Holy Virgin, Mother of God, succour those who implore thy aid. O turn towards us. Hast thou, perhaps, forgotten men, because thou hast been raised to so close a union with God? Ah no, most certainly. Thou knowest well in what danger thou didst leave us, and the wretehed condition of thy servants; ah no, it would not become so great a mercy as thine to forget such great misery as ours is. Turn towards us then with thy power; for He who is powerful has made thee omnipotent in heaven and on earth. Nothing is impossible to thee, for thou canst raise even those who are in despair to the hope of salvation. The more powerful thou art, the greater should be thy mercy.
Turn also to us in thy love. I know, O my Lady, that thou art all benign, and that thou lovest us with a love that can be surpassed by no other love. How often dost thou not appease the wrath of our Judge, when he is on the point of chastising us! All the treasures of the mercies of God are in thy hands. Ah never cease to benefit us; thou only seekest occasion to save all the wretched, and to shower thy mercies upon them; for thy glory is increased when, by thy means, penitents are forgiven, and thus reach heaven. Turn then towards us, that we also may be able to go and see thee in heaven; for the greatest glory we can have will be, after seeing God, to see thee, to love thee, and be under thy protection. Be pleased then to grant our prayer; for thy beloved Son desires to honour thee, by denying thee nothing that thou askest. Amen.
St. Peter Damian, Cardinal and Bishop
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
In the latter part of the tenth century was born, at Ravenna, in Italy, St. Peter Damian. Left an orphan at an early age, his elder brother took him into his house, where he was treated, not like one so nearly related, but as the lowest servant. The poor boy had neither enough to eat nor decent clothes to wear, and at last he was compelled by his brother to attend to the swine. He, however, complained to no one of treatment so heartless, but obeyed his brother in all things. When in the fields, he occupied most of his time in praying.Practical Considerations
One day he found a piece of money, without knowing to whom it belonged. He had a strong desire to buy with it something to eat, or better clothes, but he overcame these wishes, and, instead of so doing, he had a Mass said for his departed parents. This pious deed was soon richly rewarded, for when another brother, who had been long away from Ravenna, returned and saw how cruelly Peter was treated, he took pity on him, gave him food and clothes, and sent him to a school, that he might not grow up ignorant. The unusual talent with which nature had endowed him, his untiring diligence, combined with true piety, made Peter progress so rapidly in all his studies that from a pupil he soon rose to be an excellent teacher, and made himself honored and respected by every one. This, by degrees, influenced his mind in such a manner that he began to be less fervent in his devotional exercises.
One day, however, by Divine inspiration, came the thought: "What does it avail in the end to be loved, honored, and praised by man? Does it bring true happiness? Why do you not think more earnestly on your salvation? Will you defer it to future years? Who knows whether you will live so long that you can make up for what you now neglect? Human life is short and uncertain. Is it not better, without delay, to begin what we ought to do?" Actuated by these wholesome thoughts, Peter resolved earnestly to turn his mind from earth to heaven. He therefore devoted himself to prayers and mortifications, in the hope that God would inspire him in what way to direct his life. Providence so ordered it, that two hermits from the Hermitage of the Holy Cross, at Font-Avellana, came to the city. Peter, having become acquainted with them, inquired into their mode of living, and was soon filled with the ardent wish to follow their example. As, however, their manner of life was extremely austere, he first tried himself in all those exercises which seemed to him hard to execute, such as fasting, watching, long prayers, retirement from all society, and the like; after which he repaired secretly to the hermitage, and was unhesitatingly received by the Superior. The zeal with which Peter commenced and continued his new life! was very great, and he became, in a short time, a perfect model of spiritual perfection, while, at the same time, he acquired almost more than human wisdom.
On account of his great endowments, his superior appointed him to guide the religious, by his advice and exhortations, in the path of sanctity. In this he evinced so much ability that his fame soon spread to other monasteries, whose religious humbly begged that this preacher might be sent to them, that they also might have the benefit of his instructions. This request was granted, and Peter continually travelled from one monastery to another, preaching and exhorting the religious to strive after holiness. In the course of time he was chosen Abbot, or Superior, which office he filled with great benefit to those in his charge, as well as to their great satisfaction. It also pleased Almighty God further to glorify His faithful servant by the gift of miracles. The fame of these, and still more of his heavenly wisdom, reached Rome; and Stephen IX., then Pope, sent for him, and, after sufficient proofs of his virtue and wisdom, made him Cardinal and Bishop of Ostia. Nothing but obedience could prevail on the humble servant of God to leave his monastery, and it would be no easy task to relate the works of this holy man, not only in Rome, but in other cities to which he was sent on affairs of importance, for the benefit of the Church and the salvation of souls.
