Peter Damian

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Feast Day: February 21
Canonized: 1823

Peter was born in Italy in 1007. When his parents died, he went to live with one of his older brothers, who treated him cruelly. Sometimes Peter was forbidden to eat any of his brother’s food. Another brother helped solve the problem by giving Peter money so that he could afford to go away to school.

Peter did so well in school that he became a professor when he was only 25. After the school day was finished, Peter often invited students and poor people to his home for dinners that he served himself. He remembered what it felt like to be hungry.

Peter became a priest and then a Benedictine monk. He spent his days in prayer and study. After a short time, Peter was elected abbot, or superior, of the community. Although this new responsibility took Peter away from his quiet life, he was an excellent leader. So many men were attracted to religious life because of his example that he established five new monasteries.

Peter was ordained the bishop of Ostia, a diocese near Rome. As bishop, Peter worked to solve problems in his diocese and to remind his priests of their mission.

Pope Stephen X recognized Peter’s gifts and asked him to represent the Church in settling disputes and helping to stop practices that were preventing the Church from doing Christ’s work in the world. Peter was so skilled as a peacemaker and reformer that he advised seven popes and traveled to many places representing the Holy Father. He worked with priests, bishops, kings and emperors—all to serve Jesus.

As a monk, a bishop, and a saint, Peter Damian lived one of the Benedictine Rules completely: “Do not prefer anything to the love of Christ.” He died in 1072, and is considered to be a Doctor of the Church. St. Peter Damian helps us to remember that if we put Jesus first in our lives, the Lord will always guide us in living as his faithful disciples.

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