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Posted on 02/21/2003 7:29:46 PM PST by Lady In Blue
St. Peter Damian
SAINT PETER DAMIAN, OR OF DAMIAN, CARDINAL, BISHOP OF OSTIA
From his life by his disciple, John of Lodi, in Mabill. s. 6, Ben., and from his own writings. Fleury, b. 59, n 48, and Hist. des Ordres Relig.; Ceillier, t. 20, p. 512; Henschenius ad 23 Febr. p. 406.
Peter, surnamed of Damian, was born about the year 988 in Ravenna, of a good family, but reduced. He was the youngest of many children, and, losing his father and mother very young, was left in the hands of a brother who was married, in whose house he was treated more like a slave, or rather like a beast, than one so nearly related; and when grown up, he was sent to keep swine. He one day became master of a piece of money, which, instead of laying it out in something for his own use, he chose to bestow in alms on a priest, desiring him to offer up his prayers for his father's soul. He had another brother called Damian, who was arch- priest of Ravenna, and afterwards a monk; who, taking pity of him, had the charity to give him an education. Having found a father in this brother, he seems from him to have taken the surname of Damian, though he often styles himself the Sinner, out of humility. Those who call him De Honestis confound him with Peter of Ravenna, who was of the family of Honesti. Damian sent Peter to school, first at Faenza, afterwards at Parma, where he had Ivo for his master. By the means of good natural parts and close application, it was not long before he found himself in a capacity to teach others, which he did with great applause, and no less advantage by the profits which accrued to him from his professorship. To arm himself against the allurements of pleasure and the artifices of the devil, he began to wear a rough hair shirt under his clothes, and to inure himself to fasting, watching, and prayer. In the night, if any temptation of concupiscence arose, he got out of bed and plunged himself into the cold river. After this he visited churches, reciting the psalter whilst he performed this devotion till the church office began. He not only gave much away in alms, but was seldom without some poor person at his table, and took a pleasure in serving such, or rather Jesus Christ in their persons, with his own hands. But thinking all this to be removing himself from the deadly poison of sin but by halves, he resolved entirely to leave the world and embrace a monastic life, and at a distance from his own country, for the sake of meeting with the fewer obstacles to his design. While his mind was full of these thoughts, two religious of the order of St. Benedict belonging to Font-Avellano, a desert at the foot of the Apennine in Umbria, happened to call at the place of his abode; and being much edified at their disinterestedness, he took a resolution to embrace their institute, as he did soon after. This hermitage had been founded by blessed Ludolf about twenty years before St. Peter came thither, and was then in the greatest repute. The hermits here remained two and two together in separate cells, occupied chiefly in prayer and reading. They lived on bread and water four days in the week: on Tuesdays and Thursdays they ate pulse and herbs, which every one dressed in his own cell: on their fast days all their bread was given them by weight. They never used any wine (the common drink of the country) except for mass, or in sickness: they went barefoot, used disciplines, made many genuflections, struck their breasts, stood with their arms stretched out in prayer, each according to his strength and devotion. After the night office they said the whole psalter before day. Peter watched long before the signal for matins, and after with the rest These excessive watchings brought on him an insomnia, or wakefulness, which was cured with very great difficulty. But he learned from this to use more discretion He gave a considerable time to sacred studies, and became as well versed in the scriptures and other sacred learning as he was before in profane literature.
His superior ordered him to make frequent exhortations to the religious, and as he had acquired a very great character for virtue and learning, Guy, Abbot of Pomposia, begged his superior to send him to instruct his monastery, which consisted of a hundred monks. Peter stayed there two years, preaching with great fruit, and was then called back by his abbot, and sent to perform the same function in the numerous abbey of St. Vincent, near the mountain called Pietra Pertusa, or the Hollow Rock. His love for poverty made him abhor and be ashamed to put on a new habit, or any clothes which were not threadbare and most mean. His obedience was so perfect that the least word of any superior, or signal given, according to the rule of the house, for the performance of any duty made him run that moment to discharge, with the utmost exactness, whatever was enjoined. Being recalled home some time after, and commanded by his abbot, with the unanimous consent of the hermitage, to take upon him the government of the desert after his death, Peter's extreme reluctance only obliged his superior to make greater use of his authority till he acquiesced. Wherefore, at his decease, in 1041, Peter took upon him the direction of that holy family, which he governed with the greatest reputation for wisdom and sanctity. He also founded five other numerous hermitages; in which he placed priors under his inspection. His principal care was to cherish in his disciples the spirit of solitude, charity, and humility. Among them many became great lights of the church. He was for twelve years much employed in the service of the church by many zealous bishops, and by four popes successively, namely, Gregory VI, Clement II, Leo IX, and Victor II. Their successor, Stephen IX, in 1057, prevailed with him to quit his desert, and made him Cardinal-bishop of Ostia. But such was his reluctance to the dignity that nothing less than the pope's threatening him with excommunication, and his commands, in virtue of obedience, could induce Peter to submit.
