04 Dec Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church
Today is the feast day of Saint Peter Chrysologus. Ora pro nobis.
O God, Who by a sign from heaven didst mark out the blessed Peter Chrysologus, the excellent Teacher, to be a ruler and instructor of souls, grant, we pray Thee, that even as Thou didst give him to be a teacher of Thy lively truth on earth, so, now that he is with Thee, we may worthily have him continually to make intercession for us. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen
Prayer from the Roman Breviary
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
St. Peter, on account of his great eloquence surnamed Chrysologus, or the golden speaker, was a native of Imola, a town not far from Rome. His parents were pious and distinguished people, who led their son from his early youth in the path of rectitude. In his studies he progressed so rapidly, that he was always the first among his schoolmates. The retired life he led, and his blameless conduct, induced the bishop of Imola to receive him among those whom he instructed in theology, and, in due time, to ordain him deacon. In this office, Peter showed such wisdom and ability, that he was beloved and highly esteemed by every one. By his untiring diligence, and the careful instructions of the bishop, he obtained a thorough knowledge of the sacred sciences, and he was often entrusted with the most important affairs of the Church, which he always terminated to the great satisfaction of the clergy.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Ravenna died, and the clergy choosing a successor, sent him with a deputation to Rome, in order that the Pope might confirm the election. The bishop of Imola, who had some business to transact at Rome, went with the delegation, and took Peter along as his travelling companion. During the night before these travellers arrived at Rome, the holy Apostle, St. Peter and St. Apollinaris, formerly bishop of Ravenna, appeared to the Pope, and bade him place the mitre, not upon the head of him whom the deputies of Ravenna would present, but on the deacon, Peter, who would arrive with the bishop of Imola. When, on the following day, the deputies presented to the Pope him who had been elected bishop, the holy Father received them very courteously, but refused to confirm their choice, saying that he would bestow on Peter the priestly and episcopal consecration, as he, and no other, should become their bishop. The deputies could not conceal their dissatisfaction; but when the Pope related to them the command he had received from heaven, they praised the Almighty, and carried Peter in great triumph to Ravenna, after he had first been ordained priest and then consecrated bishop.
The emperor Valentinian, who resided at Ravenna, as soon as he had received information, came, with the empress, to meet him, and accompanied him, amid great rejoicings, to the cathedral. The new bishop, however, manifested very little joy, and in his first sermon he said, among other things, that as God had laid so heavy a burden on his shoulders, he begged all present to assist him in carrying it, which they would do, first, by obeying the commandments of God, and then by following his instructions. He also assured the people that he was determined to seek only the honor of God and the salvation of their souls. He set immediately to work to accomplish this purpose. He preached frequently to the people, and always with such eloquence, that the most hardened sinners did penance, while others were induced to lead a more perfect life. Sometimes, when, with great earnestness, he reproved vice, his voice would fail him, so that he could not continue his sermon. This happened, one day, whilst he was speaking of the woman mentioned in the Gospel as having been sick seven years; but, on that occasion, the exhaustion of the bishop had such an effect upon his hearers, that the whole church resounded with cries for mercy.
He endeavored to abolish several abuses of long standing, among others, the custom which the people had of masking themselves, on the first day of the year, and spending the day in wildly dancing, singing, and rioting around a statue that stood outside of the city. Against this shameful abuse St. Peter continued to thunder, until he had abolished it entirely. In one of his sermons on this subject he says: “Those who divert themselves with the devil on earth, cannot rejoice with Christ in heaven.” He overthrew the statue where so much wantonness had been displayed, and, in place of it, he raised a crucifix. Besides his zeal in preaching, he manifested great love and compassion towards the poor and oppressed, and no one left him without being comforted. He most earnestly protected the widow and the orphan against all who would rob them. The ignorant he instructed with gentleness and patience in all that a true Christian ought to know. The sorrowful and disheartened he knew how to comfort and cheer with admirable ability and wisdom.
What made St. Peter especially celebrated in the whole Christian world, was his apostolic zeal in defending the true faith, and in refuting the heresies of Eutyches and Dioscorus. By request of the holy Pope, Leo I., the Saint wrote against the errors of these heresiarchs with so much learning and eloquence, that the heretics were made ashamed before the entire council assembled at Chalcedon; and as they were not willing to retract their heresies, they were disowned and banished from the true Church. To this day, this and other writings of St. Peter are greatly admired, which he composed for the benefit of the Catholics; for they are filled with heavenly wisdom. During the time that St. Peter administered the See of Ravenna, St. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, came thither, and having witnessed the virtues of our holy bishop, became his warm friend. They animated each other to zeal in the service of God and in the protection of the true faith. Not long afterwards, St. Germanus became ill, and ended his life. Peter had the holy body embalmed and sent it to France, together with all that St. Germanus had left, except his cowl and his hair-shirt, which St. Peter kept to himself, and esteemed above all other earthly treasures.
After St. Peter had, for eighteen years, most worthily administered his See, bravely defended the Church of Christ, furthered the honor of God and the salvation of his flock, by erecting several churches, by abolishing vices and abuses, and by leaving for the benefit of posterity many wholesome books, God revealed to him his approaching end. His life had always been blameless and holy, but to prepare himself better for death, he set out for his native city, where he hoped to be able to spend his time more peacefully in devout exercises. Arrived there, he dismissed the ecclesiastics who had accompanied him, with the admonition to keep God always before their eyes, to observe His commandments, and to exercise great care in choosing a new bishop. Some time later, going into the church of the martyr St. Cassian, he offered upon the altar a golden crown, studded with jewels, and an equally precious cup: after which, having received the holy sacraments, he lay down beside the tomb of the holy martyr, prayed to the Almighty, and asked the Saints to assist him in his last combat, and lead his soul to the throne of God. With this prayer he ended his life, in the year of our Lord 452. (1)
Homily by St. Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop
The Lesson is taken from the Holy Gospel according to Luke (i. 26.)
At that time: The Angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a Virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the Virgin’s name was Mary. And so on.
Dearly beloved brethren, ye have this day heard how an Angel treated with a woman touching the regeneration of mankind. Ye have heard how it was arranged that man should return to life by the same mean whereby he had fallen into death. The Angel treateth, treateth with Mary concerning salvation, because an angel had treated with Eve concerning destruction. Ye have heard how an Angel set about to raise with unspeakable building a temple of the Divine Majesty out of the dust of the earth. Ye have heard how by a mystery which cannot be understood, God got a place on earth and man a place in heaven. Ye have heard how by a working hitherto unheard of, God and man are joined together in one Body. Ye have heard how at the message of an angel, the weak nature whereof our flesh is sharer, became strong to bear the whole glory of the Godhead.
Then, lest the frail clay of humanity should break down under the weight of God’s work, and in Mary the tender stem should snap, which was about to bear the fruit of all mankind, the Angel’s first words were a preventive against fear. “And the Angel said unto her: Fear not, Mary.” Even before the matter is revealed, the exalted station of this Virgin is made clear by her very name, for the name Mary is an Hebrew word, and signifieth “Lady.” The Angel therefore greeteth her as ” Lady,” that the Mother of the Lord may lay aside the fearfulness of His handmaiden, whom the will of her own Offspring had made to be born and to be called a “Lady.” “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace.” He that hath found grace, need fear no more. “Thou hast found grace.” (1)
Image: Saint Peter Chrysologus, artist: School of Guercino, circa: XVII century (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff