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St. Peter Damian
February 21, 2019
Image: Cardinal Peter Damian recruits young hermits | Vatican maps room.
Saint Peter Damian
Saint of the Day for February 21
(988 – February 22, 1072)
Saint Peter Damian’s Story
Maybe because he was orphaned and had been treated shabbily by one of his brothers, Peter Damian was very good to the poor. It was the ordinary thing for him to have a poor person or two with him at table and he liked to minister personally to their needs.
Peter escaped poverty and the neglect of his own brother when his other brother, who was archpriest of Ravenna, took him under his wing. His brother sent him to good schools and Peter became a professor.
Already in those days, Peter was very strict with himself. He wore a hair shirt under his clothes, fasted rigorously and spent many hours in prayer. Soon, he decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines of the reform of Saint Romuald at Fonte Avellana. They lived two monks to a hermitage. Peter was so eager to pray and slept so little that he soon suffered from severe insomnia. He found he had to use some prudence in taking care of himself. When he was not praying, he studied the Bible.
The abbot commanded that when he died Peter should succeed him. Abbot Peter founded five other hermitages. He encouraged his brothers in a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more for himself. The Holy See periodically called on him, however, to be a peacemaker or troubleshooter, between two abbeys in dispute or a cleric or government official in some disagreement with Rome.
Finally, Pope Stephen IX made Peter the cardinal-bishop of Ostia. He worked hard to wipe out simony (the buying of church offices), and encouraged his priests to observe celibacy and urged even the diocesan clergy to live together and maintain scheduled prayer and religious observance. He wished to restore primitive discipline among religious and priests, warning against needless travel, violations of poverty, and too comfortable living. He even wrote to the bishop of Besancon complaining that the canons there sat down when they were singing the psalms in the Divine Office.
He wrote many letters. Some 170 are extant. We also have 53 of his sermons and seven lives, or biographies, that he wrote. He preferred examples and stories rather than theory in his writings. The liturgical offices he wrote are evidence of his talent as a stylist in Latin.
He asked often to be allowed to retire as cardinal-bishop of Ostia, and finally Pope Alexander II consented. Peter was happy to become once again just a monk, but he was still called to serve as a papal legate. When returning from such an assignment in Ravenna, he was overcome by a fever. With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on February 22, 1072.
In 1828, he was declared a Doctor of the Church.
Peter was a reformer and if he were alive today would no doubt encourage the renewal started by Vatican II. He would also applaud the greater emphasis on prayer that is shown by the growing number of priests, religious, and laypersons who gather regularly for prayer, as well as the special houses of prayer recently established by many religious communities.
Saint Peter Damian, “Gomorrah”, and Today’s Moral Crisis
St. Peter Damian’s Book of Gomorrah: Homosexual Situation Graver than Damian’s Time
St Peter Damian
St. Peter Damian : The Book of Gomorrah (Part 2)
St. Peter Damian’s Book of Gomorrah
Information: St. Peter Damian
Feast Day: February 14
Born: 988, Ravenna
Died: February 22, 1072, Faenza
Tuesday, February 21
Liturgical Color: Green
Pope Julius II died on this day in
1513. During his reign as pope,
he laid the cornerstone for St.
Peter’s Basilica. He also
Buonarroti to paint the frescoes
on the ceiling of the Sistine
Ordinary Time: February 21st
Optional Memorial of St. Peter Damian, bishop and doctor
February 21, 2017 (Readings on USCCB website)
Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we may so follow the teaching and example of the Bishop Saint Peter Damian, that, putting nothing before Christ and always ardent in the service of your Church, we may be led to the joys of eternal light. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
- Invincibly Defended by the Banner of the Cross | St. Peter Damian
- Message for the 100th Anniversary of St. Peter Damian | Pope Benedict XVI
- St. Peter Damian | Fr. Paul Haffner
St. Peter Damian, a man of vehemence in all his actions who was brought up in the hard school of poverty, found that he had the vocation of a reformer. He exercised it in the first place against himself as one of the hermits of Fontavellana in about 1035, but he did not remain for long hidden in his cell: his colleagues soon made him their abbot (1043). In 1057, Stephen IX made him Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. By his preaching and writings he was one of the valuable collaborators of the eleventh century popes in their great work of reform. Pope Leo XII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1823. His feast is celebrated on February 23 according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
St. Peter Damian
St. Peter Damian must be numbered among the greatest of the Church’s reformers in the Middle Ages, yes, even among the truly extraordinary persons of all times. In Damian the scholar, men admire wealth of wisdom: in Damian the preacher of God’s word, apostolic zeal; in Damian the monk, austerity and self-denial; in Damian the priest, piety and zeal for souls; in Damian the cardinal, loyalty and submission to the Holy See together with generous enthusiasm and devotion for the good of Mother Church. He was a personal friend of Pope Gregory VII. He died in 1072 at the age of 65.
