Tuesday, February 21, 2006
St. Peter Damian
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Optional Memorial (1969 Calendar): February 21
Double (1954 Calendar): February 23

Today is the feastday of St. Peter Damian (1007-1072). St. Peter Damian grew up in an orphanage and experienced poverty. As a result, he would minister and care especially for the poor. He invited them individually to have dinner with him. His brother forced him to work as a swine-herded and treated him very poorly.

St. Peter Damian was saved from poverty by his other brother, an archpriest of Ravenna, and St. Peter Damian became a professor. His life was one of penance - he wore a hair shirt, slept little, fasted vigorously, and studied the Bible when not in prayer.

St. Peter became an abbot and founded monasteries. He was elevated to the rank of Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. His life's work included the writing of numerous sermons, seven biographies, and beautifully worded poems.

St. Peter Damian died on February 22, 1072, and he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

Traditional Matins Reading:

Peter was born at Ravenna, of respectable parents. His mother, wearied with the care of a large family, abandoned him when a babe; but one of her female servants found him in an almost dying state, and took care of him, until such time as the mother, repenting of her unnatural conduct, consented to treat him as her child. After the death of his parents, one of his brothers, a most harsh man, took him as a servant, or more truly as his slave. It was about this period of his life that he performed an action, which evinced his virtue and his filial piety. He happened to find a sum of money: but instead of using it for his own wants, he gave it to a priest, begging him to offer up the holy sacrifice for the repose of his father’s soul. Another of his brothers, called Damian (after whom, it is said, he was named), had him educated; and so rapid and so great was the progress he made in his studies, that he was the admiration of his masters. He became such a proficient in the liberal sciences, that he was made to teach them in the public schools, which he did with great success. During all this time, it was his study to bring his body into subjection to the spirit; and to this end, he wore a hair shirt under an out wardly comfortable dress, and practised frequent fasting, watching, and prayer. Being in the very ardour of youth, and being cruelly buffeted by the sting of the flesh, he, during the night, would go and plunge himself into a frozen pool of water, that he might quench the impure flame which tormented him; or he would make pilgrimages to holy sanctuaries, and recite the entire psalter. His charities to the poor were unceasing, and when he provided them with a meal, which was frequently, he would wait upon them himself.

Out of a desire to lead a still more perfect life, he became a religious in the monastery of Avellino, in the diocese of Gubbio, of the Order of the monks of holy Cross of Fontavellana, which was founded by the blessed Ludolphus, a disciple of St. Romuald. Being sent by his abbot, not very long after, first to the monastery of Pomposia, and then to that of Saint Vincent of PietraPertusa, he edified both houses by his preaching, admirable teaching, and holy life. At the death of the abbot of Avellino, he was recalled to that monastery, and was made its superior. The institute was so benefited by his government, not only by the new monasteries which he founded in several places, but also by the very saintly regulations he drew up, that he was justly looked upon as the second founder of the Order, and its brightest ornament. Houses of other Orders, canons, yea, entire congregations of the faithful, were benefited by Peter’s enlightened zeal. He was a benefactor, in more ways than one, to the diocese of Urbino: he aided the bishop Theuzo in a most important suit, and assisted him, both by advice and work, in the right administration of his diocese. His spirit of holy contemplation, his corporal austerities, and the saintly tenor of his whole conduct, gained for him so high a reputation, that Pope Stephen IX., in spite of Peter's extreme reluctance, created him Cardinal of the holy Roman Church and bishop of Ostia. The saint proved himself worthy of these honours by the exercise of the most eminent virtues, and by the faithful discharge of his episcopal office.

It would be impossible to describe the services he rendered to the Church and the sovereign Pontiffs, during those most trying times, by his learning, his prudence as legate, and his untiring zeal. His life was one continued struggle against simony, and the heresy of the Nicolaites. He purged the Church of Milan of these disorders, and brought her into subjection to the Holy See. He courageously resisted the anti-popes Benedict and Cadalous. He deterred Henry IV., king of Germany, from an unjust divorce of his wife. He restored the people of Ravenna to their allegiance to the Roman Pontiff, and absolved them from interdict. He reformed the abuses which had crept in among the canons of Vellotri. There was scarcely a single cathedral church in the province of Urbino that had not experienced the beneficial effects of Peter’s holy zeal: thus, that of Gubbio, which was for some time under his care, was relieved by him of many evils; and other churches, that needed his help, found him as earnest for their welfare as though he were their own bishop. When he obtained permission to resign his dignity as Cardinal and his bishopric, he relented nothing of his former charity, but was equally ready in doing good to all. He was instrumental in propagating many devout practices; among these may be mentioned, fasting on Fridays in honour of the holy cross; the reciting the Little Office of our Lady; the keeping the Saturday as a day especially devoted to Mary; the taking of the discipline in expiation of past Bins. At length, after a life which had edified the world by holiness, learning, miracles, and glorious works, on his return from Ravenna, whither he had been sent as legate, he slept in Christ, on the eighth of the Calends of March (February 23), at Faënza. His relics, which are kept in the Cistercian church of that town, are devoutly honoured by the faithful, and many miracles are wrought at the holy shrine. The inhabitants of Faënza have chosen him as the patron of their city, having several times experienced his protection when threatened by danger. His Mass and Office, which were kept under the rite of confessor and bishop, had been long observed in several dioceses, and by the Camaldolese Order; but they were extended to the whole Church by a decree of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, which was approved by Pope Leo XII., who also added to the name of the saint the title of Doctor.

Prayer:

Grant unto us, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, so to follow the counsels and example of blessed Peter, Thy Confessor and Bishop, that we may, by despising earthly things, obtain everlasting joys. Through our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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