should be any other pledge to keep alive, our remembrance of Him, than He Himself!”
Saint of the Day – 19 October – St Peter of Alcantara OFM (1499-1562) Confessor, Franciscan Friar and Priest, Mystic, Ecstatic, Writer, Preacher, Reformer, Hermit, Apostle of Prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the Passion and Charity, Miracle-worker. Patronages – Nocturnal Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Brazil (named by Pope Pius IX in 1862), Estremadura Spain, night watchmen.
St Peter of Alcantara, Confessor By Father Francis Xavier Weninger (1860-1946)
St Peter was born in the year 1499, at Alcantara, in Spain. He became celebrated for his great piety and the austerity of his life and in order to distinguish him from other Saints of the same name, received the surname, “of Alcantara.”
Besides other signs of future holiness, Peter, when only seven years of age, evinced so great a love for prayer that he sometimes forgot to eat and drink. During the time of his studies, he kept his innocence unspotted in the midst of many dangers, by making prayer, the holy Sacraments and penances, its guardians. When hardly sixteen years old, he secretly left his father’s house and entered the Franciscan Order, in which he soon became a model of all virtues. After having finished his novitiate, he was charged with different functions, all of which he discharged most successfully. The office of preacher was the most agreeable to him. An incredible number of hardened sinners were converted by his sermons, in which he treated of penance and a reform of life.
The fame of his virtues and holiness gave additional weight to every word he uttered. Especially admirable, were the untiring zeal with which he practised all manner of bodily austerities and his continual communion with God in prayer. His whole life was one of extraordinary and almost unexampled mortification. He guarded his eyes so closely that he not only never looked on a woman’s face but knew his brethren only by their voices and, after a long sojourn in the Monastery, could not tell whether the choir and the dormitory were vaulted or covered with boards.
The cell he chose for his dwelling was so narrow that it was more like a tomb than the abode of a living human being and so low that he could not stand upright in it. He kept an almost continual fast and hardly partook, every third day, of some undressed herbs, bread and water. It even happened that during eight days he took no food whatever. He scourged himself twice daily with iron chains. He wore, day and night, a penitential instrument made of tin, pierced like a grater. For forty years, he allowed himself only one hour and a half of sleep at night and this, not lying down but kneeling, or standing with his head leaning against a board. The remainder of the night he occupied in prayer and meditation. As long as he lived in the order, he went barefoot and bareheaded, even in the coldest season. His clothing consisted of his habit and a short cloak, made of rough sack-cloth. He seemed to have made a comtract with his body, never in this world, to allow it any peace or comfort.
His union with God in prayer had reached so high a degree that he was often seen in ecstacy, or raised high in the air and surrounded by a heavenly brightness. The power of his holy prayers was experienced, not only by many hardened sinners but also by many sick, for whom he obtained health and strength. The inhabitants of the City of Albuquerque, ascribed to him their deliverance from the pestilence, for, as soon as Peter had called upon the Divine Mercy, the pestilence, which had most fearfully ravaged the City, disappeared.
The love of God, which filled the heart of the Saint, manifested itself in his intercourse and conversation with men, whom he endeavoured to inflame with the same love. This appeared in all his actions but especially, at the time of Holy Mass, when he stood like a Seraph before the Altar, his face burning and tears streaming from his eyes. When meditating on the Passion and Death of our Saviour, he was frequently so deeply touched, in his inmost heart that for hours, he was like one dead. His devotion to God would sometimes burn his heart so intensely, that to moderate his emotion, he would go into the fields to breathe more freely.
Having reached his fortieth year, he was chosen Provincial but endeavoured to refuse the dignity and when compelled by obedience to accept it, he regarded it as an opportunity to do good to those under his charge. God admonished him to restore the primitive observance in the Order, according to the Rule and spirit of St Francis. Although he could not but foresee, the many and great difficulties which he would encounter in this undertaking, still, trusting in God, he went courageously to work after having obtained the sanction of the Pope.
The Almighty visibly aided His faithful servant, for, in six years, the Saint had founded nine Monasteries, in which the mortification and the perfect poverty, which St Francis especially cherished, were observed in all the rigour of the first Rule. In the course of time, this renewed Order was disseminated throughout all Spain, to the great joy of the Saint. This and other labours which he performed, to the honoir and glory of God, made him greatly esteemed by everyone.
St Teresa, who lived at that period, asked his advice in her cares and doubts, whenever she had occasion and called him a Saint while he was yet upon earth. St Francis Borgia entertained great friendship for him and the praise of his great virtues resounded throughout all Spain. The Emperor Charles V. desired to make him his Confessor but the humble servant of the Almighty knew how to say so much of his incapacity for this office, that the Emperor abandoned the idea, to the Saint’s great joy. This became a new incentive for him to devote himself entirely to the service of God and the welfare of those in his care.
He had reached his 63rd year, more by a miracle than in a natural way, when he was visited by Providence with a severe illness, which soon left no hope of his recovery, as his body was entirely wasted away by the severity of his life, his painful journeys and his uninterrupted labours. He himself, was informed from on high, of his approaching end and he received the last Sacraments, with so deep a devotion that the eyes of all present were filled with tears. After this he fell into a rapture, in which the Divine Mother and St John the Evangelist, appeared to him and assured him of his salvation. Hence, regaining consciousness, he cheerfully recited the words of the Psalmist: “I have rejoiced in those things which have been said to me; We shall go into the house of the Lord.” Having said this, he calmly gave his soul into the keeping of his Creator, in the year of Our Lord 1562.
