Canisius, 1521-1597. Doctor of Catechetical Studies, Feast Dec
The doctors have something tremendously important to
share with us when we read the new catechism. For a summary of the official Catechism see the link, near the end, below. It was primarily for
that reason that the late Pope John Paul II was inspired to have a new version updated and published. It is
a precious, current resource and a treasure of antiquity because it contains many fundamentals and is the foundation of our faith. At the same
time, it provides a solid foundation to build on. Any spiritual
growth and expression of that holiness must have a sound
infrastructure and preparation. Jesus spent thirty years in
preparation for only three years of activity.
or scholarly critique about the new catechism, done in charity, will
enhance deficiencies. When the church or anyone writes about a
new subject, there will normally be shortcomings. The new catechism is no
exception. The 1998 Catholic Almanac edition cites ten specific
All who have ever read a catechism, prayed the
rosary or had devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus and Mary might
thank Peter for his major contributions in safeguarding these
powerful devotions. They are instruments of holiness and sources of
consolations. More importantly, they have contributed to growth of
our catholic faith. Why does the church decide to write a new
catechism, emphasize the rosary continually and promote new
devotions to the merciful heart of Jesus and the immaculate heart of
Mary? It is the cornerstone of our faith and its embellishments. It
also increases our opportunity for sanctity and intimate union with
God which is the main reason for our creation.
brilliant, talented and an indefatigable worker for the church. He
taught, wrote and established schools and colleges. He was papal
theologian during the Council of Trent and called upon by the Pope
to be a secret Nuncio. Father Christopher's book found in the doctoral sources informs us that Peter was the first German Jesuit, the first
Jesuit to publish a book and the first to start a Jesuit educational
institute in Germany.
Canisius, above all, set a marvelous
example by acting humble, charitable and always strove for holiness
by his kindness. He preached extensively and was constantly under
pressure and criticism from friends and foes alike. Even the Pope,
the emperor and the king censured him for the truth he spoke which
they did not want to hear or they thought was exaggerated. Being
scolded by the Holy Father would normally distraught one's morale
and motivation. Not so with the humble and feisty St Peter. The
challenges and criticism only inspired him all the more because he
knew that the Spirit guided and enlightened him. He was enormously
confident and obedient and had great resilence to bounce back under
human opinion and trials.
Anyone who has ever said the rosary
might remember Peter not because he started this devotion but rather
because he revived it as a renewal effort toward Marian devotion.
This was during the Counter Reformation period which caused
separation and division in the church. Peter united the church and
its members by modeling holy devotion to both Jesus and Mary.
It was Peter who promoted the IHS acronym for the Sacred
Heart devotion. Originally St Bernardine of Siena, a Franciscan,
introduced this devotion about 100 years earlier. The letters
represent the first three letters of the name of Jesus Christ.
Not only that, through a homily, I heard that it was because of the great love
and preaching of St Bernardine on the name of Jesus, that the name of Jesus was
added to the Hail Mary prayer. Previously in the Hail Mary Prayer, the first part
ended with ...blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (no Jesus) But after St Bernardine's
passion for the name of Jesus, and his extensive use of the name in his renewal efforts through Italy
with his preaching, the church adopted the new version of the Hail Mary.
Thus began Peter's binding devotion to the person of Jesus
Christ's divine and human heart. In fact, Peter was favored and
supported by heavenly gifts to sustain him during this time of
conflict and turmoil that the church and its members were
experiencing during the Counter-Reformation period.
and his mother, Mary, who St Peter was always devoted to, had given
him a personal mandate and he strove mightily to live up to all of
its expectations. He was always outdoing himself and remained as the
Provincial of the Jesuits (the highest position of the Order) for
thirteen years-an unusually long time. He acted as confessor to the
Queen of France and advisor to the Pope. He was unafraid of
correcting the faults of the clergy in an attempt to set good
example. He always found time to assist all those who needed help or
charity. He even asked to be relieved of certain of his duties
because he appeared to be in an espionage role, arrogant or
interfered in politics. Peter had great discernment. He was often
accused of usurping parochial rights because he was involved in so
many important church missions and assignments. This was a period of
time when thousands were leaving the church and switching to
At the early age of nineteen he had already
earned his master's degree. Soon afterwards, Peter was influenced by another gifted Jesuit to join him in the recently formed Society of
Jesus. St Ignatius, its founder, kept him by his side for five
months. On the day of his final vows in St. Peters at Rome, he was
favored with a vision of the Sacred Heart.
