Saint Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor

Luke 1:39-45 

Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

Song of Songs 2:8-14 

See how my Beloved comes, leaping on the mountains

I hear my Beloved.

See how he comes

leaping on the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My Beloved is like a gazelle,

like a young stag.

See where he stands

behind our wall.

He looks in at the window,

he peers through the lattice.

My Beloved lifts up his voice,

he says to me,

‘Come then, my love,

my lovely one, come.

For see, winter is past,

the rains are over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth.

The season of glad songs has come,

the cooing of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree is forming its first figs

and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.

Come then, my love,

my lovely one, come.

My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock,

in the coverts of the cliff,

show me your face,

let me hear your voice;

for your voice is sweet

and your face is beautiful.’

Psalm 32(33):2-3,11-12,20-21

Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just; O sing him a song that is new.

Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,

  with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs.

O sing him a song that is new,

  play loudly, with all your skill.

Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just; O sing him a song that is new.

His own designs shall stand for ever,

  the plans of his heart from age to age.

They are happy, whose God is the Lord,

  the people he has chosen as his own.

Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just; O sing him a song that is new.

Our soul is waiting for the Lord.

  The Lord is our help and our shield.

In him do our hearts find joy.

  We trust in his holy name.

Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just; O sing him a song that is new.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Obedience of Faith

144 To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to “hear or listen to”) in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself. Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture. the Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment.

Abraham – “father of all who believe”

145 The Letter to the Hebrews, in its great eulogy of the faith of Israel’s ancestors, lays special emphasis on Abraham’s faith: “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith, he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the promised land. By faith, Sarah was given to conceive the son of the promise. and by faith Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice.

146 Abraham thus fulfils the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Because he was “strong in his faith”, Abraham became the “father of all who believe”

147 The Old Testament is rich in witnesses to this faith. the Letter to the Hebrews proclaims its eulogy of the exemplary faith of the ancestors who “received divine approval”. Yet “God had foreseen something better for us”: the grace of believing in his Son Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”.

Mary – “Blessed is she who believed”

148 The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that “with God nothing will be impossible” and so giving her assent: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.” Elizabeth greeted her: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.

149 Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary’s faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfilment of God’s word. and so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.

Peter Canisius SJ (Dutch: Pieter Kanis, 8 May 1521 – 21 December 1597) was a renowned Dutch Jesuit Catholic priest. He became known for his strong support for the Catholic faith during the Protestant Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The restoration of the Catholic Church in Germany after the Protestant Reformation is largely attributed to the work there of the Society of Jesus, which he led. He is venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and as a Doctor of the Church.

Life

He was born in 1521 in Nijmegen in the Duchy of Guelders, which, until 1549, was part of the Habsburg Netherlands within the Holy Roman Empire and is now the Netherlands. His father was a wealthy burgermeister, Jacob Kanis. His mother, Ægidia van Houweningen, died shortly after Peter’s birth. He was sent to study at the University of Cologne, where he earned a master’s degree in 1540, at the age of 19.

While there, he met Peter Faber, one of the founders of the Society of Jesus. Through him, Canisius became the first Dutchman to join the newly founded Society of Jesus in 1543. Through his preaching and writings, Peter Canisius became one of the most influential Catholics of his time. He supervised the founding and maintenance of the first German-speaking Jesuit colleges, often with little resources at hand. At the same time he preached in the city and vicinity, and debated and taught in the university. Due to his frequent travels between the colleges, a tedious and dangerous occupation at the time, he became known as the Second Apostle of Germany.

Canisius also exerted a strong influence on the Emperor Ferdinand I. The king’s eldest son (later Maximilian II) appointed Phauser, a married priest, to the office of court preacher. Canisius warned Ferdinand I, verbally and in writing, and opposed Phauser in public disputations. Maximilian was obliged to dismiss Phauser and, on this account, the rest of his life he harboured a grudge against Canisius.

In 1547 he attended several sessions of the Council of Trent. Canisius was an influential teacher and preacher, especially through his “German Catechism”, a book which defined the basic principles of Catholicism in the German language and made them more accessible to readers in German-speaking countries. He was offered the post of Bishop of Vienna in 1554, but declined in order to continue his traveling and teachings. He did, however, serve as administrator of the Diocese of Vienna for one year, until a new bishop was appointed for it.

