St. Peter Damian

St. Peter Damian is one of the thirty (at time of writing) Doctors of the Church. He was a major reformer against the scandals of the church in his day, and was an influence on Dante Alighieri and St. Francis of Assisi


Lifetime: 988 to 1072
Region: Northern Italy
Patronages: Faenza and Font-Avellano, Italy; Insomniacs
Iconograpy: Quill and book; Knotted rope; Grey robes
Feast Day: February 21

Peter was the last born to a large noble family who was, despite their titles, rather poor. He became an orphan at a young age, and was adopted by an older brother. Unfortunately, this brother didn't seem to take in young Peter out of the kindness of his heart; Peter was treated like a slave, underfed and forced to care for the brother's pigs.

One of Peter's other brothers, who was a priest, eventually took pity on Peter and gave him money to go to school. This brother's name was Damian, and Peter was so moved by his sibling's kindness that he added the brother's name to his own, hence Peter Damian.

Peter was an excellent student, and such a great and dedicated learner of theology and canon law that he travelled from school to school, absorbing all they had to teach him before moving onto the next. By the age of only 25, Peter had become a well-known teacher at several of the universities where he had studied.

As a professor, Peter would often cook dinners, inviting his students and poor people in the community to join him. He knew what hunger felt like, and used his newfound fame and wealth to help others out of that same fate.

Soon, however, Peter found that secular life was not his calling. He became a priest, and then a monk at a Benedictine monastery. As a monk, Peter was known for fasting, extreme penance, and long hours of prayer. Though he loved solitude, Peter was asked to lecture to his fellow monks. Eventually he was even asked to lead the monastery as its abbot. He was such a successful leader and drew in so many new monks that he established five new monasteries during his tenure.

Eventually Peter was appointed Bishop of his diocese, despite his protestation (the Pope had to threaten to excommunicate Peter before he agreed!). Peter would influence priests, bishops, and popes, and even kings and emperors. One of Peter's closest friends even went on to become Pope himself.

Throughout his life, Peter was a prolific writer, and his many poems, biographies (especially of saints), sermons, and letters helped to combat the sins plaguing the church in his day, including the rise of an antipope.

O holy Virgin,
Mother of God,
help those who implore your assistance.
Turn toward us.
Have you perhaps forgotten us
because you have been elevated
to a position close to God?
No, certainly not.

You know well in what danger you left us.
You know the miserable condition of your servants.
No, it would not benefit such great mercy
as yours to forget such great misery as ours.

Turn toward us, then,
with your power,
for He who is powerful
has made you omnipotent in heaven and on earth.

For you, nothing is impossible.
You can raise even those who are in despair
to a hope of salvation.
There more powerful you are,
the greater should be your mercy.

Turn also to us in your love.
I know.
O Mary, that you are all kindness
and that you love us with a love
that no other love can surpass.
How often you appease the wrath of our Divine Judge,
when He is on the point of punishing us!

All the treasures of the mercy of God
are in your hands.
You will never cease to benefit us, I know,
for you are only seeking an opportunity
to save all sinners
and to shower your mercies upon them.
Your glory is increased when,
through you,
penitents are forgiven and reach heaven.

Turn , then, toward us,
so that we may also be able to go
and see you in heaven.
For the greatest glory that we can have,
after seeing God,
will be to see you,
to love you,
and to be under your protection.
So be pleased to grant our prayer;
for your beloved Son wishes to honour you
by refusing nothing that you ask.

- Marian Prayer of St. Peter Damian

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