Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peter Canisius

Today is the Feast of St. Peter Canisius (1421-1597), Doctor of the Church. He was a Jesuit who spent most of his time in the Austrian and Bavarian regions of Europe and one of the shining lights of the Counter-Reformation. He was well-known in his days for his sermons, which were both doctrinally meaty and severely critical of abuses, briefly attended the Council of Trent as a papal theologian, and founded a number of schools. He is most famous, however, for developing and putting into effect the idea of a written Catholic catechism, and the catechisms of Peter Canisius were the first modern Catholic catechisms that had widespread influence, and are in great measure the reason he was given the title, Doctor of the Church. The following is a from a seventeenth-century English translation of one of his catechetical writings; I have modernized things a bit.

In what brief sum may Christian Doctrine be comprehended?

That a Christian know and observe those things that belong both to (a) Wisdom and Justice. Wisdom, as St. Augustine (b) shows, consists in the Theological virtues, (c) Faith, Hope, and Charity, which are infused by God, and, being purely and most fervently practiced in this life, make men blessed and divine. Justice stands in (d) two parts, in declining from evil and in doing good. For to this belongs what the kingly Prophet says, (e) Turn from evil and do good. Now, out of these fountains, to wit, Wisdom and Justice, other things are easily drawn and deduced, whatever things pertain to Christian instruction and discipline.

(a) Eccl. 1:33 (b) Lib. 2 Retract. cap. 63 & Ench. cap. 2 & 3 (c) I Cor. 13:13 (d) Pros. sen. 98 from Aug (e) Psal. 33:15 & 36:27, I Pet. 3:10

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