The son of a poor family of the Canary Islands, Peter de Betancur in his youth worked as a shepherd, finding in nature an incentive to prayer. Intent to serve the poor in the New World, he embarked on an arduous journey to Guatemala that ultimately left him penniless. In Guatemala City, Peter entered a Jesuit college through the assistance of a Franciscan friar, but soon left after failing in his studies. The friar then invited Peter to become a Franciscan brother, but the young man declined, feeling that God willed for him to remain in the world. Instead, Peter became a Third Order Franciscan, devoting himself to the service of African slaves, Native Americans, and other needy individuals. As a penance, each night he went out to carry a heavy cross through the streets. Peter later founded a congregation for the care of the poor, the Bethlehemite Brothers and Sisters. Deeply devoted to the Christ Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the relief of the souls in purgatory, Peter was a promoter of the Franciscans' rosary of the Seven Joys of Mary, and instituted a weekly rosary procession in Guatemala City. He died on April 25, 1667.
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By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
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