Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Short Cuts

Author and Publisher - Catholic Online

Image of St. Peter Canisius

Facts

Feastday: December 21

Birth: 1521

Death: 1597


In 1565, the Vatican was looking for a secret agent. It was shortly after the Council of Trent and the pope wanted to get the decrees of the Council to all the European bishops. What would be a simple errand in our day, was a dangerous assignment in the sixteenth century. The first envoy who tried to carry the decrees through territory of hostile Protestants and vicious thieves was robbed of the precious documents. Rome needed someone courageous but also someone above suspicion. They chose Peter Canisius. At 43 he was a well-known Jesuit who had founded colleges that even Protestants respected. They gave him a cover as official "visitor" of Jesuit foundations. But Peter couldn't hide the decrees like our modern fictional spies with their microfilmed messages in collar buttons or cans of shaving cream. Peter traveled from Rome and crisscrossed Germany successfully loaded down with the Tridentine tomes -- 250 pages each -- not to mention the three sacks of books he took along for his own university!

Why did the Vatican choose Peter Canisius for this delicate task?

Born in Holland in 1521, Peter had edited and written several volumes on Church history and theology, been a delegate to the Council of Trent, and reformed the German universities from heresy. Called to Vienna to reform their university, he couldn't win the people with preaching or fancy words spoken in his German accent. He won their hearts by ministering to the sick and dying during a plague. The people, the king, and the pope all wanted to make Peter bishop of Vienna, but Peter declined vigorously and administered the diocese for a year.

For many years during the Reformation, Peter saw the students in his universities swayed by the flashy speeches and the well-written arguments of the Protestants. Peter was not alone in wishing for a Catholic catechism that would present true Catholic beliefs undistorted by fanatics. Finally King Ferdinand himself ordered Peter and his companions to write a catechism. This hot potato got tossed from person to person until Peter and his friend Lejay were assigned to write it. Lejay was obviously the logical choice, being a better writer than Peter. So Peter relaxed and sat back to offer any help he could. When Father Lejay died, King Ferdinand would wait no longer. Peter said of writing: "I have never learned to be elegant as a writer, but I cannot remain dumb on that account." The first issue of the Catechism appeared in 1555 and was an immediate success. Peter approached Christian doctrine in two parts: wisdom -- including faith, hope, and charity -- and justice -- avoiding evil and doing good, linked by a section on sacraments.

Because of the success and the need, Peter quickly produced two more versions: a Shorter Catechism for middle school students which concentrated on helping this age group choose good over evil by concentrating on a different virtue each day of the week; and a Shortest Catechism for young children which included prayers for morning and evening, for mealtimes, and so forth to get them used to praying.

As intent as Peter was on keeping people true to the Catholic faith, he followed the Jesuit policy that harsh words should not be used, that those listening would see an example of charity in the way Catholics acted and preached. However, his companions were not always as willing. He showed great patience and insight with one man, Father Couvillon. Couvillon was so sharp and hostile that he was alienating his companions and students. Anyone who confronted him became the subject of abuse. It became obvious that Couvillon suffered from emotional illness. But Peter did not let that knowledge blind him to the fact that Couvillon was still a brilliant and talented man. Instead of asking Couvillon to resign he begged him to stay on as a teacher and then appointed him as his secretary. Peter thought that Couvillon needed to worry less about himself and pray more and work harder. He didn't coddle him but gave Couvillon blunt advice about his pride. Coming from Peter this seemed to help Couvillon. Peter consulted Couvillon often on business of the Province and asked him to translate Jesuit letters from India. Thanks to Peter , even though Couvillon continued to suffer depression for years, he also accomplished much good.

Peter died in December 21, 1597. He is known as the Second Apostle of Germany and was named a Doctor of the Church.

In His Footsteps

Peter believed in the importance in learning and understanding the Catholic faith. If it is available to you, resolve to read a portion of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. Don't try to read too much but consider reading a page a day. Before we can spread our faith we must have a solid foundation in ourselves.

Prayer:

Saint Peter Canisius, you saw the good in even the most troublesome of people. You found their talents and used them. Help me to see beyond the behavior of others that may bother me to the gifts God has given them. Amen



More about St. Peter Canisius from Wikipedia

St. Peter Canisius Comments



More Saints






Browse Saints by Category


Popular Saints

Rank

Saint

77.

Image of St. Bridget

St. Bridget

St. Bridget arrived in Ireland a few years after St. Patrick. Her father was an Irish lord named Duptace. As Bridget grew up, she became holier and more pious each day. She loved the ... continue reading

78.

Image of St. Veronica

St. Veronica

The woman of Jerusalem who wiped the face of Christ with a veil while he was on the way to Calvary. According to tradition, the cloth was imprinted with the image of Christ's face." ... continue reading

79.

Image of St. Anastasia

St. Anastasia

- "excerpts taken from Victories of the Martyrs," by St. Alphonsus de Liguori Taken from the Acts of St. Anastasia, who is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, and commemorated by the ... continue reading

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Agatha

St. Agatha

Although we have evidence that Agatha was venerated at least as far back as the sixth century, the only facts we have about her are that she was born in Sicily and died there a martyr. In the ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day
February 2016
S M T W T F S
123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
2829

Saint of the Day by E-Mail

Saint of the Day newsletter icon

Learn about the lives of the saints and other saint resources, including a calendar, over 5,000 saint biographies, our most popular saints, and a list of patron saints. 7 days / week. See Sample


Required


Female Saints

Image of St. Elizabeth

St. Elizabeth

What we know of St. Elizabeth comes from the Gospel, the book of Luke, in particular. In Luke, Elizabeth, a daughter of the line of Aaron, and the wife of Zacharias, was "righteous before God" and was "blameless" but childless. Elizabeth is also a cousin to the Virgin ... continue reading

More Female Saints



Saint Calendar
Saint Feast Days
Saint Fun Facts

Angels

Image of St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but rather he is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title "Archangel" means, that he is above all the others in rank. St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, as we ... continue reading



Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. Fidelis

St. Fidelis

Bishop of Merida, Spain, trained by his predecessor, St. Paul. He was originally from the East. continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. Joan de Lestonnac

St. Joan de Lestonnac

St. Joan de Lestonnac was born in Bordeaux, France, in 1556. She married at the age of seventeen. The happy marriage produced four children, but her husband died suddenly in 1597. After her children were raised, she entered the Cistercian monastery at Toulouse. Joan ... continue reading



Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of St. Agnes is honored with the blessing of two lambs (Wordpress).

Pope Francis continues tradition of blessing two lambs in memory of St. Agnes

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

On Thursday Pope Francis celebrated St. Agnes' feast day in the Vatican by continuing the centuries-old tradition of blessing two lambs in her honor. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Traditionally, the lambs blessed on January 21 are under a year old and their first ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 47:2-11
2 As the fat is set apart from the communion sacrifice, so was David ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 18:31, 47, 50, 51
47 the God who gives me vengeance, and subjects whole peoples to ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 6:14-29
14 King Herod had heard about him, since by now his name was well known. ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 5th, 2016 Image

St. Agatha
February 5: Although we have evidence that Agatha was ... Read More