He moved to Germany, where he was one of the main Catholic theologians at the Colloquy of Worms in 1557, and later served as the main preacher in the Cathedral of Augsburg from 1559 to 1568, where he strongly witnessed to his faith on three or four occasions each week. Canisius was renowned as a popular preacher. In 1562 he founded what was to become the University of Innsbruck.

In “Christ The King- Lord of History” by Anne W. Carroll, it states:” Protestantism had made much headway in Germany because many intellectuals had adopted it, making Catholicism appear to be the religion of the ignorant. By his debates, his writing and his teachings, Peter showed that Catholicism was thoroughly rational, that the Protestant arguments were not convincing.”

” By his efforts, Peter won Bavaria (southern Germany) and the Rhineland (central Germany) back to the Catholic Church. He also won converts in Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and Poland. Poland had become largely Protestant, but thanks to the efforts of Peter and other Jesuits, it returned to the Church and is still Catholic today despite Communist persecution.”

By the time he left Germany, the Society of Jesus in Germany had evolved from a small band of priests into a powerful tool of the Counter-Reformation. Canisius spent the last twenty years of his life in Fribourg, where he founded the Jesuit Collège Saint-Michel, which trained generations of young men for careers and future university studies.

In 1591, at the age of 70, Canisius suffered a stroke which left him partially paralyzed, but he continued to preach and write with the aid of a secretary until his death in Fribourg.

He was initially buried at the Church of St Nicholas. His remains were later transferred to the church of the Jesuit College, which he had founded and where he had spent the last year of his life, and interred in front of the main altar of the church; the room he occupied during those last months is now a chapel open for the veneration of the faithful.

Pastoral strategy

Canisius lived during the height of the Protestant Reformation and dedicated much of his work to the clarification of the Catholic faith in light of the emergence of the new Protestant doctrines. His lasting contribution is his three catechisms, which he published in Latin and German, which became widespread and popular in Catholic regions. In his fight with German Protestantism, he requested much more flexibility from Rome, arguing:

If you treat them right, the Germans will give you everything. Many err in matters of faith, but without arrogance. They err the German way, mostly honest, a bit simple-minded, but very open for everything Lutheran. An honest explanation of the faith would be much more effective than a polemical attack against reformers.

He rejected attacks against John Calvin and Melanchthon: With words like these, we don’t cure patients, we make them incurable.

Mariology of Canisius

Canisius taught that, while there are many roads leading to Jesus Christ, for him the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the best. His sermons and letters document a clear preoccupation with Marian veneration. Under the heading “prayer” he explains the Ave Maria (Hail Mary) as the basis for Catholic Marian piety. Less known are his Marian books, in which he published prayers and contemplative texts. He is credited with adding to the Hail Mary the sentence: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners

 Eleven years later it was included in the Catechism of the Council of Trent of 1566.

Canisius published an applied Mariology for preachers, in which Mary is described in tender and warm words. He actively promoted the sodalities of our Lady and the rosary associations.

Theologically, Canisius defended Catholic Mariology in his 1577 book, De Maria Virgine Incomparabili et Dei Genitrice Sacrosancta Libri Quinque. The book was ordered by Pope Pius V to present a factual presentation of the Catholic Marian teachings in the Bible, the early Christians, the Church Fathers and contemporary theology. Canisius explains and documents Church teachings through the ages regarding the person and character of Mary, her virtues and youth. He traces historical documents about the perpetual virginity of Mary, and her freedom from sin. He explains the dogma of “Mother of God” with numerous quotations from the fathers after the Council of Ephesus. He shows that Church teaching has not changed. He answers the sola scriptura arguments of Protestants by analyzing the biblical basis for mariology. Book five explains the Catholic view of the assumption as living faith for centuries, supported by most prominent Church writers. In addition he justifies the cult of Mary within the Catholic Church.

From today’s perspective, Canisius clearly erred in some of his sources, but, because of his factual analysis of original sources, it is considered as representing one of the best theological achievements in the 16th century.

Veneration

Canisius was beatified by Pope Pius IX in the year 1864, and later canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church on 21 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI. His feast day was included in the General Roman Calendar in 1926, for celebration on 27 April. In the liturgical reform of 1969, it was moved to 21 December, the anniversary of his death, the normal day for celebrating a saint’s entry into heaven (although it is still kept by the Society of Jesus on 27 April).

Source: Wikipedia