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October 19

St Peter of Alcantara - October 19

Saint Peter of Alcántara
Friar, Reformer
(1499 – 1562)

No tongue can express the greatness of the love which Jesus Christ bears to our souls. He did not wish that between Him and His servants there should be any other pledge than himself, to keep alive the remembrance of Him.”

Saint Peter of Alcántara

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life

Peter was born in 1499 at Alcantara, Estremadura, Spain. His father, Peter Garavita, was the governor of Alcántara, and his mother, Maria Villela, was of the noble family of Sanabia. Both were known for their piety and personal merit. From a young age, Peter showed great promise and was sent to study grammar and philosophy at Alcantara. However, he had not finished his philosophy when his father died.

Franciscan and Superior

At the age of 14, his stepfather sent Peter to pursue his education in civil and canon law at Salamanca University. Returning home, Peter decided to be a Franciscan friar. At the age of 16, Peter joined the Franciscan Order in the convent of the Stricter Observance at Manxaretes, Spain. Displaying a deep devotion to his faith, at the age of 22, Peter was sent to found a new community of the Stricter Observance at Babajoz. Later, he served as its superior.

In 1524, at the age of 25, Peter was ordained as a priest. The following year Peter was appointed Guardian of the friary of St. Mary of the Angels at Robredillo, Old Castile, Spain. Quickly, he gained recognition for his exceptional skills as a preacher and became known for his charismatic and compelling sermons. Peter preferred to preach to the poor. His sermons, taken largely from the Prophets and Sapiential Books, breathed the tenderest human sympathy. Besides his natural talents, Peter was enriched by God with an infused knowledge and sense of spiritual things, which is the fruit only of divine grace gained by an eminent spirit of prayer and habits of virtue.

Elected Franciscan Provincial

In 1538, Peter was elected Franciscan provincial for Saint Gabriel in Estremadura, Spain. Two years later, he drew up the Constitutions of the Stricter Observants, taking definite steps to begin the reform. However, his efforts were not well received during the provincial chapter at Placensia in 1540. So, Peter resigned as minister provincial and retired with Saint John of Ávila into the mountains of Arabida, Portugal, where he joined Father Martin a Santa Maria in his life of eremitical solitude.
Peter animated the fervor of his new religious community, wearing nothing on their feet, sleeping on vine-twigs or on the bare ground, and never touching flesh or wine.

Peter was greatly distressed at the trials which the Church was then undergoing. So, in 1554, he formed a design of establishing a congregation of friars upon a yet stricter plan. His project was disapproved by the minister provincial of Estremadura, but was welcomed by the bishop of Coria. A short time after Peter went to Rome, travelling barefoot all the way, to obtain the support of Pope Julius III.

Founded Alcatarine Franciscans

Finally, with the approval of Pope Julius III around 1556, he founded the Reformed Friars Minor of Spain, usually called the Alcatarine Franciscans, which established not only monasteries but also Houses of Retreat where anyone could go and try to live according to the Rule of Saint Francis. The friars lived in small groups, in great poverty and austerity, going barefoot, abstaining from meat and wine, spending much time in solitude and contemplation.

Three years later, in 1559, the new order was enlarged with the addition of a new province, that of Saint Joseph. But the Reformed Franciscans failed to win the support of the other Franciscans; Conventuals and Observants, both jealous of their privileges, continued to quarrel over the inheritance of Saint Francis.

Throughout his life, Peter developed a close friendship with Saint Teresa of Ávila, the renowned Spanish mystic and reformer. He served as her confessor and provided invaluable support during her efforts to reform her own Order. It was a letter from Peter (dated April 14, 1562) that encouraged her to found her first monastery at Ávila, August 24 of that year. Teresa’s autobiography is the source of much of our information regarding Peter’s life, work, the gift of miracles and prophecy. Additionally, Saint Peter’s mystical writings had a significant influence on Saint Francis de Sales. It is also said that Peter slept very little and that he always slept sitting up. Because he was awake most of the time when his brother friars were sleeping, he is the patron saint of night watchmen.

Peter also wrote A Treatise on Prayer and Meditation, which was considered a masterpiece by Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint Francis de Sales.

His Death

On his deathbed, he was offered a glass of water which he refused, saying that “Even my Lord Jesus Christ ready to die of thirst on the cross.” At the age of 63, Peter died while on his knees in prayer on October 18, 1562 in a monastery at Arenas (now Arenas de San Pedro, Estremadura, 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 Alcántara.”

Born:                   1499 at Alcántara, Estremadura, Spain

Died:                   October 18, 1562, in Arenas de San Pedro, Estremadura, Spain

Beatified:           April 18, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV

Canonized:        April 28, 1669 by Pope Clement IX

Feast Day:         October 19, October 18 (some locations)

Patron Saint:    Against Fever; Alcántara, Spain; Brazil; Estremadura, Spain; Night Watchmen; Watchmen

Source:

Reflection

One of the most notable aspects of Saint Peter of Alcántara’s life was his influence on other saints, most notably Saint Teresa of Ávila. He served as a spiritual advisor to Teresa and supported her in her efforts to reform the Carmelite Order. Teresa described him as a saintly man who greatly influenced her own spiritual journey with his ability to inspire and guide by her by his actions.

Like Saint Peter of Alcántara, how can you be a spiritual mentor today guiding others in your community on their faith journey toward holiness?

Prayers

Prayer by Saint Peter of Alcántara

Hear me, O Lord,
my soul’s delight,
joy of my heart,
not because of my merits
but because of Thy boundless goodness.
Teach me, enlighten me, direct me,
help me in all things
that I may never say
or do anything
but that which I know
to be pleasing in Thou sight.
Guide me, O God,
my Love, my Light and my Life! Amen.

Saint Peter of Alcántara, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – Without this spiritual director, Teresa of Avila may have never become a saint

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 19 October – St Peter of Alcantara OFM (1499-1562) Confessor

Catholic Harbor – A Golden Treatise of Mental Prayer by St Peter of Alcantara

Catholic Fire – St. Peter of Alcantra, Spanish Mystic

Catholic Online – St. Peter of Alcantara

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Peter of Alcántara – by Katherine I Rabenstein

CatholicSaints.Info – Father Francis Xavier Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Peter of Alcantara, Confessor

Franciscan Media – Saint Peter of Alcantara

New Advent – Reagan, N. (1911). St. Peter of Alcántara. In The Catholic Encyclopedia.

Roman Catholic Saints – Saint Peter of Alcantara

Saint Peter’s Basilica Info – St. Peter of Alcantara

Saint Resources – St. Peter of Alcantara

Sanctoral – Saint Peter of Alcantara Franciscan Priest, Reformer (1499-1562)

Video Link

Cradio Saint of the Day: Saint Peter of Alcantara – YouTube (CatholicSaints.Info)