Tag Archives: Carmelites

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

His efforts are leading him to Sainthood: Meet Enzo Boschetti; the priest who reached out to teenage addicts

Venerable Enzo Boschetti                                                      youtube.jpg

By Larry Peterson

Enzo Boschetti was born on November 19, 1929, in Costa de ‘Nobili, which is in northern Italy. He was the second of three children, and his dad was a truck driver. His childhood was simple, and the family struggled to make ends meet.

As an adolescent Enzo attended local Catholic Action meetings which stirred his vocational feelings. He received a copy of the “Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux and it had a profound influence on him. In 1949 he left home and joined the Discalced Carmelites at the convent in Monza taking the name Fra Giuliano.

Enzo’s initial feelings had been leading him to the priesthood, but his superiors directed him to the consecrated life. For the next seven years, he lived as a simple friar filling his days with fast, penance, and household tasks. His Carmelite experience was becoming part of who he was, but it was not overtaking his desire for Holy Orders.

His priestly calling took firm hold of him when in 1956 he was sent to the Carmelite mission in Kuwait. The calling to help others made him decide to seek the priesthood. The problem was the Order did not allow for a person to move from a religious to priestly life. Enzo truly loved the Carmelites and leaving them would be painful. However, after much prayer and after going through a discernment period that caused him to almost have a nervous breakdown, he decided to become a priest. To the dismay of his Carmelite superiors, he left the Order and headed to Rome.

On June 29, 1962, Enzo Boschetti was ordained to the priesthood by Carlo Allorio, the Bishop of Pavia. His first assignment was as a parish priest in Chignolo Po near Milan. But in 1965, he was reassigned to St. Salvatore parish in Ticinello, a poor area where there was much hardship.

He was appalled at the many teenagers roaming the streets and using drugs, gambling, selling stolen goods, not going to school, and living their young lives without purpose. He wanted to help them as much as he could. Drugs and gambling were a big part of the neighborhood culture and many people, including teenagers, were addicts. Father (Don) Enzo quickly decided he had to do something about it. He also knew that his primary focus would be to find a way to prevent young people from becoming addicts. He had embraced a daunting challenge.

Don Enzo’s evangelical response to the problems confronting him was to reach out and tell young people that he was available to talk to anyone who needed to talk or needed help. The area was filled with young people moving up from southern Italy, away from families, and looking for work. These young folks soon began knocking on Don Enzo’s door. In the beginning, he would let them stay in the prayer room for the night. The ping-pong tables, billiard tables, and the floor were used as beds. Word quickly spread and soon a bigger facility was needed.

Volunteers joined Don Enzo to help him, but the phenomenon of drug addiction led him to reach out for help. With the help of some evangelical laymen, a small building was purchased and was called  Casa del Giovane  (Young Man’s House). The plan was to use it for those that suffered from gambling or drug addictions, something he was deeply concerned about.

His promise to the  young people was that he would be there to help them if needed. He also committed to being there to intervene for adolescents who were beginning to show signs of addiction. He was an advocate for healthy living and would walk the neighborhoods making friends and talking about clean living as taught in the Gospel.

By the 1980s he had established workshops for addiction and set out to get courses included in schools. He loved St. Joseph and often encouraged the young and old alike to pray to him for help and protection. He proposed an educational method that included real sharing among educators, volunteers, and the addicts (children and adults alike) who were participating. All he ever suggested was inspired by the Gospel and supported by prayer.

Don Enzo Boschetti passed away from pancreatic cancer on February 15, 1993. He was 63 years old. He was declared “Venerable” by Pope Francis on June 11, 2019. Part of his legacy is the following prayer:

You must love today, not tomorrow
We must love this brother, not what we would like.
One must love to give, not to receive.
We must love to free ourselves from selfishness, not for personal gain.
We must love because this is our vocation!
(Don Enzo Boschetti)

Venerable Enzo Boschetti, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Three Catholic Saints who Managed to Live to the age of 100 and Beyond

 

Nheyob | CC BY SA 4.0 | Public Domain

By Larry Peterson

Recently I came across the names of eight saints who were centenarians. Incredibly they had made it up to and past the one-hundred-year mark without having the advantages of modern medicine and all the blessings we have available to us. No, they just lived their lives until God called them. Here is a brief account of three of them:

St. Simon Stock

Simon Stock was born in England in 1165 AD. Legend has it that at the age of twelve he began living as a hermit in the hollow trunk (“stock” means trunk) of a large, oak tree. In the early 13th  century Simon went to the Holy Land where he joined the newly formed Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Their origins were in Palestine and when they moved to Europe, Simon went with them. He became one of the early leaders of the order which became known as the Carmelites.

On July 26, 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon holding the Brown Scapular in one hand. She said to Simon,  “Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”

Simon Stock became the prior general of the Carmelites and under his leadership, the order spread across Europe and throughout England. Today the Brown Scapular is known and venerated the world over. (The word scapular comes from the Latin, scapula, meaning “shoulder blade” That is why the brown cloth covers the chest and the upper back).

Interestingly, St. Simon Stock was never formally canonized yet he is venerated in the Catholic Church, his feast day is May 16, and the Carmelites have honored him since 1564, which also has the approval of the Vatican.

Lastly, St. Simon Stock died in the year 1265. He was 100 years old.

St. Patrick

We all know that St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but the dates of his life are murky at best. He was probably born in the early 5th century and, at the age of sixteen,  was captured by pirates. He was taken from his home in Britain to Ireland where he was held in captivity for six years before escaping back to his family.

He became a cleric and returned to Ireland working tirelessly to convert the pagan Celts. He became the first bishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland. He is regarded as the founder of Christianity in Ireland. His became a saint during the pre-congregation era.

All available documents suggest that St. Patrick died when he was 106 years old.

Raymond of Penyafort (Pennyforth)

Raymond was a lawyer, a preacher, and a priest who left a profound influence on the history of Spain and the Church. He was instrumental in re-Christianizing Spain after the Moors were defeated and his consolidation of papal decrees was the primary source of canon law for over 700 years.

Raymond was approached by Peter Nolasco, the Founder of the Mercedarians, and asked if he could help him get approval in founding his order. Raymond helped greatly, assisting his friend in getting the consent of King James I of Aragon and so were born the Mercedarians.

Already an accomplished lawyer and scholar, Raymond joined the Dominicans in  Barcelona in 1222. He was 47 years-old. Raymond was a gifted preacher and was very successful at evangelizing Moors and Jews.

In 1230, Pope Gregory IX, made Raymond his confessor. During this time Raymond sorted and put in order all the decrees of popes and councils since 1150. Canonists relied on Raymond’s succinctly arranged writings until the new codification in 1917.

Raymond Penyaforth died in 1275 at the age of 100. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement VIII in 1601. He is the patron saint of lawyers, including canon lawyers.

St. Raymond Penyaforth, pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018