Stephen IX dying in 1058, Nicholas II was chosen pope, a man of deep penetration, of great virtue and learning, and very liberal in alms, as our saint testifies, who assisted him in obliging John, Bishop of Veletri, an anti-pope, set up by the capitaneos or magistrates of Rome, to quit his usurped dignity. Upon complaints of simony in the church of Milan, Nicholas II sent Peter thither as his legate, who chastised the guilty. Nicholas II dying, after having sat two years and six months, Alexander was chosen pope, in 1602. Peter strenuously supported him against the emperor, who set up an anti-pope, Cadolaus, Bishop of Parma, on whom the saint prevailed soon after to renounce his pretensions in a council held at Rome; and engaged Henry IV, King of Germany, who was afterwards emperor, to acquiesce in what had been done, though that prince, who in his infancy had succeeded his pious father Henry III, had sucked in very early the corrupt maxims of tyranny and irreligion. But virtue is amiable in the eyes of its very enemies, and often disarms them of their fury. St. Peter had, with great importunity, solicited Nicholas II for leave to resign his bishopric, and return to his solitude; but could not obtain it. His successor, Alexander II, out of affection for the holy man, was prevailed upon to allow it, in 1062, but not without great difficulty, and the reserve of a power to employ him in church matters of importance as he might have occasion hereafter for his assistance. The saint from that time thought himself discharged, not only from the burden of his flock, but also from the quality of superior, with regard to the several monasteries the general inspection of which he had formerly charged himself with, reducing himself to the condition of a simple monk.
In this retirement he edified the church by his penance and compunction, and laboured by his writings to enforce the observance of discipline and morality. His style is copious and vehement, and the strictness of his maxims appears in all his. works, especially where he treats of the duties of clergymen and monks. He severely rebuked the Bishop of Florence for playing a game at chess.1 That prelate acknowledged his amusement to be a faulty sloth in a man of his character, and received the saint's remonstrance with great mildness, and submitted to his injunction by way of penance, namely, to recite three times the psalter, to wash the feet of twelve poor men, and to give to each a piece of money. He shows those to be guilty of manifold simony who serve princes or flatter them for the sake of obtaining ecclesiastical preferments.2 He wrote a treatise to the bishop of Besanzon,3 against the custom which the canons of that church had of saying the divine office sitting; though he allowed all to sit during the lessons. This saint recommended the use of disciplines whereby to subdue and punish the flesh, which was adopted as a compensation for long penitential fasts. Three thousand lashes, with the recital of thirty psalms, were a redemption of a canonical penance of one year's continuance. Sir Thomas More, St. Francis of Sales, and others testify that such means of mortification are great helps to tame the flesh and inure it to the lab ours of penance; also to remove a hardness of heart and spiritual dryness, and to soften the soul into compunction. But all danger of abuses, excess, and singularity is to be shunned, and other ordinary bodily mortifications, as watching and fasting, are frequently more advisable. This saint wrote most severely on the obligations of religious men,4 particularly against their strolling abroad; for one of the most essential qualities of their state is solitude, or at least the spirit of retirement. He complained loudly of certain evasions, by which many palliated real infractions of their vow of poverty. He justly observed: "We can never restore what is decayed of primitive discipline; and if we, by negligence, suffer any diminution in what remains established, future ages will never be able to repair such breaches. Let us not draw upon ourselves so base a reproach; but. let us faithfully transmit to posterity the examples of virtue which we have received from our forefathers." The holy man reconciled discords, settled the bounds of the jurisdiction of certain dioceses, and condemned and deposed in councils those who were convicted of simony. He notwithstanding tempered his severity with mildness and indulgence towards penitents where charity and prudence required such a condescension. Henry IV, King of Germany, at eighteen years of age, began to show the symptoms of a heart abandoned to impiety, infamous debauchery, treachery, and cruelty. He married, in 1066, Bertha, daughter to Otho, Marquess of Italy, but afterward, in 1069, sought a divorce by taking his oath that he had never been able to consummate his marriage. The Archbishop of Mentz had the weakness to be gained over by his artifices to favour his desires, in which view he assembled a council at Mentz. Pope Alexander II forbad him ever to consent to so enormous an injustice, and pitched upon Peter Damian for his legate to preside in that synod, being sensible that a person of the most inflexible virtue, prudence, and constancy was necessary for so important and difficult an affair, in which passion, power, and craft made use of every engine in opposition to the cause of God. The venerable legate met the king and bishops at Frankfort, laid before them the orders and instructions of his holiness, and in his name conjured the king to pay a due regard to the law of God, the canons of the church, and his own reputation, and seriously reflect on the public scandal of so pernicious an example. The noblemen likewise all rose up and entreated his majesty never to stain his honour by so foul an action. The king, unable to resist so cogent an authority, dropped his project of a divorce; but, remaining the same man in his heart, continued to hate the queen more than ever.
