Today’s saint is another example of how someone born with seemingly everything against him can rise to be a person of importance.
In the case of Peter Damian, he became a prince and doctor of the church.
Born the seventh child in a family of the city of Ravenna, Damian’s mother rejected the baby refusing to nurse him. A kindly friend of the mother and admonished the overwrought woman until she relented in breastfeeding the child.
Peter’s mother, however, was not long for the world and Peter was passed into the care of a sister then older brother, who was abusive and forced the boy to do menial tasks. Finally, his eldest brother, Damiano, an Archpriest near Ravenna took Peter under his wing to raise and educate him. As a sign of gratitude, Peter added the name Damian to his own.
Growing up, Peter Damian developed a sensibility for what was right and proper. For example, finding a coin one day, he briefly considered buying something for himself. Realizing that anything he bought would give him only momentary joy, so he decided to take the money to a priest and have a Mass said for his deceased parents.
In another instance he found himself sharing food with a blind man. Taking advantage of the situation, Peter Damian chose the best for himself. He was so guilt stricken by his selfishness that he felt as if he had a bone stuck in his throat. When he switched his portion with that of the blind man, he immediately felt relief.
Finally, consecrating himself to God, Peter Damian joined monastic life. He retired to the Camaldolese monastery of Fonte Avellana, in 1035. He became spiritual adviser to the monks and was invited to other monasteries to teach. Eventually, Peter Damian rose to be the Prior at Fonte Avellana and established other houses in the area. He was so admired that the bishop of Ravenna asked for his assistance.
In 1057, Pope Stephen IX summoned Peter Damien to Rome. There, two evils: Simony, the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices; and Nicolaism, or the non-fulfillment of celibacy, had grown to alarming proportions. In his gratitude for helping to reform the clergy, the pope appointed him the cardinal and bishop of Ostia.
Seven popes made Peter Damian their adviser. He represented the church against Henry IV of Germany who was excommunicated from Rome over the appointments of bishops and abbots. After Peter Damián’s death it would be Henry who dressed as a penitent threw himself at the feet of the pope begging for pardon.
Returning to his monastery from a peace mission in his hometown of Ravenna, Peter Damian was overtaken by death while visiting the Benedictine monastery in Faenza. He was immediately acclaimed as a saint by the people, and Pope Leo XII proclaimed him a doctor of the church in 1828.
Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: St Peter Damian – Information on the Vatican News. (n.d.). Vatican News. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2021, from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/02/21/st-peter-damian–bishop-of-ostia-and-cardinal–doctor-of-the-chu.html and Thua, L. (2018, Feb. 19). St Peter Damian Bishop and Doctor of the Church Biography-Feb. 21 -. Catholic Daily Readings. https://catholicreadings.org/saint-of-the-day-february-21-saint-peter-damian-bishop-and-doctor-of-the-church/