Once upon a time the greatest danger to the Church was the emergence and spread of Protestantism. This began in Germany, home to St. Peter Canisius, whom we honor on Dec 21st in the Liturgical Year. No doubt, St. Canisius is well-known by Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany. St. Canisius remains a saint who can help guide our Church in troubled times – both then and now.
Just as the Holy Father has called for a re-evangelization of Europe from the dangers of secularization, so St. Canisius called for a re-evangelization of Northern Europe to restore Catholicism from Protestantism. The parallels between our current Pope and St. Canisius are many. And these lessons are accessible to all of us.
St. Canisius was an early Jesuit, who knew the most powerful European leaders and who served the most humble victims of the Black Death. He was well-respected by all, and traveled as a Catholic leader through violently-held Protestant regions. He built up universities throughout Northern Europe, clarified heresies to reform some, and openly admitted to abuses in the Church. He became the most entrusted diplomat of the Pope, who carried documents throughout Europe. This was in an era when affiliation with Rome could earn you quick martyrdom in many German states.
Parallels between St. Canisius and Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI – then Cardinal Ratzinger — played a key role in compiling the new Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992. St. Peter Canisius helped write the first Catechism, following the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
St. Peter Canisius (1521-1597) also:
- Revived The Rosary which had fallen out of use.
- Encouraged devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
- Won back Protestants by admitting errors in Church practices and by explaining eternal faith principles.
- Founded and reformed universities to prevent spreading heresy.
- Witnessed by his service to victims of the Black Death.
- Entrusted by the Pope and Protestants to carry important documents.
Pope Benedict has encouraged us to pray The Rosary, as the most powerful prayer of our era. The Pope has worked hard to ensure the faith is taught in Catholic universities in the US. The Pope has worked tirelessly, and even written a book, to promote the unity of all Christians. The Pope has spoken repeatedly about caring for the poor. I’m sure Pope Benedict has heralded the intercession of St. Peter Canisius on regular occasions. The patron of Germany would, no doubt, remain a close companion in prayer.
How can we also carry St. Peter Canisius into our lives?
1. Stay faithful to the Church no matter the assaults you face.
2. Teach the faith with clarity and charity.
3. Win others by your example of service.
4. Pray the Rosary daily.
5. Keep close to Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
As we await Christmas, we are reminded by St. Peter Canisius that Jesus left us His Church. May we nurture His Body, the Church, as we would the baby Jesus.