St Peter Damian


St Peter Damian

St Peter was born around the year 1007 and orphaned when very young. He lived in poverty when a child but his extraordinary intellect was obvious and his brother, Damianus, who was an archpriest arranged that he should be educated. At this time, perhaps in recognition of a sense of adoption by his brother, he added his brother's name as a surname. He progressed quickly in his study of theology and canon law and by the age of 25 became a professor at Parma and Ravenna.

However, after he met two monks from the reform monastery founded by St Romuald, an order that became known as the Camaldolese, he abandoned the academic world and entered the hermitage of Fonte Avellana and became a monk. He got so into the practice of penance at the monastery that he had health problems but later was tasked to lecture his fellow monks, as well as those at other monasteries in the area.

He finally settled in Fonte Avellana and become what we would call today the Cellarer and later Prior of the house until his death in 1072. During his tenure in office he introduced the practice of self flagellation, which understandably was resisted by some of the monks in the hermitage. Still, the practice was finally accepted. Just before his return to Fonte Avellana, he wrote a biography of St Romuald.

St Peter was a strong advocate of many abuses in the Church and among the clergy during his lifetime and was a correspondent with several of the popes at the time. He was appointed a Cardinal-Archbishop of Ostia by Pope Stephan IX and it wasn't until the papacy Alexander II that he was dispensed from his duties and allowed to return to the life of a simple monk. As a monastic reformer he introduced the practice of a daily nap for his monks, to provide some relief from a loss of sleep from praying the night office, a man after my own heart. He also added many books to the monastic library.

In the Paradiso, Dante placed him in one of the highest circles of heaven and considered him a great forerunner of St Francis of Assisi. In 1823 he was declared a Doctor of the Church and is the patron of people who suffer from headaches.

“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.” St Peter Damian

 

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