21 Feb – Memorial for St. Peter Damian, bishop and doctor
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 Fienza 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
The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’ God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.
The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’
“Something greater than Jonah”
Jonah is the man who was saved by God when He sent a fish to swallow Him. Though he was running and hiding, the Lord our great pursuer did not give up. Just as God did not give up on Jonah, He will continue to be our most earnest pursuer.
In modern times, the concept of being pursued and being given a second chance is rare and few. It is common for people to do this only if it benefits them. They (we) are more likely to be tolerant and symphatic to clients and bosses and probably less to staff and vendors. But at the heart of our hearts, we are called to be like our Lord, who is constant and just.
King David, a mighty King was humble to a point of wearing a sackcloth and fasting. Today, though many of us are not as rich yet, we fail on the grounds of being a faithful Catholic in prayer, fasting and almsgiving – the three pillars of Lent and, I dare say, the pillars of our Catholic faith.
We have drifted in our own indulgence, yet we have a God of a zillion chances, who gives us many messages in the stillness of our hearts to help the needy, visit the lonely, understand those who are differently abled, fast so that we train our flesh to withstand temptations and to adore the Love or our lives – Jesus Christ in daily prayers. What is God asking of you today, this season Lent and this year?
Do we continue to look for signs by reading horoscopes and being enslaved by the what others say about our future, even if they are so called ‘qualified’ by some quarters. Surely we are different because we are His alone. Would you obey your own father or the one given to you by someone’s father. What we allow into our lives, we give it power to rule over us. In today’s Gospel, Christ says there is something greater than Jonah, why would we not want to live in that richness and fullness of life.
We are His heirs and we should cleave to Him for everything. For it is through Him that we are truly ourselves. If you are struggling to find yourself, dig deep into the Father’s heart, because therein lies His beloved child, you.
(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Lord, create a new heart and a new spirit within us. Help us to find our true selves in you.
Thanksgiving: For you are gracious merciful and you are Love. Receive, O Lord, our contrite hearts which yearn only for you.