October 29, 2019

Peter of Alcantara---This little know Franciscan mentored none other than St. Teresa of Avila

Peter of Alcantara     en.wikipedia.org


By Larry Peterson

Peter of Alcantara was born in 1499 in the Province of Caceres in Extremadura, Spain. He was named after his father, Peter Gravita, who was the governor of Alacantara. His mom was from a noble family who came from Sanabia. Already as a child, Peter displayed an exceptional gift of prayer, and at times he was so absorbed it was if he was in a trance.  During those times, neither his parents nor their servants would be able to get the boy to respond to them.

When Peter was sixteen, he had already decided to be a Franciscan. It was during this time that his father sent him off to the University in Salamanca. Peter, deeply devout and pious even as a teenager, was seriously tempted during his early days at the university. The opportunity to lead a life of comfort and pleasure was in front of him.

He had to choose which it would be; humility, prayer, and penance or the things of the world. His answer was given to him as he was on his way to the monastery at Monjaresz. Peter came to a stream that had been swollen with floodwaters from the heavy rains. He had no way to cross to the other side, so he knelt down and asked God for help.

With his eyes closed in prayer, Peter prayed and prayed. When he opened his eyes he was on the other side of the rushing river. Peter knew that he had been given a sign that he must follow his vocation. The young man was thrilled because this event erased any doubt he may have had about what God wanted him to do. He distributed whatever inheritance he had to the poor and became a Franciscan friar. He was twenty-two years old.

Once he became part of the order, he gave himself up completely to God. He began to develop a life of daily mortification, penance, and frequent fasting. In fact, he monitored his natural senses and desires so carefully that when asked what the inside of his church looked like, he did not know. Peter was sent to found a new community at Badajoz

He was ordained a priest in 1524, and the following year was appointed a Guardian at St. Mary of the Angels in Old Castile. The self-sacrifice and mortification he was practicing were intense. He wore an iron belt with sharp points that pierced his flesh. He refused to sleep more than an hour and a half a day and would do this while sitting on the floor.

On April 14, 1562, Peter wrote a letter to Teresa of Avila. He knew in his heart that God had chosen her for great things and he advised her to found her first monastery at Avila. Theresa responded to Peter and the monastery was established on August 24, 1562. Much of what is known about Peter of Alcantara has been taken from the writings of Teresa of Avila. She even confirmed that Peter would only eat once every three days. She wrote that he sometimes would go a week without eating. His regimen of offering himself to God was extraordinary, to say the least.

Teresa and Peter became close friends, and the priest became her mentor and counsel. She knew that he was also of God, and she wrote that the gift of miracles and prophecy he possessed were heaven-sent.  She credits Peter with her success in the reformation of the Carmelite Order

Peter also had another gift; he was a great preacher. He loved to preach to the poor, and they loved to listen because he had a unique way of expressing compassion and understanding to the lives they were enduring. None other than St. Francis Borgia wrote to him, “You remarkable success (as a Preacher) is a special comfort to me.”

Peter of Alcantara, in his efforts to please and imitate his Savior, lived a life of intense poverty and austerity. He traveled throughout Spain preaching the Gospel while eating and drinking a bare minimum to stay functioning. He wrote a Treatise on Prayer and Meditation which is considered a masterpiece by both St. Teresa of Avila and  St. Francis de Sales. He was often seen levitating and in ecstasy while in prayer.

Lastly, Peter of Alcantara is the Patron Saint of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On his deathbed, he was asked if he wanted some water. He responded, “Even my Lord Jesus Christ thirsted on the Cross.”

On October 18, 1562, he died while praying. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement IX on April 18,1622.

Saint Peter of Alcantara, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

October 23, 2019

A saint from Fatima’s neighboring town: St. Irene was a victim of sexual abuse

St. Irene of Tomar being martyred                               aleteia.org


By Larry Peterson

Many of the stories and accounts of the early saints have facts intermingled with legend. During October, when we focus on Fatima,  the Miracle of the Sun, and the Holy Rosary, we might take a look at the story of a revered saint from Fatima’s neighboring town, Tomar.  Her name is St. Irene of Tomar, and she was martyred in 653 A.D.

