Painting by Valencian Master * Jerónimo Jacinto de Espinosa 

Peter Paschal was born in Valencia on the east coast of Spain in 1227. Peter's parents were devout Mozarabites (Iberian Christians) who lived under Muslim rule and paid an annual tax called the jizyah. The Mozarabites and the Muslim Arabs lived side by side and even spoke a similar language, Mozarabic. Let us learn more about this interesting historical era. 

Report by Karla Ingleton Darocas (KarlaDarocas.com) (c) SpainLifestyle.com

The founder of the Mercedarians, St Peter Nolasco, was very good friends with Peter's family and he and his Mercedarian companions often stayed in Peter's house when they were on a mission to free Christian prisoners.

This contact with these pious men helped instil a deep sense of piety in young Peter. Combined with the virtuous, charitable and caring influence of his parents, Peter Paschal grew up to be a deeply devoted servant of God.

Ironically, the most important influence on Peter's educational journey was a teacher whom Peter's parents had ransomed from the Moors years earlier. The young man travelled with him to Paris and studied, preached and taught under his tutelage, earning a reputation as a learned and devout man. Peter then returned to Valencia and Peter Nolasco became his spiritual advisor.

After another year of preparation, he became a full member of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, also called Mercedarians. It was time for him to start freeing imprisoned Christians. Peter Paschal had a brilliant mind and James I, King of Aragon, appointed him preceptor (teacher) to his son Sanchez.

Sanchez was so influenced by Peter that he became a Mercedarian priest himself and was appointed Archbishop of Toledo in 1262. As Prince Sanchez was too young to be consecrated, Peter Paschal was put in charge of the diocese and consecrated Bishop of Granada.

Granada was under the control of the Muslims. As Bishop of Granada, Peter Paschal preached tirelessly about Christianity. He became known for his great determination and zeal in freeing captured Christian slaves held captive by the Moors. His preaching was so effective that many Muslims began to accept the teachings of Jesus Christ and convert to Christianity. In addition to his preaching, Peter not only repeatedly freed captive Christians from the Moors, he also comforted the captives and preached the Gospel to their captors.

His ability to bring the Moors to church was the reason he was eventually arrested. Orders were given that no one was to speak to Peter Paschal. Peter was kept in prison and constantly treated cruelly and with contempt. But he was given permission to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day. And here the pious legend of St. Peter Paschal begins to live.

The story goes that one morning, while St Peter was preparing for Mass, a little boy about five years old appeared before him. The boy was wearing the clothes of a slave and told the bishop that he would be happy to say Mass for him if he would let him. Peter asked him who he was and the boy said, "I will tell you who I am when you have finished Mass."

After the Mass was finished, Peter asked the boy some questions and was amazed at the wisdom that came out of the child. Then he asked the boy, "Tell me, who is Jesus Christ?" The boy replied, "I am Jesus Christ. It is I who was crucified for your salvation and that of the whole world. Look at my hands, my feet and my side and you will see the wounds I suffered during my suffering. Because you remained a prisoner of your own free will in order to procure freedom for my captive children, and because, in order to obtain their freedom, you spent money that was intended for your own freedom, you have made me your prisoner."

Then the little boy disappeared. Peter Paschal was filled with an indescribable joy.

His Muslim captors sensed the sanctity of their prisoner and even revered him. They told him that they would give him his freedom if he never said anything against Mohammed. He said he could never make such a promise. Shortly afterwards, when Bishop Peter Paschal was saying the prayer of thanksgiving after mass, an executioner approached him from behind and cut off his head. The date was 6 January 1300. He was beatified and canonised by Pope Clement X on 14 August 1670.

Resource reading : https://aleteia.org/2017/08/01/the-day-jesus-was-an-altar-boy-the-legend-of-peter-paschal/

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