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
Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.
This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show. You believe in the one God – that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear. Do realise, you senseless man, that faith without good deeds is useless. You surely know that Abraham our father was justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? There you see it: faith and deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did. This is what scripture really means when it says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified; and that is why he was called ‘the friend of God.’
You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified. A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good deeds.
Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said:
‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’
“Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it”
As we approach the end of the week, the readings provide us with a timely reminder of the purpose of our lives, why we live and who are we living for.
In the readings today, we read of “as a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds” and also how “anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it”.
We are invited to reflect upon our purpose and calling in this life. Especially facing such situations where there is panic and uncertainty, we are called to be witnesses, not to lose our lives or lose our opportunity for survival, but instead, to be a gift, to be an example to the lost.
Many have lost their purpose and are lost in terms of their direction, that self-preservation seems like the way to go. Instead, our lives are not about how long we live but how we have lived out this life.
For fear of missing out, most have been influenced by society and have failed to speak out and to take action — whether it’s speaking the truth, providing truthful information regarding the virus and its spreading, whether we have provided truthful information on our healthcare and its resources.
When there is a lack of voices and action, the people become lost, and we become controlled by our instincts instead of being able to think clearly and with empathy to respond to the situation.
Let the battle against the virus and be human versus the virus because at the moment, it seems to be that we are merely defending ourselves, leaving the minority to battle the viruses for us alone. Let us not just talk and pray behind the scenes, but truly take an active role in being a gift to the lost around us. Amen.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Benjamin Mao)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that many more will come to know you and your love, to know that our lives are so much more, that we are able to contribute, be a gift, make a difference, to start a ripple and see how it can transform a culture. Dear Lord, help us to rely on you especially when we seem to want to rely on our own strength. We pray for wisdom and courage especially during this difficult time.
Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we lift up our own personal intentions of thanks for _______________________________ (feel free to vocalise your thanks)