St. Peter of Alcantara, Confessor

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St. Peter of Alcantara, Confessor
(by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876)

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. During 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 compact 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 St. 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 endeavored 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 torched 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 endeavored 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 rigor of the first Rule. In the course of time, this renewed Order was disseminated through all Spain, to the great joy of the Saint. This and other labors which he performed to the honor and glory of God made him greatly esteemed by every one. 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 under him.

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 labors. 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, though, 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."


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Our Blessed Lord revealed to St Teresa that anyone asking any favour in the name of St Peter of Alcantara would be heard. (Roman Breviary, Oct.19, 2nd Noct. 1st Less.)

PRAYER

O LORD JESUS CHRIST, Who hast said: “Ask and ye shall receive”, and Who didst reveal to Thy holy servant St.Teresa, that whatever should be asked of Thee in the name of Blessed Peter of Alcantara would be granted, full of confidence in Thy promises, I humbly beseech Thee, in spite of my unworthiness, to grant me through the intercession of the same Blessed Peter of Alcantara (mention the favour you desire to obtain)
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
ST PETER OF ALCANTARA, pray for me, and obtain for me, as soon as possible, the favour which I solicit so earnestly, or, if it be contrary to God’s holy will, may He grant me something better. Amen.

(When possible go to Confession and Holy Communion)

Imprimatur: EDUARDUS
Episcopus Birminghamienis

Printed by “Our Lady of England” Priory, Storrington, Sussex, England, RH20 4LN
 

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At that time: Jesus said unto his disciples: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. And so on, and that which followeth. Luke : 12, 32-34


A Homily by St. Bede Priest

The elect are called a little flock. Perchance this is because the reprobate are the big flock. But more probably it is because the elect seek to be lowly. Certain it is that God would have his Church, howsoever it may grow in numbers, always to grow in lowliness even unto the end of the world. For only by humility can the Church attain that kingdom which is by promise. Hence to give comfort in time of travail, for which reason he hath commanded us to seek only the kingdom of God, he sweetly and graciously saith that the Father will give the kingdom to his little flock.

Sell that ye have and give alms. That is to say: Have no fear that such things as are needful for this life be lacking to you whilst ye fight for the kingdom of God. Nay rather, sell even that which ye have, and give alms. For a man doeth well when for the Lord's sake he leaveth all that he hath, and then giveth himself to a life of work with his own hands, that so he may gain a livelihood, and have something more to give away as alms. In this doth the Apostle boast himself, saying: I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel: yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me: in all things I gave you an example, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak.

Provide yourselves bags which wax not old. That is, almsgiving is a bag that waxeth not old, and anything put in this bag is preserved for ever in the reward which is stored up in eternity. Nevertheless, we must not think that this saying forbiddeth the saints to keep money for their own use, and for helping of the poor. For the Lord himself, to whom Angels ministered, had a bag, and kept therein that which the faithful people gave unto him, that he might relieve the need of his disciples, and other poor folk. But our Lord here commandeth us not to serve God for gain, nor to work righteousness for fear of poverty.
 
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