One day, several years after his nomination as Cardinal, having happily concluded some business upon which the Pope had sent him to Milan and Parma, he was permitted to ask a favor as a recompense for the many great services he had rendered to the Pontiff. The Saint requested to be allowed to return to the desert, and quietly to employ the remainder of his life in preparing himself for the next world. It cost him, however, many prayers and tears before the permission could be obtained. As soon as he had received it, he went back to the desert, not to live there as a great Prelate, but in the same manner as the other hermits. He was even much more exact in keeping the rules, much more austere in fasting, praying, and watching, than the others. It was observed that often, for forty days, he partook of no prepared food, all his sustenance at such times consisting of some herbs and water. While he was indulging in the hope of continuing so peaceful a life, he received a sudden order from the Pope to undertake a journey upon some affairs of the Church. He obeyed the order, but, as he was returning to his beloved hermitage, having happily concluded the business on which he had been sent, he fell sick on the route near Faenza. He, however, reached the city, and, having been brought to the Convent of St. Mary, he received the holy Sacraments, and died on the feast of the See of St. Peter, for whose honor and advancement he had so zealously labored. His death took place in the year 1072, and the 84th of his age. The works that he left for the benefit of posterity contain the most wholesome advice, and are, to our day, proofs of the greatness of his virtue and learning.
"Why do you not think more earnestly on working out your salvation?" It was thus that God asked St. Peter Damian, by inspiration, when he became neglectful in the exercise of virtue. Put the same question to yourself. What will be your answer? You pay so much attention to other business: why so little to the business of your salvation? It is by far the most important, as everything depends upon it. If it be well done, eternal happiness will be your portion; if not, you will be lost for all eternity. It is your own affair; the benefit is yours if you do it well; the loss is also yours, and yours alone, if you neglect to do it. It is the only object for which you were placed upon this earth, for you were not created to be rich, happy, or honored, but that you should serve God and eventually go to heaven.
Attend, therefore, in future, as Peter did, more carefully to this work than to any other. "Thou art careful and art troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary" (St. Luke, x.). Thus spoke Christ our Lord to the much concerned Martha. Cannot the same be just as truthfully said of you? You are occupied with many affairs, and you think of them day and night. But there is one care that should employ your time most, namely, the care for your salvation. St. Paul writes of this: "But we entreat you, brethren, that you abound more, and that you use your endeavor to be quiet, and that you do your own business " (I. Thess. iv.). Heed it well. "Your business." The business of salvation is your business, and the only one for which you are in the world. Let it concern you before all others, and more than all others. "The greatest care," says St. Eucherius, "should be the care for our salvation, as it is our greatest and most important business." "Life is short and uncertain:" thus we are admonished by the Holy Ghost. Yes, it is surely so. Life is short; it flies quickly; sometimes lasts only a few years; and even if it continued thousands of years, it would still be considered short in comparison with eternity, because all that ends in the course of time must in truth be regarded as short. Life is short. It is also uncertain, because you know not how long it will last. You count, perhaps, on many years, and who knows if you have even many more days to live?
In the course of this year, in this month, on this very day, your life may end. What follows from this? Do as St. Peter did: be solicitous for your salvation. Employ well the short and uncertain time. What you think necessary for your salvation defer not to a future, uncertain time. The hope of having plenty of time to work out their salvation has deceived many, to their eternal ruin. Keep watch that you do not deceive yourself by such a doubtful, dangerous hope. Life is short and uncertain. "Man knoweth not his own end: but as fishes are taken with the hook, and birds are caught by the snare, so men are taken in the evil time, when it shall suddenly come upon them." Thus speaks Holy Writ. Again, what have we to deduce from this? Nothing, but what is further said: "Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly; for neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom, nor knowledge, shall be in the grave, whither thou art hastening" (Eccl. ix.). This plainly declares that when you are dead you can no longer work out your own salvation. Therefore, set to work now, without loss of time, without delay, without hesitation, as it is unknown to you when your end will come. Take this admonition of God to your inmost heart. Add to it the words of St. Paul: "Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good" (Gal. vii.). Why? "Time is short," says the same holy Apostle. And when you have trifled away this time, you cannot, in all eternity, repair the loss; as time, once gone, is irrecoverable. "If the time which Divine goodness has bestowed upon us to do penance and work out our salvation is once lost," says St. Bonaventure, "it cannot be recalled in all eternity."
