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Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Life of St. Peter Damian (Or Damiani)


The Life of St. Peter Damian (Or Damiani)

Doctor of the Church, Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, b. at Ravenna "five years after the death of the Emperor Otto III," 1007; d. at Faenza, 21 Feb., 1072.
St. Peter Damian (or Damiani)

He was the youngest of a large 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 example and reproaches recalled his mother to her duty.   Left an orphan in early years, he was at first 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 after some years of this servitude 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 was generally accepted that St. Peter added this name to his own in grateful recognition of his brother's kindness.  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 was already a famous teacher at Parma and Ravenna.  But, though even then much given to fasting and to other mortifications, he could not endure the scandals and distractions of university life and decided (about 1035) to retire from the world.  While meditating on his resolution he encountered two hermits of Fonte-Avellana, was charmed with their spirituality and detachment, and desired to join them. Encouraged by them Peter, after a forty days' retreat in a small cell, left his friends secretly and made his way to the hermitage of Fonte-Avellana. Here he was received, and, to his surprise, clothed at once with the monastic habit.
Both as novice and as professed religious his fervour was remarkable and led him to such extremes of penance that, for a time, his health was affected.  He occupied his convalescence with a thorough study of Holy Scripture and, on his recovery, was appointed to lecture to his fellow-monks.  At the request of Guy of Pomposa and other heads of neighbouring monasteries, for two or three years he lectured to their subjects also, and (about 1042) wrote the life of St. Romuald for the monks of Pietrapertosa.  Soon after his return to Fonte-Avellana he was appointed economus of the house by the prior, who also pointed him out as his successor.  This, in fact, he became in 1043, and he remained prior of Fonte-Avellana till his death. His priorate was characterized by a wise moderation of the rule, as well as by the foundation of subject-hermitages at San Severino, Gamugno, Acerata, Murciana, San Salvatore, Sitria, and Ocri.  It was remarkable, too, for the introduction of the regular use of the discipline, a penitential exercise which he induced the great abbey of Monte Cassino to imitate. There was much opposition outside his own circle to this practice, but Peter's persistent advocacy ensured its acceptance to such an extent that he was obliged later to moderate the imprudent zeal of some of his own hermits.  Another innovation was that of the daily siesta, to make up for the fatigue of the night office.  During his tenure of the priorate a cloister was built, silver chalices and a silver processional cross were purchased, and many books added to the library. (See Fonte-Avellana.)

Although living in the seclusion of the cloister, Peter Damian watched closely the fortunes of the Church, and like his friend Hildebrand, the future Gregory VII, he strove for her purification in those deplorable times. In 1045 when Benedict IX resigned the supreme pontificate into the hands of the archpriest John Gratian (Gregory VI), Peter hailed the change with joy and wrote to the pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy, especially with the evil bishops of Pesaro, of Città di Castello, and of Fano (see BENEDICT IX; GREGORY VI.)  He was present in Rome when Clement II crowned Henry III and his wife Agnes, and he also attended a synod held at the Lateran in the first days of 1047, in which decrees were passed against simony.  After this he returned to his hermitage (see CLEMENT II; DAMASUS II).  Pope St. Leo IX was solemnly enthroned at Rome, 12 Feb., 1049, to succeed Damasus II, and about two years later Peter published his terrible treatise on the vices of the clergy, the "Liber Gomorrhianus", dedicating it to the pope.  It caused a great stir and aroused not a little enmity against its author.  Even the pope, who had at first praised the work, was persuaded that it was exaggerated and his coldness drew from Damian a vigorous letter of protest.  Meanwhile the question arose as to the validity of the ordinations of simoniacal clerics. The prior of Fonte-Avellana was appealed to an wrote (about 1053) a treatise, the "Liber Gratissimus", in favour of their validity, a work which, though much combatted at the time, was potent in deciding the question in their favour before the end of the twelfth century.  In June, 1055, during the pontificate of Victor II, Damian attended a synod held at Florence, where simony and clerical incontinence were once more condemned.  About two years later he fell ill at Fonte-Avellana and nearly died, but suddenly, after seven weeks of pain, recovered, as he believed, through a miracle…
Taken from an excerpt from Catholic Encyclopedia.
For the Continuing and fascinating story  of St. Peter Damian, please go to--           http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11764a.htm

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