SAINT PETER CANISIUS (1521-1597)
Priest and Doctor of the Church
Patron saint of the Catholic press, writers of catechisms and Germany
Today, the Church honors Saint Peter Canisius, a man whose life was anything but dull or routine, and that the many talents he developed and the gifts with which he was blessed were all used for the sake of accomplishing the Lord’s work.
Peter was born on May 8, 1521, in Niemguen, Holland. He was a bright and well-educated youth, excelling in his university studies of art, civil law and theology in Cologne, Germany, receiving a master’s degree at the age of nineteen. Throughout his education, his closest friends were monks and clerics.
Peter lived during a time in which Germany was under the wave of Lutheranism, and under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop Hermann von Wied who had secretly turned to Lutheranism and was leading the faithful away from the faith in which they were baptized. It was during this time that Peter joined the party of faithful Catholics determined to combat Protestantism and defend the faith.
He entered the Society of Jesus in 1543 and was ordained three years later. As a Jesuit priest, he travelled and worked in Rome, Italy, with Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who was his spiritual director. In 1549, he was sent back to Germany to lead the Counter-Reformation.
He preached tirelessly and everywhere he could, winning Protestants back to the Church by his unbounded zeal and brilliance, winning for himself the title “the Hammer of Protestantism”. He founded schools and colleges, conducted an extensive apostolate of letter writing, and wrote his famous Catechism which was immensely successful, going through many editions in his own lifetime and being translated into several languages.
Father Peter Canisius was deeply devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to which he consecrated all his work. He was a man with great gifts of persuasion, which he put to use in dealing with the pope, bishops, emperors, princes and commoners alike, always rebuking and encouraging them towards a truer life of faith. His advice was sought by Saint Francis de Sales and by his friend Saint Charles Borromeo.
He implemented the decrees of the Council of Trent throughout Germany, and, in his last seventeen years of life, he spread the Catholic faith and ministered in Switzerland, where he died of natural causes in the city of Fribourg on December 21, 1597.
He was canonized a saint and proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. He is the only person to be canonized and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on the same day.
We commemorate his feastday on December 21.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Peter Canisius)
“Lord, You gave Saint Peter Canisius wisdom and courage to defend the Catholic faith. By the help of his prayers, may all who seek the truth rejoice in finding You, and may all who believe in You be loyal in professing their faith.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”