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High School Pallbearers View Comments
By Mary Ellen Pellegrini

The ministry is active whenever the need arises, even during student vacations. Pallbearers pray for the souls of the people whom they bury.

On a cold, snowy December morning, six young men ride silently past the James A. Garfield monument at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. Founded in 1869, this sacred ground is the final resting place of an American president, John D. Rockefeller, Eliot Ness, members of President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, Civil War generals and many other notables.

This day, however, it’s not the rich and famous whose lives are being honored. It’s an elderly gentleman with no surviving family and a modest funeral contingent. The high school volunteers are accompanying the casket as pallbearers, suspending their Christmas break to mourn and pray for an individual whom they have never met.

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Mary Ellen Pellegrini of Girard, Ohio, is a regular contributor to The Catholic Exponent, the diocesan newspaper of Youngstown. She has written over 200 articles and two books on family life (both published by CWLA Press). She is married with three children and two grandchildren.

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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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