St. Peter Damien

Friends in Christ,
Today is the feast of St. Peter Damien.  He was born in the year 988 in Ravenna.  Losing his father and mother when quite young,  he was left in the hands of an older brother,  who treated him like a slave, actually more like an animal.

Working in terrible conditions with little relief, he suddenly had the good fortune to receive a large amount of money from someone; did he use it to escape his sad situation? no. He gave it to offer many Masses for his deceased father.   

But he had another brother who took pity on him, and sent him off to school to become educated.  Soon he was a professor, teaching others and quite successful.  But Peter continued to live a life close to the Lord, and he decided to abandon the success he had in the world. He became a hermit, and in fact, a man of great penances.  His fastings and penances have become legendary. Sometimes he would force himself to stay awake all night and pray, but in doing so, he brought on a problem of insomnia which took a lot to overcome. He learned from this the need for moderation in penance.  

Because of his holiness, his superiors would send him to their various monasteries to teach the monks. Soon, bishops and numerous Popes were calling on Peter Damien to reform many aspects of the Church, which he did.   

In 1057, really against his will, the Pope insisted that he become a Bishop.  Peter Damien continued to pound away at the need for morality and discipline, and he defended priestly celibacy when lax clerics questioned it.  He never asked others however, to do a penance he was not already doing!  

He was one of the great reformers of the Middle Ages. His style was powerful and blunt. In fact, he once severely rebuked the Bishop of Florence for wasting time in playing a game of chess. Immediately the Bishop admitted his sin of sloth!  

St. Peter Damien, though a powerhouse against sin and laxness, was in the confessional a very gentle, kind, and understanding confessor.  He also taught something in theology which is most astounding: He taught that for God, it is possible for him to erase an event from history.  He can cause something, after the fact, to not have happened.  This is very interesting when we think of our sins!  

Peter Damien often gave advice, and once he wrote this to his nephew: “Be sure to drive out the beasts from your heart; protect yourself daily by receiving the Flesh and Blood of the Lord. Let the foe see your lips reddened with the Blood of Christ.”  

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