St. Peter hastened back to his desert of Font-Avellano. Whatever austerities he prescribed to others he was the first to practice himself, remitting nothing of them even in his old age. He lived shut up in his cell as in a prison, fasted every day, except festivals, and allowed himself no other subsistence than coarse bread, bran, herbs, and water, and this he never drank fresh, but what he had kept from the day before. He tortured his body with iron girdles and frequent disciplines, to render it more obedient to the spirit. He passed the three first days of every Lent and Advent without taking any kind of nourishment whatsoever; and often for forty days together lived only on raw herbs and fruits, or on pulse steeped in cold water, without touching so much as bread, or any thing which had passed the fire. A mat spread on the floor was his bed. He used to make wooden spoons, and such like useful mean things, to exercise himself at certain hours in manual labour. Henry, Archbishop of Ravenna, having been excommunicated for grievous enormities, St. Peter was sent by Pope Alexander II, in quality of legate, to adjust the affairs of the church. When he arrived at Ravenna, in 1072, he found the unfortunate prelate just dead, but brought the accomplices of his crimes to a sense of their guilt, and imposed on them a suitable penance. This was his last undertaking for the church, God being pleased soon after to call him to eternal rest, and to the crown of his labours. Old age and the fatigues of his journey did not make him lay aside his accustomed mortifications, by which he consummated his holocaust. In his return towards Rome, he was stopped by a fever in the monastery of our Lady without the gates of Faenza, and died there on the eighth day of his sickness, whilst the monks were reciting matins round about him. He passed from that employment which had been the delight of his heart on earth to sing the same praises of God in eternal glory, on the 22nd of February, 1072, being fourscore and three years old. He is honoured as patron at Faenza and Font-Avellano on the 23rd of the same month.
1 Opusc. 20 c. 7.
2 Ib. 39, Nat Alex. Theo Dogm. 1. 2, c. 8, reg. 8.
3 Ib. 22. Opusc. 12.
(Taken from Vol. II of "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by the Rev. Alban Butler, the 1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company)
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Thank you for posting this, Lady in Blue. We need to keep meditating upon the heroic saints and take courage from their stories. Aided by their prayers we can be faithful and effective in our troubled day and time.
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St Peter Damian, 1007-1072. Doctor of Reform and Renewal, Feb 21st.
Spiritual reform and renewal are indispensable actions, attitudes and plans for sanctification. The Church and individuals have implemented these efforts down through the ages. Today, nationwide in most archdioceses, parishes and communities, small and large groups are being formed for spiritual awakening. To enrich our spirituality through corporal and spiritual works of mercy, renewal and reform, programs are constantly being developed. Peter was a superb leader in this endeavor and his example can serve us as a model and mentor. No matter how much he felt drawn to God in prayer and solitude, he remained obedient and humble in allowing God to use him not as he wanted but in service to the Church by exercising total trust and surrender.
Prior to Peter's birth, the Church had been waiting the longest time, three hundred and thirty years, for another doctor to be born. The Church needed to be reborn again because of laxity and excessive worldly leisure had infiltrated into the clergy, which is deplorable in the eyes of God. I do not mean to suggest that if the laity were excessively indulgent and lax in spiritual development it would be a lesser offense to God. However, if those who are expected to set godly example do not show good behavior, how much more offensive is that to God who calls certain people to a more consecrated lifestyle.
