The Catholic Defender: Blessed Peter Gonzalez
Peter was born into a noble family in Castile, Spain, in 1190, and he became a priest as a step to high office. One Christmas Day, during a grand entrance into the city before all the townspeople, the young priest was thrown off of his horse and onto a dung-heap.
when he was very young. On one occasion, he was riding triumphantly into the city, his horse stumbled, dumping him into the mud to the amusement of onlookers. Humbled, the canon reevaluated his vocation and later resigned his position to enter the Dominican Order
Embarrassed and knowing that his parishioners thought he was a fake, Peter withdrew from the world for a period of prayer and meditation. During this time, he had a conversion and spent the rest of his life making up for his lost youth. He joined the Dominicans and shunned those who tried to convince him to return to his old ways, saying: "If you love me, follow me! If you cannot follow me, forget me!"
González became a renowned preacher; crowds gathered to hear him and numberless conversions were the result of his efforts.
Saint Paul had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Many years later, the same proved true for Peter Gonzalez, who triumphantly rode his horse into the Spanish city of Astorga in the 13th century to take up an important post at the cathedral. The animal stumbled and fell, leaving Peter in the mud and onlookers amused.
Humbled, Peter reevaluated his motivations—his bishop-uncle had secured the cathedral post for him—and started down a new path. He became a Dominican priest and proved to be a most effective preacher. He spent much of his time as court chaplain, and attempted to exert positive influence on the behavior of members of the court. After King Ferdinand III and his troops defeated the Moors at Cordoba, Peter was successful in restraining the soldiers from pillaging, and persuaded the king to treat the defeated Moors with compassion.
Later he entered the Dominican Order and became a renowned preacher; crowds gathered to hear him and numberless conversions were the result of his efforts. He accompanied Ferdinand III of Leon on his expeditions against the Moors, but his ambition was to preach to the poor. He devoted the remainder of his life to the instruction and conversion of the ignorant and of the mariners in Galicia and along the coast of Spain.
He served as the confessor and court chaplain to King Saint Ferdinand III of Castile, and reformed court life. He also worked for the crusade against the Moors, went into the battlefields, and worked for humane treatment of Moorish prisoners.
After retiring from the court, Peter devoted the remainder of his life to preaching in northwest Spain. Having developed a special mission to Spanish and Portuguese seamen, he is considered their patron.
Peter Gonzalez died in 1246 and was beatified in 1741.
How often we have heard stories about some misfortune or disaster only to hear later on that it was now seen as a good thing. Not every “disaster” is truly bad in its consequences for the Lord can bring good out of what appears to be a misfortune. Such was the case for Blessed Peter. His being dumped in the mud by a falling horse turned out to be a good thing in his life.
Fearing that the honors and easy life offered by the king’s court would lead him to return to his previous ways, he left the court and evangelized to shepherds and sailors.
He died in 1246 and was canonized in 1741.
Almighty God, you bestowed the singular help of Saint Peter Gonzales on those in peril from the sea. By the help of his prayers may the light of your grace shine forth in all the storms of this life and enable us to find the harbor of everlasting salvation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
He lies buried in the cathedral of Tuy and was beatified in 1254 by Innocent IV.
St. Pedro Gonzales, pray for us!