Saint Peter Damian, born in 988, lost both his parents at an early age. His eldest brother, to whose hands he was left, treated him so cruelly that another brother, a priest, moved by his piteous state, sent him to the University of Parma, where he acquired great distinction. His studies were sanctified by vigils, fasts, and prayers, until at last, thinking that all this was only serving God halfway, he resolved to leave the world. He joined the monks of Fonte Avellano, then in the greatest repute, and by his wisdom and sanctity rose to be Superior.
Saint Peter was called upon for the most delicate and difficult missions, among others the reform of ecclesiastical communities, which his zeal accomplished. Seven Popes in succession made him their constant adviser, and he was finally created Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. He withstood Henry IV of Germany, and labored in defense of Pope Alexander II against an antipope, whom he forced to yield and seek pardon. He was charged, as papal legate, with the repression of simony and correction of scandals; again, was commissioned to settle discords amongst various bishops; and finally, in 1072, to adjust the affairs of the Church at Ravenna. He had never paid attention to his health, which was at best fragile, and after enduring violent onslaughts of fever during the night, would rise to hear confessions, preach, or sing solemn Masses, always ready to sacrifice his well-being and life for the salvation of the souls entrusted to him.
After succeeding in this final mission as he ordinarily did, on his journey back to Ostia he was laid low by fever; he died at Faenza in a monastery of his Order, on the eighth day of his sickness, while the monks chanted Matins around him.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).
Prayer of Saint Peter Damian to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Holy Virgin, Mother of God, succour those who implore thy aid. O turn towards us. Hast thou, perhaps, forgotten men, because thou hast been raised to so close a union with God? Ah no, most certainly. Thou knowest well in what danger thou didst leave us, and the wretehed condition of thy servants; ah no, it would not become so great a mercy as thine to forget such great misery as ours is. Turn towards us then with thy power; for He who is powerful has made thee omnipotent in heaven and on earth. Nothing is impossible to thee, for thou canst raise even those who are in despair to the hope of salvation. The more powerful thou art, the greater should be thy mercy.
Turn also to us in thy love. I know, O my Lady, that thou art all benign, and that thou lovest us with a love that can be surpassed by no other love. How often dost thou not appease the wrath of our Judge, when he is on the point of chastising us! All the treasures of the mercies of God are in thy hands. Ah never cease to benefit us; thou only seekest occasion to save all the wretched, and to shower thy mercies upon them; for thy glory is increased when, by thy means, penitents are forgiven, and thus reach heaven. Turn then towards us, that we also may be able to go and see thee in heaven; for the greatest glory we can have will be, after seeing God, to see thee, to love thee, and be under thy protection. Be pleased then to grant our prayer; for thy beloved Son desires to honour thee, by denying thee nothing that thou askest. Amen.