St Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church (1007-1072)

St Peter Damian was born in 1007 at Ravenna, Italy. Having lost his parents when very young, he was left in the charge of a brother, a priest, in whose house he was treated more like a slave than a kinsman. Another brother took pity on the neglected lad and undertook to have him educated.  St Peter Damian was sent to school at first in Faenza and then to Parma, where eventually he worked as a professor.

Monk and hermit and bishop

After a time Peter resolved to leave the world entirely and embrace a monastic life. In 1035 he chose to enter the hermitage of Fonte Avellana and he became an enthusiastic disciple of St Romuald, founder of Camaldoli and friend of the future Pope Gregory VII.

In 1057, Pope Stephen IX appointed him cardinal-bishop of Ostia, but a few years later he was able to resign his bishopric and return to his solitude at the hermitage of Fonte Avellana, continuing to deal with sporadic church matters of importance. He died at Faenza in 1072, at age 65.

St Peter Damian was one of the chief forerunners of the Hildebrandine reform of the Church. His great contribution to Marian doctrine comes from his sermons 45 and 46, dedicated to the Nativity of Mary, but his preaching was most eloquent and his other writing voluminous as well. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.

Meditation on the mystery of divine motherhood brought him to exalt the sublime holiness of Mary and her mediation within the Church.


Adapted from Butler's LIVES OF THE SAINTS, HarperOne, 1956, pp. 53-54 (originally published in 1756-9)