St. Peter Damian, Bishop,
Confessor and Doctor of the Church
by Father Prosper Gueranger, 1870
It is the Feast of the austere reformer of the 11th century, Peter Damian, the precursor of the holy Pontiff Gregory the Seventh, that we are called upon to celebrate today. To him is due a share of that glorious regeneration, which was effected at that troubled period when judgment had to begin at the House of God. The life he had led under the Monastic Rule had fitted him for the great contest. So zealously did he withstand the disorders and abuses of his times, that we may attribute to him, at least in great measure, the ardent faith of the two centuries which followed the scandals of the 10th. The Church ranks him among her Doctors, on account of his admirable Writings; and his penitential life ought to excite us to be fervent in the work we have in hand,--the work of our Conversion.Prayer to St. Peter Damian
The following Lessons, read by the Church, on this Feast, give us a sketch of our Saint's Life.
Peter was born at Ravenna, of respectable parents. His mother, wearied with the care of a large family, abandoned him when a babe; but one of her female servants found him in an almost dying state, and took care of him, until such time as the mother, repenting of her unnatural conduct, consented to treat him as her child. After the death of his parents, one of his brothers, a most harsh man, took him as a servant, or more truly as his slave. It was about this period of his life that he performed an action, which evinced his virtue and his filial piety. He happened to find a large sum of money; but instead of using it for his own wants, he gave it to a priest, begging him to offer up the Holy Sacrifice for the repose of his father's soul. Another of his brothers, called Damian (after whom, it is said, he was named), had him educated; and so rapid and so great was the progress he made in his studies, that he was the admiration of his masters. He became such a proficient in the liberal sciences, that he was made to teach them in the public schools, which he did with great success. During all this time, it was his study to bring his body into subjection to the spirit; and to this end, he wore a hair-shirt under an outwardly comfortable dress, and practised frequent fasting, watching, and prayer. Being in the very ardour of youth, and being cruelly buffeted by the sting of the flesh, he, during the night, would go and plunge himself into a frozen pool of water, that he might quench the impure fiame which tormented him; or, he would make pilgrimages to holy sanctuaries, aud recite the entire Psaltery. His charities to the poor were unceasing, and when he provided them with a meal, which was frequently, he would wait upon them himself.
Out of a desire to lead a still more perfect life, he became a religious in the Monastery of Avellino, in the diocese of Gubbio, of the Order of the Monks of Holy Cross of Fontavellana, which was founded by the blessed Ludolphus, a disciple of St. Romuald. Being sent by his Abbot, not very long after, first to the Monastery of Pomposia, and then to that of Saint Vincent of Pietra-Pertusa, he edified both Houses by his preaching, admirable teaching, and holy life. At the death of the Abbot of Avellino, he was recalled to that Monastery, and was made its superior. The institute was so benefited by his government, not only by the new Monasteries which he founded in several places, but also by the very saintly regulations he drew up, that he was justly looked upon as the second Founder of the Order, and its brightest ornament. Houses of other Orders, Canons, yea entire congregations of the Faithful, were benefited by Peter's enlightened zeal. He was a benefactor, in more ways than one, to the diocese of Urbino: he aided the Bishop Theuzo in a most important suit, and assisted him, both by advice and work, in the right administration of his diocese. His spirit of holy contemplation, his corporal austerities, and the saintly tenor of his whole conduct, gained for him so high a reputation, that Pope Stephen the Ninth, in spite of Peter's extreme reluctance, created him Cardinal of the holy Roman Church and Bishop of Ostia. The saint proved himself worthy of these honours by the exercise of the most eminent virtues, and by the faithful discharge of his Episcopal office.
It would be impossible to describe the services he rendered to the Church and the Sovereign Pontiffs, during those most trying times, by his learning, his prudence as Legate. and his untiring zeal. His life was one continued struggle against simony, and the heresy of the Nicolaites. He purged the Church of Milan of these disorders, and brought her into subjection to the Holy See. He courageously resisted the anti-popes Benedict and Cadolaus. He deterred Henry 4th, king of Germany, from an unjust divorce of his wife. He restored the people of Ravenna to their allegiance to the Roman Pontiif, and absolved them from interdict. He reformed the abuses which had crept in among the Canons of Velletri. There was scarcely a single Cathedral Church in the Province of Urbino that had not experienced the beneficial effects of Peter's holy zeal: thus, that of Gubbio, which was for some time under his care, was relieved by him of many evils; and other Churches, that needed his help, found him as earnest for their welfare as though he were their own Bishop. When he obtained permission to resign his dignity as Cardinal and his Bishopric, he relented nothing of his former charity, but was equally ready in doing good to all.
