'With God’s help you will find time to do it all'

By Kimberly Bruce

Have you ever suffered ridicule or rejection because of your witness to your faith in Christ Jesus? If so, then you have a friend in St. Peter Canisius, whose feast day is Dec. 21.

Saint Peter Canisius wrote many beneficial things for the people of God, such that he was declared not only a saint but one of the Church’s holy Doctors (exceptional and trustworthy teachers of the faith). Despite his great writings and accomplishments, however, he was not without his share of detractors.

Both the Netherlands and Germany call St. Peter their “son.” Born May 8, 1521, in the Dutch town of Nijmegen (which was then an ecclesiastical province within Germany), Peter entered the University of Cologne at age 15. In 1540, at 19, he received his master’s degree. It was after a Catholic retreat that he discerned that he wanted to be a priest and assist the Church in its defense of the faith, particularly in Germany.

Peter was ordained in 1546 and joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). A year later, he found himself standing in proxy for the bishop of Augsburg at the Council of Trent. Thereafter, he received his doctorate in Theology. He taught theology at several universities and, from there, went on to establish many other universities and seminaries.

Summary of Christian Doctrine
It was in 1555, however, that St. Peter had his biggest influence within the Church by writing his Summary of Christian Doctrine. This “catechism,” given to the Church, aided the faithful in understanding Catholic doctrine and served in countering the effects of Protestantism sweeping the country and beyond. To this day, his Summary is considered a masterpiece, and has formed the foundation of other catechisms since. He also wrote shorter versions of it for children.

Saint Peter was also known as a great orator, and churches were packed with those wanting to hear him preach. A diplomat, as well, he was often called upon to aid disputes amongst factions. He was also a very prayerful man and a great advocate of the Rosary.

Seemingly indefatigable, when he was once criticized for doing too much, he responded, “If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.”

Charity and moderation
One of the things St. Peter was especially known for was his zeal in urging Catholics to use charity and moderation when dealing with their Protestant brethren. The two groups were openly hostile towards one another in his day, and he instructed them, saying:

It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy. For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax. We ought to instruct with meekness those whom heresy has made bitter and suspicious, and has estranged from orthodox Catholics, especially from our fellow Jesuits. Thus, by whole-hearted charity and good will we may win them over to us in the Lord.

Again, it is a mistaken policy to behave in a contentious fashion and to start disputes about matters of belief with argumentative people who are disposed by their very natures to wrangling. Indeed, the fact of their being so constituted is a reason the more why such people should be attracted and won to the simplicity of the faith as much by example as by argument.

Because of his preaching, St. Peter won the conversion of many Protestants and instilled greater faith in Catholics. He travelled more than 20,000 miles on horseback during his years of ministry and essentially renewed the Catholic faith in Germany. He is thus called the “second apostle of Germany” after St. Boniface.

Suffering and ridicule
As much as the faithful loved him, Peter Canisius, like many saints, was no stranger to insults and his share of critics. Not only did his enemies write dreadful, vile comments and even books against his Summary of Christian Doctrine, but he suffered scorn, mockery, and derision. A man of charity and mercy, however, his response concerning his adversaries was, “The more our opponents calumniate us, the more we must love them.”

Suffering a stroke at the age of 70, St. Peter recovered enough to continue writing for the next six years until his passing in 1597. After his death, many miracles began to be attributed to his intercession. He was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church the same day, on June 21, 1925.

So, if you’ve suffered any ill-treatment due to your faith, remember Christ’s words, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33; NRSVCE)! And follow St. Peter Canisius’ example, learned from Christ Himself, who told us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44).

Saint Peter Canisius, pray for us to always come to the defense of our faith in truth, mercy, and with love. Amen!

Please help the Marians as they seek to have St. Faustina recognized as a Doctor of the Church by signing the petition.
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