October 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 3

Saint Of The Month

St. Peter of Alcántara – October 19

Photo of a painting of Saint Peter of AlcántaraPeter entered this world as Pedro Garavita, the son of Alcántara's governor. He studied civil and canonical law at the University of Salamanca and then at the age of 16, he joined the Franciscan Friars of the Observance. Peter followed the Rule of the Order to the letter, adhering to a strict regimen that included extreme poverty and frequent long periods of fasting. He even discarded all of his clothing and wore but one habit. An exceptionally bright and devoted servant, Peter was only 22 when he was called upon to establish a new friary at Badajoz.

After receiving his ordination in 1524, Peter served as the superior of several friaries, withdrawing between assignments to the convent of St. Onophrius for study and prayer.

In 1538, the Franciscans appointed him to the post of provincial authority of the province of St. Gabriel in Estremadura. Peter was an engaging and effective teacher, but his efforts to impose his strict discipline on the friars met with only minor success. After three years, he was granted permission to retire to the seclusion of a monastery near Lisbon. There, he met several other brothers who shared his strict reading of the Franciscan Rule.

Inspired by this small group of followers, Peter traveled to Rome to obtain permission from the Pope to form a new order. With the Pope's blessing, he established the first house of the Alcantarines, which is now commonly called the Strictest Observance, at Pedrosa, Spain. According to fellow reformer Teresa of Avila, Peter spoke sparingly, but his few words were well worth hearing.

Dear God,
Dear God,
as Peter of Alcántara said,
"He does much in the sight of God
who does his best,
be it ever so little."
May Your blessings be upon those who serve You.
May they always feel Your compassion.
May Your guidance and wisdom show them Your way.
May You hold them in Your arms,
day by day, minute by minute.

From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives