21 Feb – Memorial for St. Peter Damian, bishop and doctor
St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) was the youngest child in a large family. When he was orphaned, he was sent to live with a brother where he was mistreated and forced to work as a swine-herd. He cared for another brother, a priest in Ravenna, Italy. He was well educated in Faenza and Parma, and became a professor, but lived a life of strict austerity.
He gave up his teaching to become a Benedictine monk. His health suffered, especially when he tried to replace sleep with prayer. He founded a hermitage. He was occasionally called on by the Vatican to make peace between arguing monastic houses, clergymen, and government officials, etc. He was made Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, and he fought simony.
He tried to restore primitive discipline among priests and religious who were becoming more and more of the world. He was a prolific correspondent, and he also wrote dozens of sermons, seven biographies (including one of St. Romuald), and poetry, including some of the best Latin of the time. He tried to retire being a monk, but was routinely recalled as a papal legate.
He died on Feb 22, 1072 of fever at Ravenna while surrounded by brother monks reciting the Divine Office. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828.
- Patron Saint Index
But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.
Speaking up is one of the hardest things to do. Asian culture, with its hierarchies and formalities, makes it difficult for people to say what is on their minds. Statements and questions have to be carefully framed so as to not let either party lose face. We keep many of our thoughts and opinions bottled up inside, and suffer privately as we deal with the consequences of our inaction.
There is usually an atmosphere of fear and recrimination in the environments that do not foster open communication. Unless a major crisis occurs, things are unlikely to change and people end up feeling unseen, unheard, and unimportant.
In our relationship with God, things are different. He invites us to speak to him openly and freely. As a father to us, he understands our hurts and troubles, along with our human frailty that sometimes makes us say things that we don’t mean when our emotions take control. Just as a parent does not take to heart the things their toddlers say to them, God too looks deeper beyond our words and truly sees our feelings and innermost desires.
As we speak to God and build the trust we have in Him, God will give us confidence to go about our lives with our heads held high. He desires for all of us to flourish as individuals in community and we can only be contributing members of communities if we speak up and act justly no matter what the cost.
The next time you speak to God, why not do so without any filter? God does not need our sugar-coated words or elegant prayers. The last thing we want to do is to spend more effort on the style of our prayer than its contents. We will then feel more fulfilled by our prayer, and have greater clarity on the steps God wants us to take.
Lastly, as you practice speaking up and having your voice heard, make an attempt to be as good a listener as God is. Do not be the one who creates an environment which is unsafe for others. Let us all work together to make communication with God and our fellow men edifying and nourishing.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Gregory Mathew)
Prayer: We ask you Lord, to give us the curiosity and courage to speak to you freely.
Thanksgiving: We are grateful for your patience as you mould our hearts and minds to walk ever closer with you.
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