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St. Peter Chrysologus

July 27, 2018

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St. Peter Chrysologus

St. Peter was born in 380 AD at Imola, Emilia, Italy. He studied under Bishop Cornelius of Imola, and was ordained by him as a deacon.

The emperor Valerian III appointed Peter as archbishop of Ravenna, Italy, in 424, a position of considerable importance since Ravenna was the capital of the Western Empire and was one of the four most prominent cities of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries along with Rome, Constantinople, and Milan.

St. Peter was renowned as an exceptional preacher and teacher. The Empress Galla Placidia, the mother of the emperor, heard his first sermon and was so captivated that she became a major benefactor and strongly supported a number of his building projects.

St. Peter meticulously prepared his homilies. They were concise and focused, instructive and interesting, biblically-based, drawn particularly from the gospels, contained practical applications for how to live Christian life, and frequently included an invitation to conversion and repentance. He also spoke about the value of the Eucharist and encouraged the frequent reception of Holy Communion which he called “daily bread for our souls.” He kept his homilies short because he did not want to cause fatigue in the attention of his listeners. His delivery was energetic, engaging, and positive. In fact, at times he would preach with such passion, intensity, and fervor that he would lose his breath in his excitement.

As bishop, he challenged laxity in his diocese. He taught sound doctrine, corrected heretics, and upheld the primacy of the Pope and the teaching authority of Rome. He spoke out against paganism and pagan practices, particularly the evils of an annual local New Year’s Eve carnival with its drunkenness and debauchery, but did so firmly and respectfully and not in the harsh and condemnatory tone so typical of other Church leaders of that time. He is remembered for the famous quote, “He who delights in the devil cannot rejoice in Christ.”

St. Peter was a prolific writer. One hundred and seventy of his homilies have been preserved, but most of his other writings have been lost. The Collect Prayer of the Mass says that he was “an outstanding preacher of your incarnate Word.” He died in Imola, variously reported as July 31 or December 2, 450.

In the Ninth Century St. Peter was given the added title “Chrysologus.” The Eastern Church had St. John Chrysostom, Greek for “golden-tongued,” the famous preacher of the East, so the West decided to claim for itself an eloquent, illustrious preacher of its own with a comparable title that means “golden-worded” or “golden speech.” Pope Benedict XIII declared St. Peter Chrysologus a Doctor of the Church in 1729.

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