Saint Peter Canisius

Today is the Feast of Saint Peter Canisius, one of our Jesuit saints. He was born in 1521 at Nijmegen, in what is now the Netherlands. After studying at Cologne, he sensed an attraction to the priesthood.

He had a conversation with (Saint) Fr. Peter Favre, one of the founding members of the Jesuit order. Favre was impressed enough with this young man that he gave him the Spiritual Exercises, during which Canisius discerned to enter the order. He was accepted and entered on May 8, 1543, his 22nd birthday.

After studies in theology, he was ordained in 1546. Just after, he spent some time as a theological consultant to one of the cardinals at the Council of Trent. This was followed by being assigned to teach at our first Jesuit school, in Messina, Sicily.

Pope Paul III asked Canisius to go to Germany, to help defend the Catholic Church against the attacks of the Reformation. He was tasked with trying to reverse 25 years of attacks on the Church.

He strove to defend and consolidate the Catholic faith by writing and preaching. His most significant work was his Catechism. For his many contributions in theology, preaching, writing and administration, Peter Canisius is known as the second apostle of Germany (Saint Boniface is the first).

Fr. Canisius was also assigned to Vienna, Austria, to try for the same success he had in Germany. He was so successful that the pope and king tried to name him bishop in Vienna. He asked instead to serve as administrator until a suitable candidate could be found.

It was during the period in Vienna that he wrote his famous Catechism – Summary of Christian Doctrine. It became very popular in Germany and Austria and was adapted for various audiences.

Peter Canisius also opened a college in Prague, served for 14 years as Provincial Superior for Germany, and represented the Church at various ecumenical gatherings and as a theological expert.

His influential ministry seemed to know no limits in building up the Church in the face of the Reformation. He went to Fribourg in Switzerland, to start a college. He started to slow down in 1589, though continued writing almost until he died in 1597.

Canisius was in his 76th year. He founded 18 colleges and authored 37 books. Perhaps his greatest achievement for the Church was his preaching, thus restoring Catholicism in Germany and Austria.

Canisius was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925. Early in his life, he had described a mystical experience he had just before departing for Germany.

He saw it as a consolation and favour from the Apostles, their promise that he would be blessed in his work in Germany. “You know, Lord, how urgently and how often that day you entrusted Germany to me, telling me ever after to have her good at heart, and to wish to live and die on her behalf.”

He had a vision of a protective garment with three parts: peace, love and perseverance. “Secure in the protection of this garment, I was confident that I would lack nothing, and that everything would turn out for your glory.”

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Susanne Prue
    Posted at 06:38h, 27 April Reply

    I have a challenge to face today and I thank you for disclosing to me this morning the garment needed to heed God’s will in this endeavour.

  • Ann Ascoli
    Posted at 07:53h, 27 April Reply

    Paul !!! ??

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 11:04h, 27 April Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Maureen Malloy
    Posted at 22:35h, 02 May Reply

    I will endeared to wear this wonderful

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