Peter Canisius was a great evangelist and Catholic apologist. He was very successful in renewing the Catholic faith after the Protestant Reformation. He believed in teaching the truths of the faith without being controversial. During a time when there was much negativity between Protestants and Catholics, Peter maintained a charitable attitude toward his opponents.
Born in Holland in 1521, he studied at Cologne University where he received a master’s degree and then went on to study canon law at Louvain. While there he attended a retreat given by Blessed Peter Fabre, which inspired him to join the Jesuits. He was ordained in 1546. He served in Sicily, Rome, Bavaria, and Vienna before being named as the first Jesuit provincial of South Germany. He did so well in this position that later Pope Leo XIII referred to him as “the second apostle of Germany, after Boniface.” He traveled extensively, mainly by horseback, and developed quite a reputation for his preaching. In 1580 he was assigned to the city of Fribourg. While there he founded the university and was successful in preserving the Catholic presence in Switzerland.
In 1555 he published his Catechism, which was so successful that it was printed in fifteen languages. Peter quickly saw the benefits of the new technology of the printing press. He became a prolific writer and also encouraged others to write. He was active in obtaining Church support for Catholic printers and publishers.
Peter suffered a stroke in 1591, but continued to preach and teach until his death, six years later on December 21, 1597. In 1925, Pope Pius XI canonized Peter and made him a Doctor of the Church.
The following remark by Peter Canisius is just as pertinent today as it was when he first spoke it: “The fear of many people is greater than necessary, because they look for human and not for divine help; they act in despair instead of praying with holy confidence for the oppressed Church.”
Almighty Father, Pope John Paul II repeated the words, “Be not afraid” many times. We pray for the confidence, not in ourselves, but in Your divine wisdom and justice in defending the faith and evangelizing. Through the words and deeds of St. Peter Canisius, may we see that through prayer and reliance on You that we will be able to bring many to the fullness of truth. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Thomas (1st Century), Apostle, Martyr, baptized the Magi