St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
The saint of the day for February 21 is St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, who was one of the Church’s greatest reformers in the Middle Ages.
Peter was the youngest child born to a large family in Ravenna, Italy in 1007. His parents both died when he was young and he was placed in the care of one of his brothers, who treated him poorly and under-fed him while employing him as a swineherd. Another brother, a priest in Ravenna, came to his rescue and sent him away to study. Peter was brilliant and excelled in his studies (theology and cannon law), later returning to Ravena as a professor. Unable to endure the scandals and distractions of university life, he joined a group of Benedictine monks living in northern Italy. There he became a prior at the young age of 36: a position he held unto his death. While at the hermitage, Peter performed austere penances to the extent that he developed near permanent insomnia and was forced to modify them.
Although living in the cloister, Peter kept close watch on the Church and worked for her purification. He wrote to the pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the Church in Italy. In 1051, Peter published his treatise on the vices of the clergy, “Liber Gomorrhianus”. He fought the scandalous behavior among the clergy of the time and upheld priestly celibacy. He was illustrious and brilliant, simple and outspoken in his denunciation of all heresies and evils and was a great reformer of the Church in troubled times. His personal example and many writings exercised great influence on religious life in the 11th and 12th centuries. One of his greatest works is the biography of Saint Romuald, the founder of his Order.
Pope Stephen IX named Peter a cardinal and Bishop of Ostia. He died in 1072 at the age of 65 and was immediately acclaimed as a saint. Pope Leo XII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1823.
St. Peter Damian is the patron of headache sufferers.
“Let us faithfully transmit to posterity the example of virtue which we have received from our forefathers.”
“Do not be depressed. Do not let your weakness make you impatient, Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face. Let the joy of your mind burst forth. Let words of thanks break from your lips.”
— Saint Peter Damian