And as often is the case, God bestowed mercy on the bride of Christ, the Church, by raising up St Peter Damian to usher in immense reform and renewal and none too soon. Imagine, during Peter's lifetime alone, there were sixteen popes and the Church had its own "dark ages".
Peter lost both of his parents at a very young age. He was a poor boy and identified with the indigent. He never forgot the poor during his life and enjoyed ministering to them by serving them meals frequently or doing other charitable deeds. One of Damians brothers treated him rather unfairly with menial assignments. Another brother named Damian favored him and Peter was able to receive an education. He adopted his name in gratitude for favors received from him. Providence works in different ways but It is always working to lead us to sanctity. Peter eventually became a professor of great ability.
During this period of his life, when he was still young, Peter practiced fasting, praying and meditating on the Creators plan for him. He also practiced secret penance in thanksgiving for favors received. There were many allurements of pleasure and paths available to him. Scandals and distractions of university life were another reason for him to enter into a more secluded environment. As today, the temptations of life are always there and they pull and push us to do the wrong and easy things. It is only through prayer, fasting and constantly searching for God that we will discover God anew. By fostering in his life the spirit of solitude, charity and humility, Peter Damian would be able to become a master of his spiritual life. The reforms and renewals of his own personal life preceded his work and reform for the Church and other people.
After teaching, he abandoned all for a personal prayer life, doing penances and seeking to please God through holy consecration as a religious. Obviously, one does not give up something unless one receives an attraction to another type of life that is of more interest. Peter received a powerful attraction to belong entirely to God in silent prayer within the solitude of a hermitage in Italy. When he wasn't absorbed in prayer, he studied the bible.
He favored the contemplative and hermitage division of the Benedictines. They are called the Camaldolese whose founder was St. Romauld. Peter also wrote the life of this saint. The Catholic Church is rich in holy professions and has many unknown (to many people) eastern and western dedicated hermits and monks. They often live apart from the world in remote and deserted areas where silence and solitude can be practiced and lived. This style emboldens and nourishes the spirit which can be easily sapped by all the cares and anxieties that we experience. Solitude and silence must be found wherever we are. This is where God wants us. The Powerful One has a way of revealing and energizing us in the most active ministries and occupations if we petition God for help and insight. No sincere prayers will ever be deny us by our Father when we ask in Jesus name. Silence and solitude are indispensable for spiritual awareness, assurances and strength.
Peter was indeed very happy as a monk. Who, but God, could have called him? However, just because God calls us to one way of life doesnt mean the Almighty stops beckoning us. Oh, no! God is the Father, forever, and He is forever calling us to come up higher. This requires openness, docility and trust in our Lover who always wants to share His love more generously and intensely.
Damian was a person of sincere obedience to his superiors and he complied with accepting a leadership role when asked or commanded. He did this rather reluctantly but he was obedient and sensed the need to begin his renewal and reform efforts by immediately establishing five new hermitages.
As is often the case, holy people sooner or later become highly recognized and God challenges them with new duties and responsibilities which are often disagreeable to human nature because of its demands, conflicts and exhausting requirements dealing with problem situations.
Peter was asked to settle disputes (because he was a peacemaker) among the clergy, government and many societal or Church needs. He was involved in troubleshooting which is usually sticky and messy. He unearthed ugly or improper behavior, attitudes and thinking.
Some people are graced with ambition and high aspirations. That can be a blessing or a curse depending on how humble one really is and how one exercises and reacts to that intention. Some people flee from public service for God for many reasons based upon their upbringing, education, opportunity or temperament. St Peter Damian wanted out of the world of humankind and fled to the world of prayer in silence and solitude not because he was afraid but rather because he preferred God. He knew of his own weaknesses and tendencies when a lot of liberty and freedom reigned. However, the pope said no to Peter and made him a cardinal-bishop which plunged him into more mundane and public church concerns.
Many of the doctors began serving God publicly rather reluctantly. We see this clearly in Sts Ambrose, Hilary and in the most distinguished reform and renewal doctor, St Peter Damian. Obeying the will of God in service to the Church when they would have preferred another path can be heroic. Ambrose was a governor. Hilary was married. Damian was a monk. However, all were obedient to higher authorities and acquiesced in obedience when God revealed them a new need He had for the Church, His special Bride. Sometimes God used drastic measures to impress us as He did by knocking Saul off his horse, (Scripture does not mention his horse but some traditions suggest it- as the ass and ox with the Infant Jesus in the Nativity scene are omitted) and blinding him on the road to Damascus. We know how Saul cooperated and became St Paul and went on to serve the Church with Peter.