On one occasion he wrote to a young nephew, “If I may speak figuratively, drive out the roaring beasts from your domain; do not cease from protecting yourself daily by receiving the Flesh and Blood of the Lord. Let your secret foe see your lips reddened with the Blood of Christ. He will shudder, cower back, and flee to his dark, dank retreat.”
In his poem, the Divine Comedy, Dante places Damian in the “seventh heaven.” That was his place for holy people who loved to think about or contemplate God.
— Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Symbols: Cardinal bearing a discipline in his hand; pilgrim holding a papal Bull, to signify his many legations.
Things to Do:
St. Peter Damian was a great reformer, often prescribing penances and fasting to lax religious. Choose a day every week, most appropriately Friday, on which you will fast and offer penances for specific intentions. Pray especially that our nation and the world will recognize the evil of homosexuality. Pray for those who are guilty of this sin.
Read more about St. Peter Damian at EWTN.
Pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Peter Damian revised and recommended it. Go to The Mary Page for a copy.
Also known as
- Petrus Damiani
Youngest child in a large but impoverished family of local nobility. Orphaned young, Peter was sent to live with a brother who mistreated him and forced him to work as a swine-herd. A pious boy, Peter was eventually sent to live with another brother, Damian, a priest in Ravenna, Italy; Peter was so grateful that he took the name Damian. Well educated in Ravenna, in Faenza and in Parma Italy. Professor. He was known for his life of strict austerity.
Around 1035, Peter gave up teaching to retire from the world and become a Benedictine monk. His health suffered, especially when he tried to replace sleep with prayer. He was forced to spend time in recovery; he used it to study Scripture, and when he was healthy, he was assigned to teach his brother monks and then the public. Economus of Fonte-Avellana; prior of the house in 1043, a post in which he served for the rest of his life. He expanded the monastery, greatly improved its library, and founded sister hermitages in San Severino, Gamugno, Acerata, Murciana, San Salvatore, Sitria, and Ocri. Friend of the future Pope Saint Gregory VII.
Attended a synod in Rome in 1047, and encouraged Pope Gregory VI to support a revitalization of Church zeal and clerical discipline. Wrote Liber Gomorrhianus, which described the vices of priests, mainly in their concern with worldly matters, with money, and the evil of simony. Created cardinal–bishop of Ostia on 30 November 1057. Fought simony. Tried to restore primitive discipline among priests and religious who were becoming more and more worldly. Strongly opposed anti-pope Benedict X. Legate to Milan for Pope Nicholas II in 1059; worked there with Saint Ariald the Deacon and Saint Anselm of Lucca. Supported Pope Alexander II.
A prolific correspondent, he also wrote dozens of sermons, seven biographies (including a one of Saint Romuald), and poetry, including some of the best Latin of the time. He tried to retire to live as a simple monk, but was routinely recalled as papal legate, called upon to make peace between arguing monastic houses, clergymen, and government officials, etc. Declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.
- 22 February 1072 of fever at Ravenna, Italy while surrounded by brother monks reciting the Divine Office
- immediately buried in the in the monastery church; there were concerns that others would try to obtain his relics
- cultus developed almost immediately after his death
- relics moved several times, and since 1898 has been in the Chapel of Saint Peter Damian in the catherdral of Faenza, Italy
- Book of Saints, by the Monks of Ramsgate
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Lives of the Saints, by Father Alban Butler
- New Catholic Dictionary
- Pictorial Lives of the Saints
- Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 9 September 2009
Let us faithfully transmit to posterity the example of virtue which we have received from our forefathers. – Saint Peter Damian
Meditation: Sirach 2:1-11
Saint Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Optional Memorial)
When you come to serve the Lord . . . prepare yourself for trials. (Sirach 2:1)
“Prepare yourself for trials”? That’s a phrase you might expect a drill sergeant to say to new recruits. Or a man might say it to his son who is raising teenagers. But serving God? What does that mean?
Sirach rightly understood that people who try to serve the Lord are certain to face spiritual trials like discouragement and anxiety—and all manner of challenges that will tempt them to give up their goals. That’s why he is encouraging his readers to gear up for these trials, just as a soldier or a father would prepare for the hands-on challenges of their vocation.
So what is Sirach’s specific advice? To guard against discouragement, he urges us to be “sincere of heart” (Sirach 2:2). In other words, when faced with adversity, we should be honest with God. Don’t think he doesn’t care. Instead, tell him your troubles in a spirit of faith and hope. Cast your cares on him, confident that he will care for you (1 Peter 5:7).