Legend says that Irene was born in a place called Nabancia, which is known today as Tomar, located in Portugal. Irene was born into an affluent and influential family.  Her parents, living during an era when young girls had to be protected, secured a private tutor for Irene and sent her to a  convent school. Their purpose was served well for the only time Irene left the convent was to attend Mass or make a visit to the church to pray.

Apparently, Irene was quite beautiful, and the few men who actually got a chance to see her were always enamored by her beauty. There was one such man in the area named Britald. He was a nobleman, and the first time he saw Irene, he fell in love with her. He began to watch for her to leave for church and then follow her.

The man became obsessed and finally approached Irene and asked her to marry him. She made it clear to Britald that she had taken a vow of celibacy and had given herself to God as a nun. The man was crushed and walked away.

However, there was another man who had hidden designs on Irene. It was her tutor, Remigio. He was a monk entrusted by Irene’s parents not only to teach their daughter but to guard her also. As time went by, Remigio could not contain himself any longer and shocked Irene by making unreasonable and impure advances towards her. She turned him away as forcefully as she could, but Remigio would not merely go away. Instead, he became furious, quit as her tutor, and plotted revenge.

Soon after,  people began asking Remigio why he was not tutoring Irene. He started telling people that he had found out she was pregnant and that there was no way he would have anything to do with her. He sent a message to Irene, asking if he could meet with her for a few moments to give her some material to study.

As the rumors of her pregnancy continued to spread, Irene agreed to meet with Remigio. He managed to offer her a drink, and she accepted. In it was a poison that was not meant to kill her but would, instead, cause her abdomen to swell up. When people saw Irene with her swollen belly, they believed Remigio’s lie. Word got back to Irene’s first rejected suitor, Britald. He had not seen any other women and was absolutely livid that Irene had lied to him and had been promiscuous. He was not about to let this behavior stand.

Britald hired a mercenary to kill Irene. Shortly after Britald’s “arrangement” had been made, Irene was walking home from afternoon prayer when the assassin struck. He snuck up from behind her, placed his big arm across her face, and cut her throat. He dragged her lifeless body to the Tagus River and threw it in. Folks, no longer seeing Irene either going to Mass or praying in church, thought that she had left the city in shame. What else could have possibly happened to her?

According to legend, Irene’s uncle, the abbot Celius, had received a revelation from Jesus about the truth of Irene’s death and the location of her body. The time frame for this is not precise, but her uncle gathered a procession of people and made a journey to the place where he said her body would be found.  The water’s currents had carried Irene’s body to the shores of Scalabis (which is known today as Santarem, which means Saint Irene).

When the procession reached the site, the waters receded, and the intact remains of Irene were found. It was also noted that she was not pregnant and that she had been a victim of lies and slander. The monks gave her a formal burial, and the story of St. Irene (Santa Iria) began to spread.
Today, St. Irene of Tomar is honored as a saint and martyr throughout Portugal and in the Catholic Church. She is the patron saint of Tomar and Santarem, and her feast day is October 20.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

October 1, 2019

My Wife and The Little Flower joined forces and gave me a Miracle


St. Therese of Lisieux  The Little Flower                                                                          public domain                                                        


By Larry Peterson

For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary,
For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.
                                                         St. Thomas Aquinas

Loretta was my high school sweetheart and we began “dating” when we were about 15. Several years later, after both my parents had passed, and even though I now had three younger brothers to care for, she stood by me.  Her family, especially her mom,  was somewhat horrified at the thought of her daughter getting involved with a young guy with all the “extras” and tried her best to stop her from marrying me. 

However,  she stood by my side, we got married, and came home from our honeymoon with only two of my brothers waiting for us. The youngest, Johnny, had moved in with my sister and her new husband, Bob.  Everything, although not traditional, was okay. We had stayed together as a family, and we had a home. 

