Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Notes on the Feast of St. Peter Canisius.

Today the Society of Jesus remembers Peter Canisius, an important early Jesuit whose bold efforts helped preserve the Catholic Church in Germany at a time when it looked as though the country might become completely Protestant. Though he was one of the most learned theologians of his day, Canisius is remembered not for his intellectual prowess but for his skill as a grassroots evangelizer. Canisius had a talent for communicating the Catholic faith in terms that were intelligible and persuasive to the humble and uneducated, and this talent proved decisive in keeping Catholicism alive in Germany. Canisius ensured his lasting influence on German Catholicism by authoring a popular catechism that remained in widespread circulation into the 20th century.

This year, the Feast of St. Peter Canisius has particular relevance for the life of the Church. Our new pope comes to the Chair of Peter with both a reputation as a brilliant theologian and a desire to be an agent of renewal for the Church not only in Germany but also across Europe. I suspect that Pope Benedict XVI would like to be known more as an evangelizer than as a theologian, and he could well find inspiration in the example of Peter Canisius.

A liturgical side note: though Jesuit houses remember Peter Canisius today, the universal Church celebrates his memory on December 21st. Saying as how Canisius is one of our greatest saints, with the approval of the relevant Roman authorities the Society decided it would be better to celebrate his memory at a time of the year when he can get the attention he deserves rather than a few days before Christmas, when the excitement of Advent would make him little more than a footnote. Makes sense to me. AMDG.


At April 29, 2005 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see you posting again, Joe.

Interesting thoughts on Canisius, especially relating to B16.


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