Saint Peter Damien

d. 1072

Saint Peter Damien, d. 1072

February 21

As a young adult, Peter Damien became a Benedictine monk. He lived a strict, self-sacrificing life spending his time in prayer and learning. He spent most of his life in and around Ravenna, Italy, a worldly seaport on the Adriatic Sea.

Peter Damien saw ordinary people and Church officials engaged in practices that violated Church principles. He lashed out in writings and speeches at corrupt practices, especially simony, buying and selling high Church official positions. He also defended celibacy at a time when many priests and bishops were married and had families. One of his best-known quotes is “Let us faithfully transmit to posterity the example of virtue which we have received from our forefathers.”

He preferred a secluded, monastic life, but Peter’s intelligence and gifts for diplomacy and organization made several Popes ask for his help. He was often called upon to mediate disputes between religious orders, government officials, and within the Church structure itself. Rival cities questioned the authority of Rome. Peter was sent as a papal legate to persuade them to acknowledge the Pope as the Church’s head.

A prolific writer, Peter Damien wrote about the Saints and important topics. He also wrote poetry. He was appointed Cardinal of Ostia in 1057. He continued to resolve disputes among clergy and keep the Church intact during a time of schism. In 1072, after preventing the excommunication of Ravenna’s citizens for rebelling against Church authority, Peter Damien died. Although never formally canonized, he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

Discuss: How can we respond in a helpful way when we see Church leaders violating Church principles?

Apostolic Succession
Verbal/Linguistic, Interpersonal

Remind the young people that apostolic succession means that what Jesus taught the Apostles has been handed down directly to us from the popes and bishops who have come after them.

  • Ask: Do you think it has been easy to keep the apostolic succession going over all these years?
  • Discuss: What could happen over many years as people pass on teachings from one generation to the next?
  • Explain that the only way we still have the true teaching of Jesus to his Apostles is due to the careful work of many Church leaders. One of those leaders was Saint Peter Damien.