Blessed Peter had a rather “worldly” life until his mid-20s, even while he was preparing to take over as the religious role of canon of Palencia, an important post in the cathedral in Astorga.
He was so pleased and proud of himself after he was appointed to this position (he was unprecedentedly young, and got the post because his uncle, a Bishop, saw to it), he got on his horse and paraded through town to impress his new flock. The people loved him!
Story goes that the horse fell down, leaving him in the mud. The people began to laugh, not surprisingly. As Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira writes: “Peter Gonzalez converted when he contemplated the fickleness of the applause of the world.”
Prof. Plinio continues with a reference to Napolean with a quote I enjoy:
Once Napoleon was riding a horse in Paris at either the Bois de Boulogne or Champs Elysées – I forgot the place – with the ambassador of Denmark riding at his side. The people recognized Napoleon and applauded. The ambassador said to him: “Oh, Your Majesty, what a secure throne you have!” Napoleon replied: “You are mistaken, Monsieur Ambassador, the people take their revenge for the applause they give.” It is true. The onlooker is often just as ready to scorn the very one he applauds. This applies to the case of St. Peter Gonzalez. The crowd was applauding him, and when he fell, the people immediately began to deride and laugh at him.
Well, anyhow, St. Peter’s life was changed by this moment. He ended up reforming his life and he entered a Dominican monastery. When he decided to do this, he wanted the company of his friends, so he told them: “If you love me, follow me. If you cannot follow me, forget me!”
He spent much of his later years preaching in rural Spanish towns.
A popular song, Better is One Day, which is heard often on Christian radio stations and in some Evangelical churches was, I think, inspired by Peter’s words. His favorite saying was: “Better to live one day in the house of the Lord than to live a thousand in the pavilions of sinners.”
Blessed Peter Gonzalez: Pray for us!