Peter of Alcántara, St.

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Friar Minor, ascetic, mystic, Franciscan reformer; b. Peter Garavita, in Alcántara, Estremadura, Spain, 1499;d. Arenas, Spain, Oct. 18, 1562. Peter, of noble parentage, entered the Franciscan order in the discalced vice province of Estremadura in 1515. Although not its founder, Peter is closely linked with the discalced reform, a controversial movement within Spanish Franciscanism. Because of his adherence to it, the movement spread from Spain to Portugal, Italy, Mexico, the East Indies, the Philippines, and Brazil, and his followers became known as Alcantarines. By his followers he was hailed as the restorer of the Franciscan Order and, as such, his statue was placed among the other founders of religious orders in the Vatican basilica. Peter is known for the severity of his mortifications, some of which are related in the autobiography of St. teresa of Jesus, whom, in his last years, he advised and encouraged in her Carmelite reform. He wrote little. His justly famous Tratado de la oración y meditación was already popular in his lifetime, although its authenticity has not escaped challenge. It has gone through more than 175 editions and numerous translations. Peter died at Arenas, where his remains are still venerated in the shrine built at royal expense. He was beatified in 1622 and canonized in 1669. In 1826, by decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, he was made the patron saint of Brazil; in 1962 he was declared copatron of Estremadura.

Feast: Oct. 19.

Bibliography: "Estudios sobre San Pedro de Alcántara," Archivo Ibero-Americano 22 (Madrid 1962). peter of alcantara, Treatise on Prayer and Meditation, tr. d. devas (London 1926; repr. Westminster, Md. 1949). e. a. peers, Studies of the Spanish Mystics, v. 2 (London 1930). peter of alcantara, Vida y Escritores de San Pedro de Alcantaro, ed. r. sanz-valdivieso (Madrid 1996). conferencia de ministros provincales, ofm., Misticos Franciscanos Espanoles (Madrid 1996), bibliography.

[j. b. wuest]