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Saint Peter of Alcantara ( ) (1499 ‚ÄĒ October 18, 1562) was a Spanishmarker Franciscan. He was born at Alc√°ntaramarker, Province of C√°ceresmarker, Extremaduramarker, Spainmarker. His father, Peter Garavito, was the governor of Alc√°ntara, 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 Salamancamarker.

Returning home, he became a Franciscan of the Stricter Observance in the convent at Manxaretes, Extremadura, in 1515. At the age of twenty-two he was sent to found a new community of the Stricter Observance at Badajozmarker. He was ordained priest in 1524, and the following year made guardian of the convent of St. Mary of the Angels at Robredillo, Old Castile. A few years later he began preaching with much success. He preferred to preach to the poor; his sermons, taken largely from the Prophets and Sapiential Books, breathe the tenderest human sympathy. The reform of the "Discalced Friars" had, at the time when Peter entered the order, besides the convents in Spain, the Custody of Santa Maria Pietatis in Portugal, subject to the General superior of the Observantists.

Having been elected minister (i.e. superior) of St. Gabriel's religious province in 1538, Peter set to work at once. At the chapter of Plasenciamarker 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 John of Avila into the mountains of Arr√°bida in Portugalmarker, where he joined Father Martim de Santa Maria in his life of eremitical solitude, but soon other friars came to join him, and several little communities were established; Peter was chosen guardian and master of novices at the convent of Palhais. In 1560 these communities were erected into the Province of Arr√°bida.

Returning to Spain in 1553 he spent two more years in solitude; then he journeyed barefoot to Romemarker and obtained permission of Julius III to found some poor convents in Spain under the jurisdiction of the general of the Conventuals. Convents were established at Pedrosa, Plasenciamarker and elsewhere; in 1556 they were made a commissariat, with Peter as superior, and in 1561 a religious province under the title of St Joseph. Not discouraged by the opposition and ill-success his efforts at reform had met with in St Gabriel's province, Peter drew up the constitutions of the new province with even greater severity. 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: St. John Baptist's in Valenciamarker and St Simon's in Galiciamarker (see Friars Minor). Besides the above-named associates of Peter may be mentioned St. Francis Borgia, John of Avila and the Venerable Louis of Granada. In St. Teresa, Peter perceived a soul chosen of God for a great work, and her success in the reform of Carmel (see Carmelites) was in great measure due to his counsel, encouragement and defence. It was a letter from St Peter (dated April 14, 1562) that encouraged her to found her first monastery at Avila, August 24 of that year. St Teresa's autobiography is the source of much of our information regarding Peter's life, work, the gift of miracles and prophecy.

He often went into ecstasy. He is purported to have slept for only one and a half hours each day, inside his room which had a floor area of only four and a half square feet. While in prayer and contemplation, he was often seen in ecstasies and levitation. In 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 October 18, 1562 in a monastery at Arenas, (now Arenas de San Pedromarker, Province of Avilamarker, Old Castile).

Legacy and veneration

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 a number of European languages. In confirmation of his virtues and mission of reformation God worked numerous miracles through his intercession and still during his life.

Peter of Alcantara was beatified in Rome by Pope Gregory XV on April 18, 1622. Forty-seven years later he was canonized by Pope Clement IX on April 28, 1669.

Saint Peter's liturgical feast is celebrated on October 19, the day after his death. Due to the fact that the feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist is observed on October 18, his feast was assigned to October 19, when his feast was included in the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in the year 1670. Owing to reform of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in the year 1969 and the limited importance of his feast worldwide, St Peter's feast was removed. The inclusion of Saint Peter of Alcantara in the Roman Martyrology as one of the saints of October 18 means that he may still be given official honors everywhere. Traditional Roman Catholics continue to celebrate the feast day of "St Peter of Alcantara, Confessor" on October 19.

Saint Peter of Alcantara is in fact the patron saint of Nocturnal Adorers. In 1826, he was named patron saint of Brazilmarker, and in 1962 (the fourth centenary of his death), of Estremadura. He is also venerated as patron saint of Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish in Pakil, Laguna and in Taal, Bocaue, Bulacan, Philippines which is composed of Bgys. Caingin, Taal Luwasan, Taal Hulo, Tambubong and Batia, under the canonical jurisdiction of the Diocese of Malolos. The town of San Pedro de Alc√°ntaramarker in the province of M√°lagamarker is named after him.


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