St Peter of Alcantara

A quiet morning of reflection, after a hectic busy weekend

And now the soldier advances, lance in hand, and, with all his strength, plunges it into the bare chest of the Savior.  The cross shakes in the air with the force of the blow, and there gushes forth water and blood for the healing of the world’s sin.  O river flowing out from Paradise, and inundating all the earth with Thy screams!  O wound in the sacred side, caused by love for men rather than by the iron of the lance!  O gateway of heaven, and avenue of paradise, refuge, and fortified tower, sanctuary of the just, lasting resting place of the pilgrim, nest for the spotless doves and flowered bed of the Spouse of Solomon!  Hail!, O wound in that precious side, which rends devout hearts; wound, which pierces the souls of the just; rose of beauty unspeakable; ruby of priceless worth; door into the heart of Christ; witness of his love and pledge of eternal life!


That holy woman (Mary Magdalene), a sinner once, wept also, and embracing the Savior’s feet exclaimed: “O light of my eyes and healing of my soul, wearied with sin, as you see me, who will now receive me, who will heal my wounds, who will answer for me, who will defend me from the Pharisees?  O how different were these feet when I washed them, and you welcomed me as I knelt!  O beloved of my heart, who will tell me that I may die with you?  O life of my soul, how can I say I love you, since, though holding you dead before my eyes, I yet live?”

Thus all that holy company wept (at the foot of the Cross) and lamented, bathing and cleansing with their tears this sacred body.  As the moment of burial approached, they enveloped the holy body in a white winding-sheet, covered the head with a linen cloth, and then placing it on a stretcher, made their way towards the tomb.  There they laid this precious treasure.  The sepulcher was closed with a stone, and the virgin Mother’s heart with a dark cloud of sorrow.  There, for the second time, she (Mary) separates herself from her Son and, once again, feels her loneliness, there she sees herself despoiled of all her good; there, where her treasure is, her heart lies buried.  –St Peter of Alcantara ‘Treatise on Prayer & Meditation’


Seven final words

Now you may consider the seven words pronounced by Our Lord from the Cross.  Of these, the first was: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’.  The second was addressed to the thief: ‘This day thou shalt be with me in paradise’, in the third to His Most Holy Mother: ‘Woman, behold thy Son’.  The fourth: ‘I thirst’.  The fifth: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’  The sixth: ‘It is consummated’.  The seventh: ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’.

Consider, O my soul, with what charity He, in these words, commends His enemies to the Father, with what mercy He welcomes the thief who recognized Him, with what immense love He recommends His pious mother to the beloved disciple, with what thirsting zeal He witnesses to His longing for the salvation of man, in what sorrowful tones He pronounces His prayer and lays His griefs before the divine Majesty, how to the end He remains in the most perfect submission to the Father, and how finally He recommends His soul to Him, and resigns Himself completely into His most holy keeping.  –St Peter of Alcantara ‘Treatise on Prayer & Meditation’


Simple Divine satisfaction, contentment within striving

Similarly, if at any given moment of our prayer or meditation we experience more relish and devotion than at another, we should pause as long as this affection lasts, even though it continue during the whole time of our recollection.  As we have said, the purpose throughout is devotion, and it would be a mistake, in consequence, to seek elsewhere, and with doubtful hope of success, what we already hold securely in our hands.  –St Peter of Alcantara ‘Treatise on Prayer & Meditation’

A Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.


Prayer absorption

…the servant of God must not content himself with any tiny relish of devotion he may experience in prayer, as some do who, having squeezed out a little tear, or felt some slight kindling of the heart, fancy they have fully accomplished this exercise.  Not thus is secured the end we are seeking.  Just as a little sprinkling of water…is of no use for enriching the soil, but plenty of water is needed to penetrate deep down and diffuse there the fertile moisture, so do we need an abundance of this dew and water from heaven if we are to bring forth the fruit of good works.  Hence we are advised, with good reason, to spend over this holy exercise as long a time as we are able, and better is one period of some length than two shorter ones; for where the time is short it is all taken up in controlling the imagination and tranquilizing the heart, and barely have we succeeded in doing this, than we finish the exercise at the very moment we ought to be beginning it.  In determining the length of time…anything less than an hour and a half or two hours is a short time to assign for prayer.  Often enough half an hour is spent in quieting down…the imagination and bringing the strings of our instrument into tune, and we want all the remainder of the time for relishing the fruit of prayer…..the heart is better disposed for this work, and, like dry wood, very much more quickly set aglow with the heavenly fire, when this exercise comes after some other holy exercise, like Matins, or after one has heard or said Mass, or after some devout reading or vocal prayer.  St Peter of Alcantara ‘Treatise on Prayer and Meditation’


Listening with patience

St Peter of Alcantara ‘Treatise on Prayer and Meditation’

Strain not after tears, strive not for sentiments of devotion, do not force your heart.  Rest rather in interior solitude.  Dwell therein quietly, waiting until God’s will be accomplished in you.  When it shall please him to send you tears, oh, how sweet will those tears be, for is not your impatience that has secured them: they are the fruits of humility and of peace.  On your part, then, you must receive them with the deepest self-effacement, allowing God to work in you.  Note well, that if ever you fancy this desire or the securing of these affections to be in any measure due to yourself, you will infallibly expose yourself to the losing of them.