St Teresa, who has written much in his praise, says among other things: “He died as he had lived, a Saint and I have, after his death, received many graces from God, through his intercession. I have often seen him in great glory and when I saw him the first time, he said to me: ‘O happy penance, which has obtained so great a glory for me!‘” The Roman Breviary testifies that, St Teresa, although, at the time of his death, far from him, saw his soul gloriously ascend into Heaven.
The biographers of St Peter, relate many and great miracles which he wrought, while he was still living. In the Breviary, we read, among other things, the following. “He crossed rapid rivers with dry feet. In times of great poverty, he fed his brethren with food which he received from Heaven. The staff which he placed in the ground, immediately became a budding fig-tree. Once, in the night-time, when he sought shelter from a snow-storm in a roofless house, the snow remained hanging in the air, above it and thus, formed a roof to protect him from being buried in the snow.” St Peter of Alcantara, pray for Holy Mother Church and for all her faithful Amen, amen!
Saint of the Day – 19 October – St Peter of Alcantara OFM (1499-1562) – Franciscan Friar and Priest, Mystic, Ecstatic, Writer, Preacher, Reformer, Hermit, Apostle of Prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the Passion and Charity, Miracle-worker – born in 1499 at Alcantara, Estremadura, Spain and died on 18 October 1562 at Estremadura, Spain of natural causes. Patronages – Nocturnal Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Brazil (named by Pope Blessed Pius IX in 1862), Estremadura Spain (named in 1962), night watchmen, watchmen.
His father, Peter Garavita, was the governor of Alcantara and his mother was of the noble family of Sanabia. After a course of grammar and philosophy in his native town, he was sent, at the age of fourteen, to the University of Salamanca. Returning home, he became a Franciscan in the convent of the Stricter Observance at Manxaretes in 1515. At the age of twenty-two he was sent to found a new community of the Stricter Observance at Badajoz. He was ordained priest in 1524 and the following year made guardian of the convent of St Mary of the Angels at Robredillo. A few years later he began preaching with much success. He preferred to preach to the poor and his sermons, taken largely from the Prophets and Sapiential Books, breathe the tenderest human sympathy.
Having been elected minister of St Gabriel’s province in 1538, Peter set to work at once. At the chapter of Plasencia in 1540 he drew up the Constitutions of the Stricter Observants but his severe ideas met with such opposition that he renounced the office of provincial and retired with St John of Avila into the mountains of Arabida, Portugal, where he joined Father Martin a Santa Maria in his life of eremitical solitude. Soon, however, other friars came to join him and several little communities were established. Peter being chosen guardian and master of novices at the convent of Pallais. In 1560 these communities were erected into the Province of Arabida. Returning to Spain in 1553 he spent two more years in solitude and then journeyed barefoot to Rome and obtained permission of Pope Julius III to found some poor convents in Spain under the jurisdiction of the general of the Conventuals. Convents were established at Pedrosa, Plasencia, and elsewhere; in 1556 they were made a commissariat, with Peter as superior, and in 1561, a province under the title of St Joseph. The reform spread rapidly into other provinces of Spain and Portugal.
In 1562 the province of St Joseph was put under the jurisdiction of the general of the Observants and two new custodies were formed. Besides the above-named associates of Peter may be mentioned St Francis Borgia SJ, St John of Avila (Doctor of the Church) and Blessed Louis of Granada O.P. In St Teresa of Avila OCD (Doctor of the Church), Peter perceived a soul chosen of God for a great work and her success in the reform of Carmel was in great measure due to his counsel, encouragement and defence. It was a letter from St Peter (14 April 1562) that encouraged her to found her first monastery at Avila. St Teresa’s autobiography is the source of much of our information regarding Peter’s life, work and gifts of miracles and prophecy. According to St Teresa of Ávila, it was a very common thing for him to take food only once in three days and that sometimes he would go a week without eating.
Perhaps the most remarkable of Peter’s graces were his gift of contemplation and the virtue of penance. Hardly less remarkable was his love of God, which was at times so ardent as to cause him, as it did St Philip Neri, sensible pain and frequently rapt him into ecstasy. The poverty he practised and enforced was as cheerful as it was real and often let the want of even the necessaries of life be felt. In confirmation of his virtues and mission of reformation God worked numerous miracles through his intercession and by his very presence. Besides the Constitutions of the Stricter Observants and many letters on spiritual subjects, especially to St Teresa, he composed a short treatise on prayer, which has been translated into all the languages of Europe.
He was a man of remarkable austerity and poverty who travelled throughout Spain preaching the Gospel to the poor. He wrote a Treatise on Prayer and Meditation, which was considered a masterpiece by St Teresa, St Francis de Sales (Doctor of the Church) and Louis of Granada.
While in prayer and contemplation, he was often seen in ecstasies and levitation. On his deathbed, he was offered a glass of water which he refused, saying that “Even my Lord Jesus Christ thirsted on the Cross…” He died while on his knees in prayer on 18 October 1562 in a monastery at Arenas.
He was Beatified on 18 April 1622 by Pope Gregory XV and Canonised on 28 April 1669 by Pope Clement IX.
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