Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Memorial of St Peter of Alcántara

"Peter was born at Alcántara in Spain, to parents of good extraction.  The holiness of his life was foreshadowed from his earliest years.  In the sixteenth year of his age he entered the Order of Friars Minor, wherein he shewed himself a pattern to all.  He undertook the work of preaching in obedience to his Superiors, and thereby brought many to turn away from sin to true repentance.  He conceived a great desire to bring back the observance of the Rule of St. Francis to the uttermost straitness of old times, and to that end, supported by God's help, and armed with the approval of the Apostolic See, he founded a new stern and poor house near Pedroso, from which the harder way of life, therein happily begun, spread marvellously through divers Provinces of Spain even to the Indies.  He was an helper to holy Teresa, with whom he was like-minded, in bringing about the Reformation of the Carmelites.  She was taught of God that no one should ask anything in the name of Peter without being heard, and was used to ask him to pray for her, and to call him a Saint while as he was yet alive.

He humbly excused himself from accepting the courtesies of princes, by whom his advice was sought as that of an oracle, and declined to become the Confessor of the Emperor Charles V.  He was a very careful keeper to poverty, and contented himself with a single tunic than which none was worse.  Purity he carried to such a point that when he was lying sick of his last illness, he would not allow the brother who ministered to him to touch him, how lightly soever.  He brought his body into bondage by unceasing watching, fasting, scourging, cold, nakedness, and all manner of hardships, having made it a promise never to allow it any rest in this world.  The love of God and his neighbour, which was shed abroad in his heart, somewhiles burnt so that he was fain to run from his cell into the open air to cool himself.

It was marvellous how his thoughts became altogether rapt in God, so that somewhiles it befell that he neither ate nor drank for the space of several days.  He was oftentimes seen to rise into the air, shining with an unearthly glory.  He passed dry-shod over torrents.  When his brethren were in the last state of need, he fed them with food from heaven.  A staff which he fixed in the earth grew presently into a green fig-tree.  Once while he was travelling by night in the midst of an heavy snowstorm, and took refuge in a ruined and roofless house, then the falling snow made a roof over him lest he should be overwhelmed.  Holy Teresa beareth witness that he had the gift of prophecy and of the discerning of spirits.  At length, in the 63rd year of his own age, at the hour which he had himself foretold, he passed away to be for ever with the Lord, cheered in his last moments by a wonderful vision and by the presence of Saints.  At the instant of his death, blessed Teresa, then afar off, saw him carried to heaven.  He appeared to her afterwards, and said: O what happy penance, to have won for me such glory!  After his death he became famous for very many miracles, and Clement IX inscribed his name among those of the Saints."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X (1955 ed)

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