Simony was rampant in Peters day and he worked sedulously aiming to wipe out the buying and selling of spiritual goods or of a Church office. His efforts in this effort caused the Pope to state that Peters efforts were exaggerated. With sincerity, our renewal giant wrote a vigorous letter of protest toward those that wanted to keep everything the way it was. Scandals abounded. Peter urged, supported and encouraged the clergy to maintain their vows and promises. It is not always easy to remain celibate, behave chaste in all manners and live simply according to ones poverty oaths or serve as a model to the poor. Other behaviors that needed reform were encouraging more time for prayer, a reduction of needless traveling and living too comfortably. What was needed was not being afraid of more mortifications, asceticism, discipline, purifying one's thoughts and imagination as the gospel suggested through self-denial in a positive fashion.
Peter understood human nature well and knew that riches, comfort and loose living sets up temptations which we should avoid. Seductions, scandalous and sinful behavior can creep into our thinking, feeling and imagining unless it is balanced with prayer, discipline and meditation. Naturally, we can not control our feelings and impressions which may not be sinful but that doesnt mean we cant aim to improve how we handle our interior world. Another excellent measure to help in spiritual growth is to perform self-sacrifices for the poor and needy in a spirit of generosity. There are many things we can impose on ourselves to check human nature which wants total liberty and absolute freedom to do anything and everything in a selfish manner.
Our reformer envisioned a support system was needed such as urging even the diocesan priest to live together and maintain scheduled prayer time and religious observance. Little things such as sitting or standing at the proper time during the saying of the divine office were not overlooked by the keen eye of Cardinal Damian. (Peter resisted the Cardinals office and accepted only because of the threat of excommunication) Despite the nitty-gritty enforcement of things people didn't like to hear, Peter admonished others in charity. He took his duties seriously and strongly implemented widespread reform and renewal. He started with the clergy.
Added to his strong verbal support, visitations and observations, Peter wrote many letters and sermons on the subject of reform and also used biographies employing concrete examples and stories rather than theory and dry concepts to illustrate and give impact to his message of renewal.
Peter was asked by the pope to serve as papal legate. He worked himself to death quietly and cheerfully. "Let us faithfully transmit to posterity the example of virtue which we have received from our forefathers." This personal quote sums up his renewal and reform attitude: sharing, giving and passing on to others what God had first given to St. Peter Damian. He treasured and cherished his inheritance and challenges and worked diligently for the Church by offering more guiding light when deep darkness abounded.
Today, renewal and reform efforts are desperately needed inside and outside the Church. In government, prison treatment, military, politics, arts and sciences, education, sports, seminaries, monasteries and every conceivable layer of society, St. Damian can be a grand model and example for checks and balances.
For years Peter Damian was much employed in the service of the Church by successive popes. Peter constantly solicited the popes to grant him leave to resign his bishopric and return to his solitude but they usually always refused Peter. He interpreted this to mean God wanted him exactly where he was. Whatever austerities Peter prescribed for others, he first practiced on himself and he continued doing this even in his old age. He was never idle. Peters preaching was most eloquent and his writing voluminous. He was declared a doctor of the Church in 1838.
If this holy cardinal-bishop reformer were alive today he would applaud the great emphasis on prayer, prayer meetings and especially the houses of prayer that many religious communities have established. Although he was most passionate about leading a total prayer life, he readily gave it up to serve God in the Church when his superiors asked him. This takes wisdom, discernment and holy trust in others and God and especially a most generous spirit of sacrifice as Jesus and the saints have demonstrated.
People can identify with Peter in many ways. He had chronic insomnia. There are an estimate forty millions Americans alone who suffer from sleep disorders. It is very common and is a normal response to life stresses, aging and medical or psychiatric illness. Please petition St Peter Damian to help you. He longs to assist you because he himself can understand what you are going through.
Millions have drinking problems. Reform is needed in that area:
Gambling and smoking are other addictions that need modications and restrictions for good health.
