The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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July 28, 2000 Issue
Saint of the Day

An anything but normal saint

St. Peter Chrysologus spoke few, but golden, words


By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Most Catholics look for two or three things in a weekend homily: Some explanation of the Scriptures; guidance in applying it to their daily lives; and brevity.

St. Peter Chrysologus seems to have delivered on all three. So appreciated was his preaching, that he was given the name Chrysologus (Greek for golden words). In 1729, nearly 1,300 years after Peter's death, Pope Benedict XIII named him a Doctor of the Church because of the soundness of his homilies, many of which still exist.

And Peter purposely kept his homilies short because he didn't want to bore his audience.

Peter was born in 406 at Imola, Emilia, Italy. He studied under Bishop Cornelius of Imola, who ordained him a deacon.

After being elected Archbishop of Ravenna, an Italian city near Florence and then the capital of the western empire, Peter became a strict reformer and an advocate of charitable activities.

Emperor Valentinian III and his mother, Galla Placida, lived at Ravenna. After hearing Peter preach, Galla enthusiastically supported his building efforts, which included a baptistery and a church dedicated to St. Andrew.

He sought to eliminate both paganism and laxness in practicing the faith in the diocese. One of his chief means for doing so was his sermons, which despite their shortness sometimes left him hoarse because of the passion with which he delivered them.

His sermons were known for their sound doctrine and their application of moral principles. They also give us a glimpse at life in his diocesan church.

Peter also was known for his fierce loyalty to the church and he had the support of both Pope Sixtus III and his successor, St. Leo the Great.

For example, Eutyches, a heretic who denied the divinity of Christ, attempted to justify himself and to seek support of other church leaders after being condemned by the synod of Constantinople. Peter advised him to stop doing so and to accept the mystery of the Incarnation.

If, Peter told Eutyches, the peace of the church causes joy in heaven, then division must give birth to grief.

Peter died at Imola on July 31, 450. We celebrate his feast on July 30. Peter used words to preach the good news each Sunday in his homilies. We are called to do the same by our actions each day.

Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, Saint of the Day, Saints for Our Time and 365 Saints



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