SAINTS

DEC. 21: ST. PETER CANISIUS

(1521-1597)

Peter Kanijs was born in 1521 in the Dutch village of Nijmegen. At that time, it was in the German territory of duchy of Gelderland.

He entered the Society of Jesus in 1543. He participated in the Council of Trent in 1547 and in 1562, expressly called by the bishop of Augsburg, Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg. It was at this time that Peter Kanijs began to use the Latin form of his name, “Canisius.”

In the spirit of the Catholic Reform promoted by the Council of Trent, his main mission was to reawaken the spiritual roots of the individual faithful and of the body of the church as a whole. So, after spending a brief time in Rome and Messina, he was sent to the Duchy of Bavaria, where he worked as dean, rector and vice-chancellor of the University of Ingoldstadt.

Then he went to Vienna, where he was administrator of the diocese and a very popular preacher in the Cathedral of St Stephen. He was also active in pastoral ministry in hospitals and prisons. In 1556 he was appointed first Provincial Father of the Province of Upper Germany. There he created a network of Jesuit communities and colleges, always supporting the spirit of support of the Catholic reform. He also participated in important negotiations as an official representative of the church.

His personal interactions and writings influenced the rich and powerful as well as the masses. Chief among his many written works were the three catechisms he composed between 1555 and 1558. The first was meant for students to help them understand basic notions of theology; the second for the children of working-class people to provide them with a primary religious education; the third for young people with a middle and high school education.

He presented Catholic doctrine using a question-and-answer method, clearly, succinctly, and in a biblical fashion. Two hundred editions of this catechism were published in his lifetime alone. This alone could have been enough to be recognized as a doctor of the church.

In his declining years he founded the Sankt Michael College in Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1580. The College was later transferred to Feldkirch and finally to St. Blasien in the Black Forest. When he died, on Dec. 21st, 1597, St Peter Canisius was buried in the university church of Sankt Michael Fribourg.

Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: St. Peter Canisius – Information on the – Vatican News. (n.d.). Vatican News. Retrieved Dec. 14, 2020, from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/12/21/st–peter-canisius–jesuit–and-doctor-of-the-church.html