Saint Brigid Religious Education
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St. Peter Canisius
Feast day: December 21
Born in 1521 of a distinguished family of Holland, Saint Peter Canisius
studied in Cologne and received his license as doctor of civil law; he
then went to Louvain (Belgium) to learn canon law. These studies
followed close upon the days when Luther had burnt the papal bulls at
Wittenberg, Germany. Soon Saint Peter, become a Jesuit, was teaching at
the University of Cologne; he was there when the unfortunate archbishop
of that city fell into the new heresy. The Catholics who desired to
depose him needed a deputy to the emperor to present their request, and
Saint Peter was chosen.
His mission, seconded by the Holy Spirit, succeeded; and the deputy was
remarked by a Cardinal, who desired to send him to the Council of Trent
as his representative and theologian. Saint Peterís superior, Saint
Ignatius of Loyola himself, approved this choice, and the young Jesuit
took his place
among the Fathers of the Council. He was commissioned to
draft a memoir on the exact nature of the errors being propagated in the
lands of the reform, in consort with the Popeís theologian, another
Jesuit named Jacques Laynez. Their work was admired; the Council was
dissolved soon afterwards, however, and Saint Peter was recalled to Rome
by Saint Ignatius, to consult with him concerning the formation of the
religious and the future of their Order.
Afterwards Saint Peter and two other Jesuits founded a college at
Ingolstadt, going there with only two books in their baggage, the
Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and the famous Ratio Studiorum, or
Plan of Studies of their Order. Saint Peter was named Rector of the
University by that institution.
He was in demand everywhere; King Ferdinand of Rome obtained his
presence for Vienna. A pestilence broke out there, and he was most often
found at the bedside of the dying, caring for the bodies and
regenerating the souls of the unfortunate citizens. He opened a boarding
school for boys, and Vienna soon found itself reborn in the faith: the
famous Catechism of Saint Peter Canisius had much to do with the
renovation. During his lifetime it appeared in more than 200 editions,
in at least twelve languages. It remains a monument of the triumph of
the Church over error in the time of Luther.
Its author had tried to keep his name a secret but did not succeed, and
then several nations disputed the honor of his presence. But Saint Peter
was Provincial of Germany, named by Saint Ignatius, and he concerned
himself above all with the colleges at Prague, Ingolstadt and Munich.
Until his death in 1597 the Apostle of Germany continued the valiant and
perpetual combat of the Church against error. For a long time forgotten,
Saint Peter was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope
Pius XI in 1927.