I had been sponsored into the Lather’s and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, one of the best building trades unions in New York City. By the time I was 22 I had finished my apprenticeship and was earning journeyman wages. Loretta and I got married when we were both 23 and moved to New Jersey from the Bronx. My brothers were both in high school, one a senior and the other a freshman, and besides feeling totally out of place at parent’s/teacher’s conferences, all was okay.

A few years passed by and I started to stumble a bit and lose my balance. Sometimes I appeared to have been drinking. Then I experienced what is known as a ‘foot drop.” My left foot was flopping around as I walked. It was like it was not mine. I remember it so well; as I walked the foot would go “splat-splat splat” with every step I made. It was like it belonged somewhere else, not at the end of my leg.

I was admitted to the Neurological Insitute at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in NYC. After five days undergoing various neurological tests including a myelogram, it was determined that I “probably” had Multiple Sclerosis. My doctor informed me that it would gradually get worse but  was very unpredictable and it could go into remission. At that time, it was impossible to give a precise course for the illness.

I could no longer work in the construction industry but was still getting around okay. Physical therapy had helped me to get some of my foot function back and I could walk with a limp and drag the foot instead of having it go “splat-splat.” So I bought a used van and started a small package delivery service. 

I managed to make ends meet for a while and then the illness reared its ugly head and the exacerbation was quick.  I could barely stand and before I knew it I was using Canadian Quad canes for support to get around. My doctor recommended we move to Florida. The rationale was simple; no ice, no snow, and it would be much easier to walk around with crutches.

Loretta’s maid of honor and best friend, Angie, had moved to Florida several years earlier. She was encouraging us to move there. My brothers were young men and now on their own. Danny, had gotten married and Bobby was working as a trucker. It was just Loretta and I and the kids. We sold our small house and headed south.

Angie updated us about the area and the schools and helped us find a place. I actually managed to start making some money writing resumes, but I was getting worse and my new neurologist told us I would be blind, incontinent, and in a wheelchair within a year or two.

It was Christmas of 1980,  we had three small kids, no money, and things were looking bleak. I had received medical assistance from County Social Services, food stamps, and prescriptions (Billy, age seven, was asthmatic and needed inhalers and a few other things which I cannot remember. Loretta was diabetic and needed some meds to help her keep her blood sugar at acceptable levels. The insulin would come a few years later. And that is how it was. Enter The Little Flower.

Thursday, January 8, 1981,  was Loretta’s birthday. I had taken the boys to school and on the way home picked up Egg McMufins at McDonald’s. Loretta loved those, and it was her birthday. Mary was only three, and I know I got her something; what, it was, I can’t remember.

When I walked back into our apartment my dear wife was standing there next to the dining room table. She had her arms outstretched and was smiling ear to ear. I was quickly trying to process whatever was happening. “Well,” she says, “What do you think?”

I said nothing but on the table were all these birthday cards, all opened and standing next to each other forming a semi-circle. She pointed to the cards and said, (I remember the words as if it was yesterday:“Today is my birthday, and I got the only present I wanted.

“Please,  tell me what is going on? What am I missing here?”

She raises her voice and says, “Look at the cards, look at the cards. Every single one is covered with roses. I prayed a novena to St. Therese that you would get better and just look. I don’t even know half the people who sent these. But every card has roses on it. You are going to be fine. St. Therese just told us. You will be fine.”

There was no instant cure but that very day I tossed my Canadian Quads and began using a regular cane. I started going to Easter Seals for rehab and after three months I was doing a lot better than expected. In due time I tossed the cane too. If you saw me today you would never know I had MS. My urologist who treated my prostate cancer and is a great doctor tells me, “I think they made a mistake. I don’t believe you had MS. Most of my friends have no clue either, just some old ones from way back when.

Our fourth child was stillborn during Loretta’s sixth month. She was a girl and we named here Therese. I am so glad we did.  Happy Feast day Little Flower, I love you. Thanks again.

 copyright©Larry Peterson 2019