The Jesuits have
taught many. The Jesuits and the catholic church since the time of
its founder St Ignatius Loyola, although not a doctor yet, are a
remarkable group excelling in many areas especially education,
scholarship and leadership in social action.
Scores of books
have been written about Ignatius, the soldier, in the military, who
became the soldier for Christ. He was converted and transformed by
reading about the saints during a leg injury and convalescence. He
prayed to God to help him be like the saints. This is a classic
example how intercessory prayer works. The Jesuits number well over
20,000 members and they are located in hundreds of countries. They
take religious vows and a special vow to the Holy Father. Ignatius
was a spiritual and mystical genius displaying outstanding
leadership and evangelization abilities. He fulfilled Jesus' request
when our Lord said: "I have come to bring fire to the earth. How I
wish it were already blazing" Taken from the Communion Antiphon on
his feast day, July 31, 2001 in the Magnificat publication.
One can not possibly imagine St Ignatius not becoming a
"Doctor of the
Church" when and if God ordains. His spirituality is world known and
the Jesuits are a marvelous organization and religious society of
dedicated and consecrated individuals.
America, and Ignatius' masterpiece in writing, The Spiritual Exercise, a classic (blending the practical and the mystical) are invaluable
resources for genuine Catholic spirituality, personal growth and
authentic enjoyment. They also keep us updated, renewed and attuned
to the times. The Jesuits are men of action and prayer. They
challenge us to excellence in education to be wise. They ask us to
risk more than others think is safe. They encourage us to dream more
than others think is practical. They are men of hope in the
supernatural but they want us to expect more now than others think
is possible. Peter Canisius is but one example of many Jesuits.
Another marvelous Jesuit, the only other Doctor of the Church at this time, entitled the "Prince of Apologists" among
other titles, is St Robert Bellarmine whose link is below:
never stop urging us to do more for Christ. They spend themselves
exhaustively for the church and its members. That is but one reason
families send their sons and daughters to Jesuit universities and
colleges whether they are catholic or not.
Peter was always
pushing himself to the limits because of his personality and the
movement of grace. There has been a tradition that the popeís
confessor must be a Jesuit priest who visits the Vatican once a week
and who absolves the pope of any possible sins. Is the church
reminding us of the importance of the sacrament of Reconciliation
and to find time for this sacrament? Who is busier than the Pope
with a church that claims a billion members? Yet, he finds time to
go to confession and receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. Who
has that amount of responsibility?
Over thirty years ago I
took a course at Georgetown University. This university is a Jesuit
institution of higher learning in Washington DC. The course was entitled Religion and
Modern Psychology. The instructor was a Jesuit, Juan Cortez, Ph.D.
For the final exam I answered the essay question: Are we entirely
free to believe? The answer I gave on the exam was yes but only
entirely free to believe when oneís faith is active with charity.
This question is an important question for anyone's faith. There are
many forces that challenge us to doubt or deny God's existence.
These insidious forces also challenge our freedom to believe and
Christ's role in our salvation. Catechetical studies are vital for
the enrichment of our faith and the foundation for our belief in God
because it educates us with solid truths. After teaching in
religious education for many years, I felt as a student who was only getting started. The more one knows the more one is aware how little
he truly knows.
Peter realized the grave importance of
catechetical instruction in his day. He tackled this ageless challenge as John Paul II was doing with the new catechism in his day. The catechism
will enhance our faith with new insights and make us realize with
Peter that faith is made perfect through love and it is powerless
without charity. Faith is also reinforced and fortified with love.
Faith also gives us the courage and freedom to accept Godís
commandments and the gospel especially when it is
Our new catechism is aimed to be a total
ďsnapshotĒ or summary of our faith as much as it is possible. As the
rosary is a compendium of the joyful, the new, luminous or mysteries of light (proclaimed by the Holy Father in 2002), sorrowful, and glorious
mysteries of our Lordís life, so does the catechism aim to express
the unity of our faith. The rosary and our new catechism strengthens
and reinforces our faith every time we read it, and pray with it, as we
apply its principles and truths. As the Trinity of Three Persons is
united, moves and graces us from within and without, so too the
catechism imparts blessings, gifts, and favors when we apply the
principles of the mysteries of God. The Pope also stated beginning in late 2002, the "Year of the Rosary".