He was instrumental in propagating many devout practices; among these may be mentioned, fasting on Fridays in honour of the Holy Cross: the reciting the Little Office of our Lady; the keeping the Saturday as a day especially devoted to Mary; the taking the discipline in expiation of past sins. At length, after a life which had edified the world by holiness, learning, miracles, and glorious works,--on his return from Ravenna, whither he had been sent as Legate, he slept in Christ, on the eighth of the Calends of March (February 23rd), at Faenza. His relics, which are kept in the Cistercian Church of that town, are devoutly honoured by the Faithful, and many miracles are wrought at the holy shrine. The inhabitants of Faenza have chosen him as the Patron of their City, having several times experienced his protection when threatened by danger. His Mass and Office, which were kept under the rite of Confessor and Bishop, had been long observed in several Dioceses, and by the Camaldolese Order; but they were extended to the whole Church by a decree of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, which was approved by Pope Leo the Twelfth, who also added to the name of the Saint that of Doctor.
Thy soul was inflamed by the zeal of God's House, O Peter! God gave thee to his Church in those sad times when the wickedness of the world had robbed her of well nigh all her beauty. Thou hadst the spirit of an Elias within thee, and it gave thee courage to waken the servants of the Lord: they had slept, and while they were asleep, the enemy came, and the field was oversown with tares. Then did better days dawn for the Spouse of Christ; the promises made her by our Lord were fulfilled; but who was the Friend of the Bridegroom? who was the chief instrument used by God to bring back to his House its ancient beauty? A Saint who bore the glorious name of Peter Damian!--In those days, the Sanctuary was degraded by secular interference. The Princes of the earth said: Let us possess the Sanctuary of God for an inheritance.(Ps. lxxxii. 13.) The Church, which God intended to be Free, was but a slave, in the power of the rulers of this world; and the vices, which are inherent to human weakness, defiled the Temple.
But God had pity on the Spouse of Christ, and for her deliverance he would use human agency: he chose thee, Peter, as his principal cooperator in restoring order. Thy example and thy labours prepared the way for Gregory, the faithful and dauntless Hildebrand, into whose hands the Keys once placed, and the work of regeneration was completed. Thou hast fought the good fight; thou art now in thy rest; but thy love of the Church, and thy power to help, are greater than ever. Watch, then, over her interests. Obtain for her Pastors that Apostolic energy and courage, which alone can cope with enemies so determined as hers are. Obtain for her Priests the holiness which God demands from them that are the salt of the earth.(St. Matth. v. 13) Obtain for the Faithful the respect and obedience they owe to those who direct them in the path of salvation. Thou wast not only the Apostle, thou wast moreover the model, of penance in the midst of a corrupt age; pray for us, that we may be eager to atone for our sins by works of mortification. Excite within our souls the remembrance of the sufferings of our Redeemer, that so his Passion may urge us to repentance and hope. Increase our confidence in Mary, the Refuge of Sinners, and make us, like thyself, full of filial affection towards her, and of zeal that she may be honoured and loved by those who are around us.
Words of Wisdom from St. Peter Damian
Peter Damian attests: "that by the prayers of Mary, who stood between the cross of the good thief and that of her Son, the thief was converted and saved, and thereby she repaid a former service." For, as other authors also relate, this thief had been kind to Jesus and Mary on their journey to Egypt; and this same office the Blessed Virgin has ever continued, and still continues, to perform.From The Glories of Mary
And here we say, that although Mary, now in heaven, can no longer command her Son, nevertheless her prayers are always the prayers of a Mother, and, consequently, most powerful to obtain whatever she asks. And therefore, says Saint Peter Damian, "the Blessed Virgin can do whatever she pleases both in heaven and on earth. She is able to raise even those who are in despair to confidence; and he addresses her in these words: "All power is given to thee in heaven and on earth, and nothing is impossible to thee, who canst raise those who are in despair to the hope of salvation." And then he adds, that "when the Mother goes to seek a favour for us from Jesus Christ," (whom the Saint calls the golden altar of mercy, at which sinners obtain pardon), "her Son esteems her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy her, that when she prays it seems as if she rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a Queen than a handmaid. Jesus is pleased thus to honour His beloved Mother, who honoured Him so much during her life, by immediately granting all that she asks or desires."
