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St. Peter Canisius wrote a catechism

St. Peter Canisius

born: May 8, 1521

died: Nov. 21, 1597

Feast Day:  Dec. 21

Claim to fame: Known as the “Second Apostle of Germany,” Dutch-born Peter Canisius is a doctor of the church, recognized for the catechism he wrote in response to the attacks and distortions of Catholic belief by followers of the Protestant Reformation. Peter offered to help his friend, Father Lejay, write the catechism, but didn’t want to be the main author. However, when Lejay died, Peter had no choice but to tackle the job. The catechism, published in 1555, was an immediate hit. During his lifetime, the catechism went through 200 editions and was translated into 12 languages. Because there was such a great need, Peter also wrote two special editions of the catechism for younger Catholics – one for students that focused on a different virtue for each day of the week, and one for very young children that included basic prayers for morning, evening and mealtimes.

Little-known fact: In 1565, St. Peter was a “secret agent” for the Vatican, smuggling copies of the decrees from the Council of Trent into the hands of all the bishops in Europe. The 43-year-old Jesuit was well-known as the founder of several well-respected colleges, so he was able to travel from Rome to Germany, supposedly as a “visitor” of Jesuit foundations, but really delivering the valuable church documents into safe hands.

What made him a saint: Peter Canisius desired to bring an accurate perception of Catholic belief to people. He did it in a way that won them over by good example rather than threats or attacks. He followed the Jesuit tradition that harsh words or actions should not be used. For example, after reforming German universities from heresy, he was called to Vienna to do likewise. The people there didn’t like his German accent and wouldn’t listen to his preaching. So he endeared himself to them by working with the sick and dying during a plague that afflicted the city. After that, the people wanted the pope to make Peter their bishop. Peter declined, but he did stay and work in the diocese for a year. His writings on church history and theology, his catechism, and his work establishing Catholic colleges throughout northern Europe helped to bring many people to a clearer understanding of their faith.

Best quote: “If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.”

How he died: Peter Canisius died of old age on Dec. 21, 1597 in Switzerland.

Prayer: 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. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.