God is a hierarchy of truth, love
and power for us to share. Our unity of God in space and time and
our consciousness of it is increased when we practice our faith with
faithful devotion, fulfill our duties, and act generously and
compassionately whenever possible. Christians are gifted to be the
light of the world.
St. Peter was one of the most important
figures in the Counter-Reformation in Germany and is referred to as
the second apostle to Germany next to St Boniface who lived nearly a
millennium before him. He had a strong literary bent and wrote a
catechism which was translated into many languages. He wrote clear
information about our faith by explaining it so that anyone could
grasp it. This happened at a time when the church was in most need
of this service. He founded many colleges and seminaries, taught in
universities, addressed a major Council of the Church and preached
extensively. In his letters, which fill eight volumes, are contained
wisdom and counsel to people in all walks of life. He even wrote
critical letters to leaders of the church in a spirit of charity.
Peter's English biographer, James Broderick, S.J., remarks:
"By the close of the century, when he had been dead only three
years, his brethren had forty flourishing colleges or missions in
northern lands, scarely one of which but owed its existence,
directly or indirectly, to his influence with secular princes or
dignitaries of the Church." (St Peter Canisius , James Brodrick,
S.J.,London, 1935; Carroll Press, Baltimore, 1950, p337). Taken from
Rengers, see sources.
Peter was a great reconciler between
disputing parties. He had tremendous diplomatic skills because of
his agile, quick-witted mind and sensitive heart. Peter's zeal and
unflagging interest in the defense and spread of the faith caused
him to preach and write until his death when he was around
seventy-seven. He suffered a stroke at seventy but continued all of
his ministries with the aid of a secretary. The courage that Peter
received from catholic devotions to Jesus and Mary is
Listen to the beautiful prayers and supplications
of the catechetical teacher taken from Renger's book listed in the
"To be sure, walking in the footsteps of the Holy
Fathers, we not only salute the praiseworthy and admirable Virgin,
who is as a lily among thorns, but we also believe and profess her
to be endowed with such great power that she can listen to, assist
and favor poor mortals as long as they especially commend themselves
and their desires to her and suppliantly expect daily grace through
her motherly intercession."
"Most August Queen, and most true
and faithful Mother Mary, whom none implores in vain, I beg of thee
reverently from my heart that thou, to whom all mankind are bound in
everlasting gratitude, wouldst deign to accept and approve this poor
testimony of my love of thee, graciously measuring its littleness by
the good will that went to its making..."
Canisius is also considered one of the creators and patron of the
Catholic Press. He is one of the greatest opponents of the
Reformation through his preaching and publication of books in
defense of the faith. He never failed to make an offering of all his
work to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He confessed that God would
always help us find time to serve, the Supreme Being, even if we are
not able. However, it should always be done for the greater honor
and glory of God. That is the motto of the Jesuits: doing everything
for the greater honor and glory of God.
He had tremendous
enthusiasm for the apostolate. He could often be found visiting the
sick and prisoners. He was always attempting to instruct the
ignorant. He cared for those burdened with hardships such as the
plague stricken during this time and those living in great poverty.
He did all this despite the fact he already had enough to keep most
people fully occupied. He was an ardent follower of Christ who took
his responsibilities seriously. He overlooked his own health because
of other's needs. God embedded in his heart and mind intense love
for neighbor and members of the church. He loved God passionately
through his neighbor and the church.
Why does charity act so
impetuously at times? Charity doesnít think of itself. She is a
servicer; She spends herself for others. She sees the church in all
creatures, especially the poor, forgotten and overlooked. When love
calls us, one doesnít ask why, when, or who needs us? We simply do it.
Service to the church means service to humankind. Service and
support to others in any manner promotes goodwill, peace and unity.
It can be civic, social, political, humanitarian or any just cause.
Our conscience is like a religious sanctuary and wants to share,
give and assist others. When we help others, we recognize and
embrace Christ. The more we act unselfishly, the more we are acting
charitably and God will be seen in us. Our actions will be like a
catechical instruction book that teaches a lesson. We will be acting
with the spirit that animated St Peter Canisius and his colleagues
in their concern toward unity. This is even more vitally important
today than it was in Peterís day. Why?
