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And today we celebrate...

Wednesday, February 21
Saint Peter Damian

Sought to heal the schisms and divisions through Papal reform

PETER DAMIAN
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Monk, Bishop, and Doctor of the Church (1007-1072)

His life

+ Peter was born in Ravenna, Italy, and became a Camaldolese Benedictine monk in the celebrated monastery of Fonte Avellana. Elected abbot in 1043, he did not assume the title, choosing instead to be called “Prior-General.”

+ It was during this period that Peter wrote his first literary work: a life of Saint Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese monks. In the book, Peter articulates the ideals that would guide his own life and ministry: exalting the life of contemplation and reforming the clergy.

+ Peter believed that only a reform of the papacy could heal the schisms and divisions that were wreaking havoc on the Church. Named cardinal-archbishop of Ostia in 1057, he worked for internal reform by fighting against many abuses of power within the hierarchy.

+ After resigning as bishop, Peter returned to his monastery. His later writings focus on the need for reform and emphasize the importance of liturgy and the religious life. Known as a man who could be both tender and incredibly harsh, his devotion to Christ Crucified and the maternal love of Mary would help shape popular devotions in later centuries.

+ Saint Peter Damian died in 1072. Although he was never formally canonized, he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

Spiritual bonus

On this day, the Church also remembers the Jesuit poet and martyr Saint Robert Southwell. Following his ordination in Rome in 1568, Robert returned to his native England, secretly ministering to the oppressed Catholic community there. A gifted poet, he put his literary gifts to good work defending the Catholic Faith and the Church. He was eventually arrested and hanged, drawn, and quartered on February 21, 1595. Canonized in 1970, he is honored as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Quote

For God’s chosen ones there is great comfort; the torment lasts but a short time. Then God bends down, cradles the fallen figure, whispers words of consolation. With hope in his heart, man picks himself up and walks again toward the glory of happiness in heaven.”—Saint Peter Damian

Prayer

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. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

Access our archives of daily saint biographies here
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