And thus Saint Peter Damian, reflecting on the great power of Mary, and begging her to take compassion on us, addresses her, saying: "O, let thy nature move thee, let thy power move thee; for the more thou art powerful, the greater should thy mercy be." O Mary, our own beloved advocate, since thou hast so compassionate a heart, that thou canst not even see the wretehed without being moved to pity; and since, at the same time, thou hast so great power with God that thou canst save all whom thou dost protect; disdain not to undertake the cause of us poor miserable creatures who place all our hope in thee. If our prayers cannot move thee, at least let thine own benign heart do so; or, at least, let thy power do so, since God has enriched thee with such great power, in order that the richer thou art in power to help us, the more merciful thou mayest be in the will to assist us.
by St. Alphonsus De Liguori
"Continue, O fool, says St. Peter Damian (speaking to the unchaste), continue to gratify the flesh; for the day will come in which thy impurities will become as pitch in thy entrails, to increase and aggravate the torments of the flame which will burn thee in Hell. The day will come, yea rather the night, when thy lust shall be turned into pitch, to feed in thy bowels the everlasting fire."
Prayer to the Holy Confessors
Glorious St. Peter Damian and ye, ye happy confessors, I rejoice with you, now that I behold you in heaven, where you are loving your God with a love that fully contents your hearts, which hearts so much desired to love Him upon earth. But since, in heaven, the desire of seeing God loved has strengthened with your own love of Him, assist, O great saints! this miserable soul of mine, that desires to burn, like yourselves, with holy love for that Infinite Goodness that deserves the love of an infinity of hearts. Ask of Jesus that He would inspire me with the resolution of consecrating my whole will, once for all, to Him, and of studying in everything that only which is most pleasing in His sight, and which may best promote His glory. Amen.Prayer to Obtain Purity of the Body
My adorable Savior, in expiation of our sins, and specially those of impurity, Thou didst vouchsafe to have Thy most pure Flesh torn in pieces. Ah! my Lord, smitten with the scourge, I return Thee thanks for such great love, and I grieve that I am myself, by reason of my sins, one of those who scourge Thee. O my Jesus! I detest all those wicked pleasures which have cost Thee so much pain. Oh, how many years ought I not already to have been in the flames of hell! And why hast Thou so patiently awaited me till now? Thou hast borne with me in order that at length, overcome by so many wiles of love, I might give myself up to love Thee, abandoning sin. O my beloved Redeemer! I will offer no further resistance to Thy loving affection; I desire to love Thee henceforth to the uttermost of my power. But Thou already knowest my weakness; Thou knowest how often I have betrayed Thee. Do Thou detach me from all earthly affections which hinder me from being all Thine own. Remind me frequently of the love which Thou hast borne me, and of the obligation I am under of loving Thee. InThee I place all my hopes, my God, my Love, my All.
Condemnation of the Sin of Sodomy
from Liber Gomorrhianus
by St. Peter Damian
The vice of sodomy "surpasses the enormity of all others," because: "Without fail, it brings death to the body and destruction to the soul. It pollutes the flesh, extinguishes the light of the mind, expels the Holy Spirit from the temple of the human heart, and gives entrance to the devil, the stimulator of lust: It leads to error, totally removes truth from the deluded mind . . . It opens up Hell and closes the gates of Paradise . . . It is this vice that violates temperance, slays modesty, strangles chastity, and slaughters virginity . . . It defiles all things, sullies all things, pollutes all things . . .Regarding this vice among clerics
"This vice excludes a man from the assembled choir of the Church . . . it separates the soul from God to associate it with demons: This utterly diseased queen of Sodom renders him who obeys the laws of her tyranny infamous to men and odious to God . . . She strips her knights of the armor of virtue, exposing them to be pierced by the spears of every vice. . .
She humiliates her slave in the church and condemns him in court; she defiles him in secret and dishonors him in public; she gnaws at his conscience like a worm and consumes his flesh like fire . . . this unfortunate man [he] is deprived of all moral sense, his memory fails, and the mind's vision is darkened.
Unmindful of God, he also forgets his own identity. This disease erodes the foundation of faith, saps the vitality of hope, dissolves the bond of love. It makes way with justice, demolishes fortitude, removes temperance, and blunts the edge of prudence.
"For God's sake, why do you damnable sodomites pursue the heights of ecclesiastical dignity with such fiery ambition?" . . . . "lest by your prayers you more sharply provoke Him Whom your wicked life so obviously offends."