Amazingly, there are
twice as many non-Christians in the world as Christian! Think about
it! Are Christians scandalous because of their division? Even within
Christendom we are split, separated and divorced. For a chart of the
different religion as a part of the world population, click below on
Christianity's membership slipped from 32.2percent to 31.2percent
but it spread to become the first truly universal faith with
adherents in every country. The second-ranking Islam expanded its
sector from 12.3 to 19.5. These figure come from the Global
Evangelization Movement's website listed above.
The more we
become truly educated, the more we realize that we need to act
educated by helping all creatures toward unity. On the natural
level, everything strives toward survival of the fittest. On the
spiritual level, everyone survives by sharing, acting virtuously and
being generous. The more we behave, as Christ would have us, the
more we are truly educated. Our catechism and St Peter would have us
put service to the church and others as important goals. If we share
our gifts, we will share the treasure-peace, contentment, interior
satisfaction, and unity. Our work is always beginning and never
ending. Eternal viligance must be the safeguard of our liberty. We
are always free to love unlimitedly. When we sin, however, we are
prisoners of our choices and our passions are misspent.
Jesuit friend has much to share with us if we petition him and his
school of thought for wisdom and dedication toward others as he did.
The reasons that Jesuits and all religious groups and sincere
catholics love the church is because She is Christís beloved One.
she is the bride; She is the 'Mistress of Christ'. Our faith and the
catechism that Peter assisted in establishing, and others are doing
today, state this truth. St Peter Canisius, among many who teach,
write, and speak of the catholic faith, is the Doctor of Catechical
Studies par excellence for numerous reasons.
According to the
1998 edition of the Catholic Almanac, which is listed in the
sources, the Catechism is a systematic presentation of the
fundamentals of catholic doctrine regarding faith and morals. Some
of the major sources are sacred scripture, tradition, the
magisterium (teaching authority of the church), the writings of
Fathers and Doctors of the Church and liturgy. The new Catechism of
the Catholic Church, published Oct 11, 1992 consists of four
principal sections: the profession of faith, (the Creed), the
sacraments of faith, the life of faith (the Commandments) and the
prayer of the believer (the Lordís Prayer). The 16th century Council
of Trent mandated publication of the Roman Catechism. Catechisms
such as these two are useful sources for serving particular needs of
the faithful and persons seeking admission to the catholic
The catechism issued by the first Archdiocese of the
United States was the Baltimore Catechism. This became the basic
means of religious instruction in this country in catholic elementary school from the marvelous Sisters of
Notre Dame, among many other nuns and Orders that the church established. St Martinís elementary school in the Washington
Archdiocese, for example, used the Baltimore Catechism. It was for many students the written text and
introduction to the ABCís of the catholic faith. Faith in God,
regardless of the denomination, is first transmitted by example.
Parents, family and oneís relatives generally have the first
opportunity to express and show who God is. They do this by their
words, examples and lifestyles. If oneís words or actions are not
virtuous, then that bad example can be injurious and impair interest
and growth in loving God and neighbor. Even if one is knowledgeable
in the faith but does not exemplify it by good and holy living, than
bad example can negate what one teaches. Christian faith is a gift
that is not necessary only taught. It is also caught. Teaching
counts. But holy living, most of the time, counts more in the
transmission of that faith.
Generally speaking, oneís teacher
can have a marked influence on oneís faith in God especially if that
knowledge is lived out and showed by charity in oneís words and
action. Nothing teaches like good example. As I look back on my
teachers, the Baltimore Catechism, and my religious instructors, not only of the Jesuits but also of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, I
felt privileged that I was exposed to a rich tradition, holy examples
and religious instruction that many children today lack due to no
fault of their own.
Today learners have more opportunities
to gain knowledge from sources that were not available when I was
young. For example, the Internet, is an indispensable, educational
and learning tool that is practically unlimited as a source to
learn about religion and God. At the same time, parents need to
guard and guide their children how to search for the good and avoid
the evil that lurks surreptitiously behind what appears to be good
but really isnít. Emails abound with unwanted spamers and increasing
x-rated invites. There are an unbelievable numbers of pornographic
websites that are created daily in the thousands and permitted by
hosting companies which have no restrictions. However, the Internet
can be a profound blessing when used to grow in virtue, knowledge
and the common good for all.