Saints in heaven have tremendous influence not only to help you spiritually but bodily as well. With the anxiety and complex problems that we have both on our jobs and at home we need to get rested well to function well. Perhaps that is the reason that Peter Damian loved prayer intensely. He preferred always to be engaged in it. Why? He was restored to a restful and relaxed state while engaging in prayer. Who knows? Perhaps he got addicted to prayer (this can happen when we should be acting instead of praying-discernment is needed) and God had a subtle way to break that spiritual attraction by giving him other active duties and responsibilities.
Other current, notable addictions and compulsions include pornography and consummerism. The habit of pornography generally starts when we are ever so innocent and young, although this pernicious habit can begin at any time. God has made our bodies most beautiful. Young men and women view and gaze at naked bodies on the Internet, magazines, movies, and most especially, in one's imagination. Once we begin and get trapped in naked beauty we find ourselves easily undressing everyone as we let our imagination and eyes wander aimlessly as we look at people and do not exercise modest viewing.
With consummerism we pant for new products, merchandise and clothing because we often have the money, and lets face it, we love spending it-even when we don't have it but do have our credit cards. We reason, we've earned it and everyone else has it, why shouldn't we?
I'm not talking about needed things, I'm talking about things we actually don't need but we want to indulge because they are helpful or beautiful and why shouldn't we? We reason that we deserve it.
We are consumed with consummerism and our culture is obsessed with buying. We need virtue to guide our thinking, feeling and our actions. All possess subtle, often unknown vices, that we are unaware or conscious of. Our sense of morality has slipped or is latent. Reform and renewal awaken our soul's senses (awareness) of spiritual reality.
Christians need to have grace to keep graceful. We need purity, to have the chance of remaining pure and we need wisdom not to use our credit cards when buying urges us to overspend or misspend because of our materialistic urges.
Restraint and moderation are enacted with virtue and God's grace and in no other way. If we are able to discipline our behavior, that in itself is God's grace, albeit, hidden. Anything good you are able to do comes from God. Positive self-discipline is the ability to practice within. Grace filled people know that their thoughts beget habits and they need to discipline their thoughts to create the habits of checking impure or unwise actions as pornography and unchecked consummerism. In his day, Peter Damian performed penance and fasting. We, too, need checks and balances and God will always guide us from going astray or becoming too lax when we are earnest and sincere.
Temptations are slick and our vanity blinds and binds us. Jesus gave us only one prayer and it included 'lead us not into temptation' from the Our Father. And who is leading us into temptations? We lead ourselves when we do not pray enough. We do not pray enough because we are tempted. It's a vicious cycle.
When we are living honestly, we can never pray enough. Wake up in smell the roses! Christ spend 30 years praying to prepare for 3. Authentic Christians are challenged, tempted and confronted daily. One should almost expect to "fall" sometimes unless your're already perfect. Prayer picks us up and renews us. Penances are important. You don't necessarily have to beat your body. Beat your imagination, memory and habits of the heart of thinking unkindly-even when people are mean. This takes the Spirit's power. Prayer will give you what human nature can not imagine because it is a divine nature.
Oh, yes, lest we forget, that dirty word confession is necessary. We call it the sacrament of reconcilation today. That term sounds softer. The Church's law is to confess. Sometimes, in order of priorities, going to confession, is our last on the list. The first doctor of the Church, St Ambrose, said: "Confession opens the door to heaven". That is a powerful statement when you think about it. Perhaps we might change our priorites from last to first. We really ought to thank God for the ability to confess. Those who do not confess in some form can go to hell. Pride is an eternal killer. It underpasses hope or thought as love surpasses word or thought.
The Catholic Church collectively has held twenty-one ecumenical councils in twenty-one centuries. This fact should remind us that radical change has always been vital and needed for growth and development. This is what the Catholic Almanac has to say about the councils.
The councils have played a highly significant role in the history of the Church by witnessing to and defining truths of revelation, by shaping forms of worships and discipline, and by promoting measures for the ever-necessary reform and renewal of Catholic life. In general, they have represented attempts to mobilize itself in times of crises for self-preservation, self-purification and growth. See the Almanac for the dates and list of all the councils.
Many of us can identify with the last great Council of Vatican II ushered in by Blessed Pope John XXIII. That Council gave new meaning, focus and direction to the Church both within and to the world at large. Thus we see that God uses individuals as Peter Damian and moves others including popes to form large gatherings called councils. God always leads His people and provides the very best for all. God wants for His children peace, happiness and sanctification by the Holy Spirit. This can only be achieved with constant, spiritual reform and renewal. Councils frequently cause upheavals and imbalances. Radical changes often cause monumental challenges. Human nature and the divine plan are often at odds. We need humility, first and last.
