On this day: St. Peter Damian

On this day the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Peter Damian, Cardinal-Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

Peter Damian was born at Ravenna in 1007. "He was the youngest of the family; his parents were noble, but poor. At his birth an elder brother protested against this new charge on the resources of the family with such effect that his mother refused to suckle him and the babe nearly died. A family retainer, however, fed the starving child and by her example and reproaches recalled his mother to her duty."

-- Catholic Encyclopedia.

His parents died, and "he was at first adopted by an elder brother, who ill-treated and under-fed him while employing him as a swineherd." But "another brother, who was archpriest at Ravenna, had pity on him and took him away to be educated. This brother was called Damian, and it is generally accepted that St. Peter added this name to his own in grateful recognition of his brother's kindness."

After finishing his studies, Peter Damian became a teacher at Parma and Ravenna. At the age of 25, impressed by two hermits of Fonte Avellana, he joined their monastery. In 1043, he became prior, a position he held until his death in 1072. He was a voluminous writer, and his writings were widely disseminated. He tried to reform the Church, with particular emphasis on simony and clerical marriage. He fulminated against Jews, philosophy, "womanizers", and homosexuals.

here for a 2009 Catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI on "Saint Peter Damian". The Pope touches on several aspects of the life and teachings of "one of the most significant figures of the 11th century". Without getting specific, Pope Benedict refers to "forms of austerity which to us today might even seem excessive".

St. Peter Damian imposed self-flagellation on the monks he ruled and emphasized its importance to monks in other monasteries. Click http://www.amazon.com/Letters-151-180-Fathers-Medieval-Continuation/dp/0813214254/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1298248226&sr=1-1#reader_0813214254> here for his letter to the monks of Monte Cassino, urging them to return to public flagellation while naked and denouncing a fellow cardinal who had commanded them to stop the practice. (Search term: Letter 161. See page 131.)

Click here for A History of Apologetics, by Cardinal Avery Dulles, Ignatius Press, 2005. (Search term: Peter Damian.) Dulles positions Damian on the continuum of antisemitism.

Click http://www.amazon.com/Book-Gomorrah-Eleventh-Century-Homosexual-Practices/dp/0889201234/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1298241913&sr=8-6> here for Book of Gomorrah: An Eleventh-Century Treatise against Clerical Homosexual Practices, by Peter Damian, translated by Pierre J. Payer, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1982. (Search term: Peter Damian.)

Click here for The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, by Mark D. Jordan, University of Chicago Press, 1998. (Search term: Peter Damian.)

"O great teacher, light of Holy Church, blessed Peter, lover of God’s law, pray for us to the Son of God."

--Magnificat Antiphon from Vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours for the feast of St. Peter Damian.

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