Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Saint Peter Chrysologus and Honoring Our Spiritual Ancestors

I will now praise the godly, our ancestors, in their own time,
The abounding glory of the Most High’s portion, his own part, since the days of old.
—Sirach 44:1-2

Knowing our family stories from the past is an important part of understanding who we are today. This is as true of the Church, as it is of your own family.

Although we most often think of the saints as the figures of our “family” history who left the most important mark on the Church, it’s important to realize that the life of every Christian forms an essential part of our family’s story.

Among those we hold most dear are those saints honored as “Doctors of the Church.” This select group of 36 saints includes some of the greatest minds in the Church’s history, such as Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Hildegarde of Bingen, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Francis de Sales, and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. But this list also includes saints who are less-known but whose contributions to our understanding of the Trinity, who Jesus was and is, Mary’s role in salvation, the sacraments, and prayer are all fundamental for what we believe and how we pray today. One of these is Saint Peter Chrysologus whose commemoration is celebrated on July 30.

Born in Imola, Italy, around the year 380, Peter was baptized, educated, and ordained a deacon by Imola’s bishop, Cornelius. Peter was serving his home church as a deacon when he was appointed archbishop of Ravenna sometime between 425 and 430. At the time, Ravenna was among the most important cities in the Roman Empire. As archbishop, Peter became an important figure, not only for the Church in Italy but beyond, as he played a significant part in the great theological debates of that age. 

Peter believed that it was essential for Christians to look to Rome for spiritual leadership and guidance. This was especially important at this point in the history of the Church, because of ongoing heresies questions about the Incarnation (the belief that, in Jesus, God became fully human) and the teachings that Jesus was fully human and fully divine—debates that were tearing the Church apart. He became an important teacher and was revered for his simple and direct sermons that helped Christians to understand how to live their faith fully in their daily lives. For this reason, he came to be known as Chrysologus—“Golden Word.” Happily, a large number of his sermons have survived the centuries and they remain an important resource for theologians and Church historians.

Saint Peter died at Imola sometime between 449 and 458. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1729, largely as a result of his simple, practical sermons.

The memorials and commemorations of the saints provide us with wonderful opportunities to explore our Faith’s history, as well as unique occasions to learn more about a particular saint’s teachings or way of praying. As we continue to observe the season of Ordinary Time, use the “feast days” of the saints as an opportunity to explore your own faith and how you are part of a great family story.

A prayer in honor of Saint Peter Chrysologus +
O God, who made the Bishop Saint Peter Chrysologus an outstanding preacher of your Incarnate Word, grant through his intercession, that we may constantly ponder in our hearts the mysteries of your salvation and faithfully express them in what we do. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(From The Roman Missal)