Parish Picnic Celebration. As I write this on Wednesday, Hurricane Florence looms in the Atlantic, and I’m not sure what we’re going to do about the Celebration scheduled for today. I hope we can still have it, in some form at least, but if we can’t… In any case, fiat voluntas Dei—God’s will be done.
September 11, 2001. Let us pray for all those who died, on 9/11 and in the “War on Terror…” … Eternal rest grant unto them Oh Lord. And send Your holy angels to defend us and to protect all who risk their lives for our safety.
And let us pray also for the brave souls who continue to fight to protect us, and for the conversion of our enemies. And let us pray for our nation’s safety, and that, with the strength of Christ and tempered by His wisdom and mercy, we may defeat those who seek to harm us.
Humanae Vitae Conference. Last weekend’s conference on Humanae Vitae and its ramifications for the world, was a huge success, with over 150 attendees. Our speakers, Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Dr. Robert Royal and Bob and Gerri Laird did an excellent job in helping us understand the importance of the encyclical and the devasting effects contraception has had on our Church and our culture. Thanks to them, and to our staff and volunteers, especially Eva Radel, Tom Browne, and Liz Hildebrand, who made it all go so smoothly. And thanks be to God!
Some Happy News. I’m delighted to write that Brigitta Sanchez-O’Brien, daughter of parishioners, Patrick and Maria (and my goddaughter!), graduated as valedictorian of her class at John Paul the Great University last month. I’m sure you all join me in congratulating her and her family. Please keep her in your prayers as she begins graduate studies this month at Pepperdine University.
St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church. One of my favorite saints, is St. Peter Damian, a great and fiery advocate of clerical reform in the 11th century. I commend him to all of you as a heavenly patron in this time when reform of priests and bishops is so important.
Born in 1007, Peter was the youngest of a large noble, but poor, family. Left an orphan at an early age, he was adopted by an elder brother, who ill-treated and under-fed him while employing him as a swineherd. The child showed signs of great piety and of remarkable intellectual gifts, and eventually another brother, took him away to be educated. He made rapid progress in his studies, first at Ravenna, then at Faenza, finally at the University of Parma, and when about twenty-five years old he was already a famous teacher at Parma and Ravenna. But, he could not endure the scandals and distractions of university life and decided (about 1035) to retire from the world, entering the hermitage of Fonte-Avellana.
Both as novice and as professed religious his fervor in prayer and penance was remarkable. He continued his thorough study of Holy Scripture and was appointed to lecture to his fellow-monks. In 1043 he became prior of Fonte-Avellana, which he remained till his death.
Although living in the seclusion of the cloister, Peter Damian watched closely the fortunes of the Church, and like his friend Hildebrand (a key assistant to several Popes, who would become the future Pope Gregory VII), he strove for her purification in those deplorable times.
In 1045 when the reforming pope Gregory VI (John Gratian) was elected, Peter hailed the change with joy and wrote to the pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy. In 1047 and 1055 Peter attended and addressed synods at the Lateran and Florence at which decrees were passed condemning clerical unchastity and simony (the buying or selling of holy or spiritual things or church offices).
In 1051 Peter published his venerable and famous treatise on the vice of sodomy among the clergy of his time, the “Book of Gomorrah.” (Sodomy refers to homosexual acts and what we would call “homosexual lifestyles”). It begins: “Alas, it is shameful to speak of it! It is shameful to relate such a disgusting scandal to sacred ears! But if the doctor fears the virus of the plague, who will apply the cauterization? If he is nauseated by those whom he is to cure, who will lead sick souls back to the state of health?”
The book caused a great stir and aroused widespread enmity against Peter, and still does today. Although sometimes excessively harsh in rhetoric, it is also compassionate, especially to innocent victims and truly repentant sinners. It is filled with penetrating insights and lessons that would seem to apply aptly to the Church today.
In 1057 the abbot of Monte Cassino, was elected as Pope Stephen X, and was determined to create Peter a cardinal, so he could better assist the Pope in reforming the clergy. Peter resisted the offer, but was finally forced, under threat of excommunication, to accept, and was consecrated Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. The new cardinal was impressed with the great responsibilities of his office and wrote a stirring letter to his brother-cardinals, exhorting them to shine by their example before all.
In late 1059 Peter was sent as papal legate to Milan by Pope Nicholas II, where the clergy had been corrupted by widescale simony and unchastity. Things had gotten so bad, that benefices (church offices) were openly bought and sold and the clergy publicly “married” the women they lived with. But the faithful of Milan strove hard to remedy these evils. When Peter arrived, the irregular clerics raised the cry that Rome had no authority over Milan. At once Peter acted, boldly confronting the rioters in the cathedral, and proving to them the authority of the Holy See with such effect that all parties submitted to his decision. He exacted first a solemn oath from the archbishop and all his clergy that for the future no preferment should be paid for; then, imposing a penance on all who had been guilty, he re-instated in their benefices to all who under took to live chastely.
In July 1061, Pope Nicholas II died, and a schism ensued. Damian used all his powers to persuade the antipope Cadalous to withdraw his false claim to the papacy, but to no purpose. Finally a council at Augsburg, at which a long letter by St. Peter Damian was read, formally acknowledged Pope Alexander II as the true pope.
Over the next few years Peter was sent as papal legate to settle various disputes and establish reforms in Florence, Ravenna, France, and Germany.
Early in 1072 he was seized with fever near Faenza, and after a week’s illness he died. He was never formally canonized, but he was venerated as a saint from his death at Faenza, Fonte-Avellana, Monte Cassino, and Cluny. In 1823 Leo XII extended his feast (February 23) to the whole Church and pronounced him a Doctor of the Church, thus officially recognizing Peter’s status as a Saint of the Church. (Condensed largely from The Catholic Encyclopedia).
St. Peter Damian, pray for us.
Oremus pro Invicem. Fr. De Celles