TV, VHS, DVD, Internet, IPODS and and a host of other multimedia exposures are
excellent ways for religious education to be known, retained and
enjoyed. Our morals usually start with our parents at home, then school, in our work and social enviorments, and always with the great example that Jesus Christ showed us in the gospels and that the lives of the saints imitated. Jesus achieved his commendable modeling, most amazingly and attractively, despite
deep hatred and determination to kill him through his public ministry and even when he was born. It persisted through his entire public life from day one not only from his own home town but by the religious groups and priests of the day at that time.
Doctors of the
church, such as Peter Canisius, and all those teachers and
spiritual guides and directors, who have helped others gained knowledge in their
faith, are to be appreciated, cherished and treasured. Where would
we be without a moral compass in life, with no Christian values or
without little or no ethical standards? Those who teach Christ by
word and example are explaining the 'Millennial Man,' 'The Man for all
Seasons and Ages', and 'The Everlasting Man'. Those who live Christlike
are as beacons of light guiding others to their eternal home and
ultimate destiny. All new insights and directions in life are
helpful because sin and ignorance abound and causes us to lose our
way and get sidetracked. Human nature is notorious for taking
detours. In fact, it loves to explore in hidden and forbidden
territories because its pride makes it think it doesn't need
restraints, discipline and Christian guidelines. Obedience to the
church to some seems cumbersome, outdated and old fashion.
Canisius and the new catechism is a sure guide for catechesis. On this subject,
the church has also placed before us the Doctor of Catechesis, St Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church, to highlight for us the orgin of instruction in Catholic faith from which the catechism has as its source. St Canisius followed devoutly in the footstep of St Cyril who was born 1200 years before Peter.
St Cyril's link is below.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem 3/18
St Peter followed Cyril's legacy not only by what he wrote and taught but also
by how he lived out the gospels and the scriptures. The first
catechism in the first archdioceses of the USA, Baltimore, has left
us many additional examples as Peter. Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton and
John Neuman are two examples. These and other brave and generous
catechists and teachers have perpetuated the privilege of our faith
through their imitation of Jesus Christ.
Peter was not
hostile to his attacker. He never ridiculed or scolded Martin Luther
who at that time was attacking the catholic church. Many wrote
vicious comments about Peter and called him a cynic and even threw
stones in the church were he said mass. He was derided and
calumniated and bore it patiently and kindly.
Canisius had a
deep devotion to Mary as all the doctors of the church had as well as all faithful Catholics. Many hold this fundamental and foundational devotion to their holy Mother and Queen. See link below:
THE DOCTORS AND ST MARY
Our Jesuit saint was particularly devoted to Our Lady of
Einsiedeln. This is one of many Maryís holy shrines in Switzerland
where she is greatly honored as Lourdes, Fatima, Knock, and many other countries. His faithfulness
to Mary and his good example can be clearly seen by his ardent
charity to all. Peterís reaction to otherís hostility was exactly as
Maryís Son. When Jesus hung dying, he said, Father forgive them for
they do not know what they are doing.
Ignorances of the
basics-faith, religion, prayer and Mary leaves us in a pitiful state. Peter
replaced ignorances with continual study, reflections, teaching,
writing and daily prayer. He helped eradicate anything that was
contrary to the love of God and neighbor. He serves as an example
for those who are always busy. Those active in business, government,
politics or workaholics can learn from him immeasurably. With St
Francis de Sales, another Doctor of the Church, Peter can serve as a model for journalists and
The opening prayer on his feast day: Lord, you gave
Saint Peter Canisius wisdom and courage to defend the Catholic
faith, by the help of his prayers may all who seek the truth rejoice
in finding You, and may all who believe in You be loyal, in
professing their faith.
the official Jesuit link, click below:
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a summary of the official Catechism click below:
population estimates of world religions:
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This link fits Peter perfectly 1)
Sacred Heart, 2) catechism 3)alive when Mary appeared in Mexico: http://www.shjolg.com/
most important work may not begin until after you retire.
Investigate the below link on the Ignatian Lay Volunteer
Ignatian Lay Volunteer Corps.
The below web site contains comprehensive resources on our church, faith, the bible, saints, writings, apologetics, evangelization, family issues, links, and many pertinent services. This superior and highly organized web site (see Table of Content) is a most fascinating site with beautiful prayers, devotions, and really too much to enumerate. A truly universal catholic site.