The Church as a wise Mother sets aside a specific period in the liturgical year for fasting, penance, almsgiving and especially prayer. This time is for the purpose of renewal and reform. We can identify with Jesus who prepared Himself for His ministry by spending forty days in the desert. During the Lenten Season we can meditate on the Lords passion and death. We can attempt to understand the great obedience of Jesus and his submission to the Fathers plan for our salvation.
Preparation is an important necessity for all work, professions and leisure. We are called daily to ones ministry, metier, and mandate. People do not plan to fail. They fail to plan. Praying daily is the surest plan for proper balance, peace and harmony within oneself and charity toward others. Ones praying can take on many forms and styles. St Peter Damian and the Church councils have provided for us marvelous examples on how to stay very closely united to God despite the many forces and concerns pressing us daily. This can always be achieved when we beg God to foster in us the spirit of charity, solitude (a place and habit of the heart) and humility. God alone can instill in us an unselfish concern for others, the divine presence and Gods role for us according to our lifestyles and everyday living.
Peter's renewal efforts included the Mother of God as it did for all the doctors. See link below especially on what Peter had to day and write about The Mother of God.
THE DOCTORS AND ST. MARY
Peter not only wanted Mary's role with the birth of Christ but with the highlighting of her role with Jesus and His appearance on the altar in every Mass. There were already connections known in the Eastern Church doing this type of Marian associations. He also associated the wisdom text in the bible and in his "office" of Mary with Christ. He felt the Church came from Mary indirectly because through her we have the birth of Jesus Christ.
We can be absolutely assured that Gods Mother and the saints, especially, the renewal doctor, Peter, are wide-awake to your prayers, petition and problems in heaven. Plead with them for anything you want and trust in the results. Reform and renewal can be most difficult and might seem impossible at times due to our weak human nature and the habits and patterns that chain us to fixed orientations and activities. Human nature can be both docile and rebellious. Praying enables us to conquer, overcome and subdue any and all hostile enemies and attacks. Listen to the piercing cry of Peter to Mary, his Queen. He says: Mary, thou (you) are most loving and you love us with an invincible love.
Renger's marvelous, doctor book found in the sources tell us that Peter had great confidence in Mary's intercession. He relates a number of incidents to prove her powerful aid. He states: "It was his custom when relating miracles or heavenly appearances to say carefully just how sure he was of the facts, a rather unusual scientific trait for his day." Father's subtitle for St Damian was Monitor of the Popes.
St Catherine was another holy person who told the pope of her day where God wanted the Church when it was in France. When one is closely united to the Holy Spirit and under the Spirit's influence as Catherine and Peter, great things happen for others. Thus, Rengers notes, Damian's emphasis on penance was not blind; rather, his chief emphasis was on the preparation for union with God in prayer and in the ultimate refreshment given to us in the gift of contemplation-finding God's presence everywhere but especially within oneself.
Peter's profound union, Rengers states, allowed him to best explain the unity of all Christians with Christ and with one another: "Indeed the Church of Christ is united in all her parts by such a bond of love that her several members form a single body, and in each one the whole Church is mystically present; so that the whole Church universal may rightly be called the one bride of Christ, and on the other hand every single soul can, because of the mystical effect of the Sacraments, be regarded as the whole Church."
St Damian claimed that those who are truly repentant, reformed, renewed and love Mary ardently would be personally assisted by her when their life is about to be finished. Mary will, in her own person, escort and assist them to the next life in heaven when God calls them to depart from earth. What a blessed assurance! Endeavor then to call upon Mary wholeheartedly because no matter how much you love her, it will always be less than her love toward you. True lovers of Mary are never able to equal Marys own love toward them. Thus we begin to glimpse the vitally importance of daily renewal and reform. It assures mastery of the spiritual life, the overthrowing and bringing down of any hostile forces. It destroys the enemys power (He has plenty) and defeats and suppresses him. Thank God for Peter Damian and the great role he played in showing the Church the life-giving blessings of renewal and reform.
To be a reformer and change the Church and the world profoundly as St Peter Damian, one does not have to be a bishop, hermit or a religious. It has nothing to do with being married or single. What is required is the dedication and consecration of one's heart to God, in one's own way, by acting and praying charitably always and perhaps wearing a smile more frequently.
