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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

This nun had visions of heaven and the Holy Family

Venerable Marie-Martha Chabon and the Holy Face of Jesus   (public domain)

By Larry Peterson

It was Good Friday in 1850 when Francoise Chambon reported her first vision of Jesus. She was with her godmother at Good Friday services when the vision occurred. She reported that she saw Jesus, on the cross, covered in blood and His body having many wounds. She was nine years old.  Later on during the year, upon receiving her First Holy Communion, she saw Jesus again, who told her, “My child, so it will be every time you go to Holy Communion.”

Francoise Chambon was born in Davoy, France on March 6, 1841. Her parents were poor farmers, and life was not easy. Francoise, for the most part, kept her experiences to herself. She bided her time and when she was 20 years old, she entered the Monastery of the Visitation Order in nearby Chambery. This was when she was given the name, Marie-Martha.

Marie-Martha was favored with many supernatural visions during her life. One of these was actually of heaven. While on a retreat in 1870, during a recreation break the Sisters would pray the Rosary. Marie-Martha said to them: “The Sisters who endeavor to be present and attend the Rosary give me much delight; those who say it with much fervor will one day be in my entourage.” Marie-Martha then witnessed the graces and many blessings which Jesus poured out on the families of these sisters because of their prayers in honor of His Mother.

There were times when Marie-Martha was allowed to see the Holy Family. After a long vision, she told Mother Superior: “My Mother, I return from Paradise! I cannot say that which I saw! I can only say that I prostrated myself in front of the Holy Family and I said to Saint Joseph: My good Father, I thank you that while you were on the earth, you took care of my sweet Mother Mary.”

She said that St. Joseph was very happy and told her to say this short prayer often, “Jesus, Joseph and Mary, I give you my heart and my soul.”

Marie-Martha began to have more visions of Jesus when He would ask her to contemplate the Holy Wounds. Jesus would teach her specific prayers and meditations. Her Mother Superior began to chronicle Marie’s life, and this was published in 1923 and sold worldwide. The following year the Vatican granted an indulgence to those who said the following prayer which was based on her reported visions:  “Eternal Father I offer the wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to heal those of our souls.”

Jesus wanted her to unite her sufferings with His in the Rosary of the Holy Wounds. This would be done as an act of reparation for the sins of the world and the souls in purgatory. He told Marie-Marthe that the Holy Wounds were a true treasure for the souls in Purgatory.

Marie-Martha foresaw the death of Pope Pius IX whose soul appeared to her. He thanked her for her prayers which helped open the doors of paradise to him. She had a clear vision of her twenty-five-year-old sister’s death. Her younger brother passed away in 1878, and he appeared to his big sister to tell her he was in Paradise.

On March 21, 1907,  Marie-Martha Chambon passed away. She was sixty-six years old. Her cause for beatification began in 1937.

Venerable Servant of God, Marie-Martha Chambon, please pray for us.