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February 21
St. Peter Damian
Doctor of the Church, Patron of Headache Sufferers

St. Peter Damian, 1001-1072

"You think you have it hard? Try being me.

Could you imagine being Peter Damian? I mean really, for a minute, just think of how insane that must have been. The main barely slept because he wanted to pray so much. He ate little and even wore a hair shirt under his clothing, just in case he thought he might start to feel comfortable. I mean, the man took the idea of asceticism to a new extreme. As for the works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, the man rocked. He almost always had the poor at his personal table where he literally served them himself. And from this, we can all learn a lesson: suck it up.

Peter Damian was orphaned at a young age, and his situation went from bad to worse when his brother begrudgingly took him and made him basically the first Cinderfella. He was kept as a servant by his own family. Did Peter complain? No. He sucked it up and moved on, probably thanking God for His goodness in allowing him to suffer. One day, the Archdeacon of Ravenna, who just so happened to be a relative, took pity on him and decided to be his fairy God father. Peter was given the best education for the time and because of this was able to become a well loved teacher and scholar.

Although he was pretty darn good at the teaching and preaching, he decided that it was not really for him and chose instead to follow God’s call. In true Peter style though, he couldn’t do it unless he went all the way: he became a monk. This is when most monks actually acted like monks: lived in a hermitage, barely ate, spoke even less, followed strict rules for everything. Peter loved this life (I assume, I mean you kind of have to love it to lead it that hard core, right?). However, his abbot had bigger ideas for him. He commanded that Peter succeed him when he died, and, even though that was probably the last thing Peter wanted, he (you guessed it) sucked it up. He went on to found five more hermitages, be a Papal peace maker, settle disputes among monasteries, and was finally made a Bishop (of Ostia). He worked to reform, everything. He cut back on simony (the buying and selling of church offices), encouraged the true practice of celibacy amongst the clergy, and in general tried to make things more awesome. He succeeded.

Finally, he was allowed to retire, and returned to his life of austerity and quiet. He was occasionally called upon to continue in his peace keeper role, and after returning from on of these trips, he was overcome with a terrible fever and died, surrounded by his fellow monks.

Peter Damian sets an extraordinary example of doing what needs to be done even if it’s not what you want to do. Instead of leading the life of a (literal) hermit in seclusion and prayer, the man was sent on peace keeping missions and required to lead a whole diocese, publicly. Yet, in all of his voluminous writing, never once is there a hint of disdain for his duty. He may not have chosen the life he was given, but he never allowed that to keep him from fulfilling his role in God’s plan. As we enter into Lent and complain (as we all do from time to time) about being hungry, tired, overworked, stressed, or just plain cranky, let’s try to remember the example of this Doctor of the Church: suck it up.

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