Renewal and reform makes good common sense because we grow stale, weary and human nature needs a good refresher to live one's life fully. Whatever means you can find to rejuvenate one's thinking, acting and being kind and nice will have transforming effects according to the holy will of God for each person. The Church has set aside the time of Lent to make renewal and reform a reminder for all. What a wise and caring Mother whose main concern is to imitate our Messiah, Model and Man-God. One holy devotion for renewal and reform is praying the stations of the cross.
PRAYING THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS AND THE MEDIATION OF JESUS AND MARY'S PASSION IS A HOLY PRACTICE FOR RENEWAL, REFORM AND TRANSFORMATION.
In February, 2004, the movie The Passion of the Christ will be released. Their offical website is:
St Peter Damian is pictured or thought of by some as an extremist, seeing sin everywhere, but Rengers notes in his book: The 33 Doctors of the Church, listed in the sources, "he was actually a realist, and his sterness comes from looking stern reality in the face. His age was an age of grave abuses. He was a reformer and an eminent forerunner of other reformers. The age is named after his reforming friend, Hildebrand, later, Pope Gregory VII, whom he called a 'holy Satan.'
Today, 2004, the United States is engaged in war and our ages has been termed the 'culture of death'. Reform, renewal and transformation are as needed now as in Peter's day. This requires God's graces and gifts on the Deity's part that is never wanting and cooperation and collaboration on our part that is sometimes wanting our total responsibility, trust and confidence in God.
What is needed is somehow creating more time for prayer, guarding our thoughts and habits, and acting compassionately toward the poor and disable. These are sure paths to peace and love. Oh, yes, we will have the pain and crosses as Christ. However, through God's graces, the pain will be transformed into peace, and the crosses renewed into charity toward others. We will be reformed from aloneness to wholeness, and from sinfulness to saintliness. St Peter Damian urges us on to make it happen as in his day!
Perhaps we could pray for more enlightenment and awareness as we seriously petition the Holy Spirit: Oh! please come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of thy divine love, spend forth thy Spirit and You shall be created and You shall RENEW the face of the earth. Renew and reform are forms of prayer. It is prayer that awakens faith and fuels it. The Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world and governs all! Let us be attentive, atuned and open to the Spirit's power, presence and peace amidst the fury and fierceness of a culture that is steeped in fear and death in many parts.
To explore other Benedictine Doctors see St Bede, the Venerable, St Anslem, St Bernard and others on the Homepage among many heroic saints.
For more info on the founder of the Camaldolese Order, St Romuald, click on the below link:
Not mentioned in this link is his body was exhumed in 1466, over 400 years after his death, and it was found to be incorrupt. The body of the Saint lies in the crypt of S. Romuald at the Monastery of Saints Biagio and Romuald, Fabriano (Ancona) Italy. This is taken from Joan Carroll Cruz's book entitled The Incorruptibles published by TAN.
For more info on the Benedictine Order click of the below link:
For an online guide to St Benedict of Nursia, Patriarch of Western Monasticism and Co-Patron of Europe:
Lest we forget, St Benedict's twin sister is a fascinating read. Explore: Saints Scholastica and her twin brother Benedict: A Paradox, A Paradigm:
Another Damian link is below. Click on the Table of Contents and you will see the links at the top of the page:
Within this link there are additional links to St Peter Damian, the doctor of reform and renewal-The Order of Saint Benedict and A Benedictine Martyrology Renewal Spirit.
There are scores of active groups whose missions are reform/renewal. Most are listed on the link page that can be found near the bottom on the Homepage.
The Cursillo Movement, endorsed by Our Holy Father, is an effective organization for reform and renewal in the World. For information contact: The National Cursillo Center, P.O. Box 210226, Dallas, Tx 75211-0226. Business Telephone: (214) 339-6321.
Lastly, on the Doctors' homepage at the bottom, there are Benedictine awards that will tell one more about the Religious Order. Explore the Benedictines with St Peter to be blessed, and to cherish one's faith toward God and His holy Mother. The Lent Season offers no better time to be renewed and reformed to carry out the holy will of God in all matters.
BTTT on the Optional Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church for Reform and Renewal.
St. Peter Damian guide us today, 02-21-05!
February 21, 2005
St. Peter Damian
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 St. 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, 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 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.
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