As for anxiety, Sirach tells us, “Hold on! Wait a little longer!” You might be tempted to give up on God’s love in a small—or big—area of your life. But this is exactly the moment to cling to him all the more! Tell God, “I trust you—I know you won’t give up on me.” Say it over and over if you need to, until your heart is at rest. This may be hard, but think of it as an act of faith. And if there is anything that moves God’s heart, it’s faith.
Finally, there is self-pity. Absorbed in our troubles, we can feel like we are the only person in our predicament. But Sirach encourages us to reflect on heroes of the past like Abraham or Esther, people who trusted in God’s faithfulness and were saved. Or look back on your own story. Chances are you’ll find similar instances of God working in you, stories that nudge you to be grateful, even in the face of trials.
Remember, all servants of God will face spiritual trials. But with tools like sincerity, trust, and gratitude, you will be better prepared to face them when they come.
“Lord, I want to cling to you. Help me to counter trials with trust.”
Psalm 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40
Marriage = One Man and One Woman Until Death Do Us Part
Daily Marriage Tip for February 21, 2017:
Married couples and priests need each other. Is there a priest in your life – your pastor, or a former teacher? – whom you could invite to dinner, or to a family event? Or make a point of remembering his ordination anniversary or birthday.
Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Father Edward Hopkins, LC
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe in you, present and interested in my life. I believe you await my prayer to guide my heart, my visits to the Eucharist to strengthen my will, and my challenges to help my surrender. I trust you will give your life to me in exchange for my self-denial. I love you and want to love you more by embracing and living out your will. Mother Mary, teach me to say with you, “Let it be done unto me.”
Petition: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”
1. Apostolic Training: This was one journey Jesus chose to do in secret. Why? Because he wanted to dedicate all his attention and efforts to teaching his apostles the deepest and most important secret of his life: He must die! All that they had lived so far was thus incomplete, merely a preparation for the final act of his mission: the consummation of his love, his total immolation on the cross. Would they understand the need for the seed to die before rising to new life? How hard it would be for them to listen! He was their Lord, the powerful, Messianic king coming to free them and establish his kingdom of truth and love. They still imagined scenarios of new victories, cures, defeat of demons, the silencing of their opposition…. How far their dreams were from Jesus’ message! We too have our own desires and needs. Can we detach ourselves from these dreams long enough to understand in prayer his will and his plan of salvation for us?
2. Slow Learners: Not only did they “not understand the saying,” but “they were afraid to question him.” In other words, they did not want to know. How often our communication problem is not something intellectual, but rather something of the will! Our desire is more to “get our way,” “make our point” or “affirm ourselves.” Learning Christ’s way requires that we in some way unlearn our own ways. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). This explains why no one can be neutral before Christ; he challenges us to change our life. Jesus occasioned the fierce opposition of those who would ultimately put him to death. How open am I to his challenges? Do I listen in prayer in order to respond with a docile but firm “Amen”?
3. The Hardest Lesson: Like little boys caught in the act, the apostles don’t dare admit that they have been arguing about who among them is greatest. Not only do they fail “to listen” to Jesus; to the contrary, they are busy asserting their will. What would it take to teach them this most difficult but vital truth? So Jesus, with a father’s love, holds a child before them and begins the lesson anew. This small child is the greatest! To be last, to serve, to give your life makes you great, since this is how God comes to us. Only the sight of Jesus crucified would burn this lesson more deeply on their hearts. Am I learning this lesson of sacrificial love to become the greatest I can become?
Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, open my heart to listen to your will for me. Free me from my own self-love, ideas and dreams. Teach me to die to myself as I enter into prayer and as I enter into work. Help me to work, pray and live so that you and your love can rise up in my life in place of the poverty of my own qualities and efforts.
Resolution: I will listen well before trying to offer my own thoughts or desires in prayer and in interacting with family and others, so better to hear the Lord.
February 21, 2017
In the Gospel reading Jesus surprises his disciples when he says that to be first one must make himself the servant of all. This is completely opposite of what most people think. Almost everyone strives to be the first, to get ahead of others, to become richer, more successful, and more influential, more in everything than the others.
But Christ instead says that, to be first, one must be the servant of all. Indeed we need the Spirit of Jesus to accept this startling statement, this way of thinking and doing. Jesus himself taught and lived this path of humility and selflessness.
We pray that this could also be our path. Are we ready to walk and live this path, of being small, least and last? Jesus tells us this is the path to being first in God’s eyes.
One Bread, One Body
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