Sunday, February 20, 2011


"San Pier Damiani"
by Andre Barbiani, 1776


Biographical Information about St. Peter Damian[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Peter Damian

Readings and Commentary:

2 Timothy 4:1-5

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine
but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,
will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth
and will be diverted to myths.
But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances;
put up with hardship;
perform the work of an evangelist;
fulfill your ministry.

Commentary on
2 Tm 4:1-5

The Apostle begins this chapter with a solemn injunction to St. Timothy: “…perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.“ He emphasizes the need to “proclaim the word” persistently and in spite of the barriers he will encounter. St. Paul warns that the task will be difficult and that false teachers will arise with competing doctrines and “myths.”

CCC: 2 Tm 4 2015; 2 Tm 4:1 679
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "My Lord are you."
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.

 R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.

R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Commentary on
Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 11

Psalm 16 is an individual hymn of praise.  The psalmist prays that God will shield the faithful from harm and expresses confidence in the Lord’s salvation; closing the passage with praise for God’s loving mercy.  This selection is structured to support the Pauline ideal of placing God first in the life of the psalmist, their greatest possession being loved by God and loving God in return.

John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
"1 am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

Commentary on
Jn 15:1-8

This selection begins the discourse on the vine and the branches – really a monologue on the union with Jesus. It is part of Jesus’ farewell speech. The familiar theme of the vineyard and the vines is used which has imagery in common with Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 21:33-46 and as a vine at Psalm 80:9-17; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:2; 17:5-10; 19:10; Hosea 10:1, the identification of the vine as the Son of Man in Psalm 80:15 and Wisdom's description of herself as a vine in Sirach 24:17. This monologue becomes a unifying tie that pulls the entire farewell speech together.

CCC: Jn 15:1-17 1108; Jn 15:1-5 755; Jn 15:1-4 1988; Jn 15:3 517; Jn 15:4-5  787; Jn 15:5 308, 737, 859, 864, 1694, 2074, 2732; Jn 15:7 2615; Jn 15:8 737

St Peter Damian (1007-1072) lived during a period in Church History when the mission of Christ was being supremely tested by secular human values. He arrived at a time when St. Paul’s prediction “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine” (
2 Timothy 4:3) had come to pass. His call to serve God and his affirmative answer gave the Holy Church strength to weather this storm. 
When we look at the lives of saints we seek two things. First, we ask for their intercession since, as in St. Peter Damian’s case, their lives of holiness have led them to the joys of heaven. We believe they are rejoicing with our Triune God in the glory of the Heavenly Kingdom. There, the prayers we ask for will be heard by our Father and theirs most clearly. We also look at their example and see how they followed such heroic courses that led them to the joys they now enjoy.

St. Peter Damian, based upon his early mistreatment by his own family, should have died as a child. The Lord clearly had a plan for his life and he not only survived, but in spite of being starved and malnourished in his childhood, he grew in faith, holiness, and intellect, being recognized as a great teacher of sacred scripture. In his fervor to understand the Lord’s call, he clung to the vine which is Christ, and in the face of tremendous distractions which caused many of his peers to be swept down disastrous avenues, he was one of those stalwart branches onto which others grasped.

Because of his unshakable faith and clear understanding of the Mission of the Church and his call to serve her, he was called upon many times to reform clerical practices scandalizing the Church. We can only imagine how difficult his task was in the face of schism, heresy, and confusion. What served him so well and the principal lesson we take from his life was his unwavering faith and devotion to Christ, seeing in the Lord the true path to holiness.

This then is our prayer to St. Peter Damian, that his prayers for our salvation to our Lord may be clearly heard and that his strength in following the Lord so faithfully may be ours as well. With this great gift of grace we may see him at last in our heavenly reward.


[1] The picture is “San Pier Damiani” by Andre Barbiani, 1776 
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

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