Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur
|Saint Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur|
|Born||March 21, 1626
|Died||April 25, 1667
Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
|Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||June 22, 1980, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican by Pope John Paul II|
|Canonized||July 30, 2002, Guatemala City, Guatemala by Pope John Paul II|
|Major shrine||Cave of Santo Hermano Pedro and Sanctuary of the Santo Hermano Pedro (Tenerife) and San Francisco Church in Antigua, Guatemala|
|Feast||April 24 (because the 25 the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist).|
|Attributes||Holds a walking stick and bell|
|Patronage||Canary Islands, Guatemala, catechists of Guatemala, Honorary Mayor of municipalities in the south of Tenerife and Honorary Mayor of Antigua Guatemala, of those who are homeless.|
|Controversy||No description of the two Miracles needed for Beatification & Canonization|
Brother Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur (March 21, 1626 (Tenerife) - April 25, 1667 (Antigua Guatemala), called Hermano Pedro de San José Betancurt or more simply Hermano Pedro, Santo Hermano Pedro, or San Pedro de Vilaflor, was a Spanish saint and missionary. He is known as the "St. Francis of Assisi of the Americas". It is the first saint native of the Canary Islands, is also considered the first saint Guatemala and Central America. Conducted a social work comparable to that done centuries later by Mother Teresa in Calcutta, acting upon the most vulnerable and needy.
He worked as a shepherd until age 23, when in 1649, he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, Cuba, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he arrived in Guatemala City the following year.
When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line which the Franciscans had established. He fell sick almost immediately but was able to recover his health.
He very much wanted to become a priest and soon enrolled in the local Jesuit college (Jesuit College of San Borgia) in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material, and thus withdrew from the school.
Unable to receive holy orders, he became a Franciscan tertiary in the convent of Costa Rica in Antigua Guatemala, and took the name "Peter of Saint Joseph". He visited hospitals, jails, the unemployed, and the young. Three years later, he opened Our Lady of Bethlehem, a hospital for the convalescent poor. Soon after there was a shelter for the homeless, schools for the poor, an oratory, and an inn for priests. He was imitated by other tertiaries and Hermano Pedro soon wrote up a rule, which was adopted by the women who were involved in teaching the children. This led to the formation of a new religious order: la Orden de los Bethlemitas y de las Bethlemitas, subsequently recognized and approved by the Holy See.
The Saint did a great job of helping others, as was interested and genuine favored marginalized at the time, like lepers, prisoners, slaves and Indians and served as precursor of Human Rights. He was also one of the main introducers of the Nativity scene in America. It is considered the great evangelist of the West Indies, in the same way that St. Francis Xavier considered the great evangelist of the East Indian. On the other hand, Pedro de San Jose Betancur was the first literacy of America and the Order of Betlemitas turn religious order was the first born in the Americas. Peter was a man ahead of his time, both in its methods for teaching reading and writing to illiterate and in the treatment of patients.
He died in Antigua Guatemala at the age of 41. He left behind devotional writings.
He was beatified on June 22, 1980, and canonized on July 30, 2002, by Pope John Paul II. At the homily read by John Paul II in Guatemala City on July 30, 2002, Hermano Pedro was called the "first Canarian and Guatemalan saint."
His tomb is in the San Francisco Church, in Antigua Guatemala. The Cave of Santo Hermano Pedro is located in the south of the island of Tenerife, in a desert on the outskirts of the city of El Médano. It is a very popular pilgrimage site, where the faithful present votive offerings to the saint. Inside the cave is a wooden statue of the saint. It is also an important place of worship the Sanctuary of the Santo Hermano Pedro, which is built on his birthplace in Vilaflor.
He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve posadas procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries.
He was known to work miracles also, some of them including healing sick people in under an hour. Also getting notes from deceased family members by setting rocks out and letting the member arrange them over time.
Veneration at the tomb of Hermano Pedro in Antigua Guatemala, 1979.
- Media related to Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur at Wikimedia Commons
- (Spanish) Hermano Pedro de San José Betancurt (1626-1667)
- (Spanish) Canonización del Beato Hermano Pedro de San José de Betancurt
- Website of the Obras Sociales Society with the biography of Pedro Betancur
- Catholic Online: Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur
- Patron Saints Index: Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur
- Saint of the Day