This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19 -- Feast of Saint Peter of Alcantara

There were two main roads to sainthood for boys born to wealth and privilege; women too, could travel those roads, but with less frequency.  The first road let young men (and women) rise quickly through the ranks to positions of authority.  Women pretty much hit the ceiling at abbess or mother superior; men rose from abbot through bishop and cardinal to the papacy itself.  Some even leap-frogged over the lesser offices and started their ecclesiastical careers as nuncios and bishops. 

The frog on the skull at Salamanca U
The other road was to go to the best schools, talk to the best scholars, and dive into the deep end of the Life Religious.  This is the path that Peter of Alcantara chose.  He studied grammar and philosophy  locally, but civil and canon law at Salamanca U (Go Frogs! Beat Barcelona!)  He was all queued up to be a legate, then nuncio, picking up a mitre somewhere, but a funny thing happened on the way to the cathedral.  He got the Faith.  Not the institutional faith that the people will be served by the behemoth Church, with all its power and influence, but the faith in the salvation of the individual that comes with prayer and suffering. 

Holguin's Ecstasy of St. Peter of Alcantara
He worked the missions for a while, but eventually started an offshoot order from the Franciscans, endorsing the discalced (barefoot) rule as well as other austerities and deprivations.  He built his own cell, which was only four-and-a-half square feet so he could not lie down.  He wore only sackcloth, and did nothing to heat his cell, preferring instead to open his door and window in the winter so that it would seem warmer when he closed them again.  He slept only ninety minutes a day and ate only once every three days. 

His faith and brilliance were recognized by other worthies.  St. Francis Borgia, St. John of Avila, and St. Teresa of Avila were all close colleagues.  St. Teresa testified that after Peter's death, he described the glories of heaven to her, noting that the self-imposed suffering of his life had allowed him to attain them. 

With Teresa, for whom he was confessor and colleague
His sermons reflected great sympathy with the poor, but one must wonder whether spending all your time in a two foot long stone hole is the best way to help them.  I also have to wonder what his parents -- the Governor of the Palace and his wife, a daughter of the House of Sanabia -- thought of his discalced deprivations.  I hope they lived long enough to be proud of him, as he plainly made good in the end.

From the Lest We Forget Desk, here's last year's post on Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko

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