If you wish, in all sincerity, to advance along this way (the path of perfection) and reach the goal you have proposed to yourself, have no other intention and no other desire than that of seeking God.  Whenever you meet Him and he shows Himself to you, quit there all the rest, and advance no further tail He allows you.

Canticle of Canticles

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the hinds of the field, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please.

One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus

Gospel of John



Being flexible in spirituality

Nothing is so opposed to true repose and peace as anxiety to achieve an enterprise one is bent on bringing to a conclusion.  When the intention is set on the necessary accomplishment of this or that, God can no longer dispose of us freely nor lead us along the pathway of His choice.  What is this, in reality, but to force Him to accommodate himself to our fantasy?  It is to prefer our will to his, to wish to please him on one side, and to disobey him on the other; in a word, to seek him while flying from him. —St Peter of Alcantara ‘Treatise on Prayer and Meditation’

St Peter of Alcantara

St Peter of Alcantara


Wearing armor light and easy

You must conceive that this is written for such who aim for particular perfection, and are not in a state of mortal sin. For this medicine will not work for those who offend God negligently every moment, and pass their lives in all wickedness; for such as these must rather use affliction and frequent bewailing and confession of their sins, that so they deprive not themselves of remedy by their faults and carelessness.

Take, then, this rule and method in all the falls you shall make, be they great or little; yea, though ten thousand times in the same day you shall have incurred the same crime, and that not occasionally, but voluntarily and deliberately; observe, I say, inviolably this prescription: That as soon as ever you find yourself in fault, you trouble not nor disquiet yourself, but instant, as soon as you are aware of what you have done, with humility and confidence, beholding your own frailty, cast an enormous glance on God, and fixing there your love, say with heart and mouth: “Lord, I have done that which is like what I am, nor can anything else be expected at my hands but these and the like transgressions; nor had I stopped here, but plunged myself further into al wickedness, if thy goodness had permitted it, and left me wholly to myself. I give thee infinite thanks that You did not thus leave me for Your own sake, and for what You art, but admit me again to the favor of Your friendship.” Having done this lose neither time nor quiet of mind, imagining that God has not pardoned you, and the like, but with full repose proceed with your exercise as if I have said, not once, but every moment, with as much confidence and tranquility the last time as the first. For besides the particular service of God herein, a thousand other advantages are gained by it; time is not lost in fruitless excuses, further progresses is not obstructed, but, on the contrary, sin is subdued and mastered with much profit and perfection. This I would gladly inculcate upon, and persuade scrupulous and disquieted souls of, and then they would soon see how different a state of tranquility they would find themselves in, and pity the blindness of those who, so much to their cost, go on still losing so much precious time. Note this well, for it is the key to all true spiritual progress, and the shortest means to attain to it. –St Peter of Alcantara ‘Treatise on Prayer and Meditation’.

Detraction, distraction for a proficient, one advancing in the spiritual life arises from within. That which calls to a deeper life, complete conviction and focus upon God, scrupulously makes demand upon perfection. The fact is so pronounced St Peter of Alcantara identifies it as the key to further spiritual progress. One devoting his life to a refined pursuit of God, a life of service to God, must relate to God as a friend. Listen to the words of John the beloved disciple, the caretaker of the mother of Christ in the time of His resurrection, the mystical writer of the final Gospel, the recorder of the Final Discourse, the concluding teaching of Jesus to His apostles before the onslaught of His Crucified Passion. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. Speaking to his disciples a final time, Jesus knows what is about to transpire, therefore he instills within those carrying His word, furthering His mission upon earth a lightheartedness, the assurance of friendship. The road narrows, everything will become difficult, therefore Jesus declares to be at peace, quiet your soul for we are friends, wear life loosely like a comfortable garment, for you have advanced in service to me. Yet keep in mind as Jesus assures them of His friendship the fate of the apostles is atrocious. Most horrific, Andrew will be skinned. All the apostles, aside from John, are martyred. Be still, and know that I am God. Within the trials and tribulations of life, as men of prayer, advancing in love of God and man, dedicating our lives as contemplatives to the overflowing of grace, let us be easy on ourselves, let us not lose energy and focus beating ourselves up. It is the delight of Satan to witness us reject the mercy and might of God.  Let us trust in Jesus, more than wallow in misery and self-castigation.

I remember a dream once. I use to, and now realize have not for so long, dream about my guardian angel, a small baby, a cherub who never speaks yet expresses so much in her overly dramatic gestures and facial expressions. In the dream, I was sitting on a fence watching a horrific battle being waged. The conflict was brutal. I was unafraid, yet I sat and watched, doing nothing but observing. Then I realized within a state of great agitation my little guardian angel flying around me like a hummingbird, darting about, passionately waving her hands, imploring me to take notice of the raging battle. I just stared at her. She was so disconcerted, I could only notice her. She became frustrated and frantic with me, flying right into my face, pointing at the warring. She hovered directly in front of me, making a gesture of great annoyance and displeasure, shaking her head no, anger detailing her every feature before she silently made the firm point of disappointment, harshly making the statement that if you are content to sit here on the fence doing nothing I cannot be that way. I am going directly into the fight. And then just like that she flew away, right in the midst of the conflict.  Let us not waste time sitting upon the fence, absorbed within self-introspection, guilt and shame.  Let’s fly into the midst of the battle.  Let’s take the fight to Satan on a higher plane, within the prayer of repose and focus.