Lives of the Saints

Our Models and Protectors

February 23
  February 21

Saint Peter Damian

Cardinal Bishop
(988-1072)

Saint Peter Damian
Saint Peter Damian

Saint Peter Damian, born in 988, lost both his parents at an early age. His eldest brother, to whose hands he was left, treated him so cruelly that another brother, a priest, moved by his piteous state, sent him to the University of Parma, where he acquired great distinction. His studies were sanctified by vigils, fasts, and prayers, until at last, thinking that all this was only serving God halfway, he resolved to leave the world. He joined the monks of Fonte Avellano, then in the greatest repute, and by his wisdom and sanctity rose to be Superior.

Saint Peter was called upon for the most delicate and difficult missions, among others the reform of ecclesiastical communities, which his zeal accomplished. Seven Popes in succession made him their constant adviser, and he was finally created Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. He withstood Henry IV of Germany, and labored in defense of Pope Alexander II against an antipope, whom he forced to yield and seek pardon. He was charged, as papal legate, with the repression of simony and correction of scandals; again, was commissioned to settle discords amongst various bishops; and finally, in 1072, to adjust the affairs of the Church at Ravenna. He had never paid attention to his health, which was at best fragile, and after enduring violent onslaughts of fever during the night, would rise to hear confessions, preach, or sing solemn Masses, always ready to sacrifice his well-being and life for the salvation of the souls entrusted to him.

After succeeding in this final mission as he ordinarily did, on his journey back to Ostia he was laid low by fever; he died at Faenza in a monastery of his Order, on the eighth day of his sickness, while the monks chanted Matins around him.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).