Saint Pierre Canisius
Docteur de l'Église (+ 1597)
Au temps où la Réforme s'étendait sur l'Europe, secouant fortement l'Occident chrétien, les familles catholiques confirmaient leur foi en l'Église romaine par un attachement résolu et déterminé. Pierre Kanijs est né à Nimègue aux Pays Bas dans l'une de ces familles. Les solides études qu'il fit à Cologne affermissent davantage encore ses convictions et lorsqu'il rencontre Pierre Favre, compagnon de saint Ignace de Loyola dès la première heure, il se décide à entrer dans la Compagnie de Jésus. Il passera désormais toute sa vie à lutter contre l'influence de Luther. Il prêche dans son pays, puis en Allemagne et en Suisse, partout où l'envoient ses supérieurs. Il traduit les Pères de l'Église trop oubliés à l'époque et auxquels Luther ne veut se référer à aucun prix. Il rédige un catéchisme qui connaîtra un succès fabuleux. Tout de suite les Pères du Concile de Trente font appel à ses compétences. S'il combat la Réforme, il est douceur et tendresse pour les réformateurs protestants. Conscient des faiblesses de l'Église catholique, il est convaincu que le renouvellement de l'Église, terme qu'il préfère à réforme, doit passer par la lutte contre l'ignorance du clergé et des fidèles. A l'époque où l'imprimerie n'engendre que la méfiance, puisqu'elle fut l'un des instruments de la contestation, il en use abondamment: "Le progrès doit être mis au service de Dieu." Il rendra son dernier souffle à Dieu, en Suisse, à Fribourg. Il a été proclamé "Docteur de l'Église."
Le 9 février 2011, Benoît XVI a consacré sa catéchèse à saint Pierre Canisius (1521 - 1597), proclamé par Léon XIII Second Apôtre de l'Allemagne, canonisé en 1925 par Pie XI et proclamé Docteur de l'Église. Saint Pierre Kanis, Canisius, forme latinisée de son nom de famille, figure très importante du XVIe siècle catholique (site du Vatican)
Après avoir tracé sa biographie, le Saint-Père a dit qu'une "des caractéristiques de saint Pierre Canisius fut sa capacité à présenter de manière harmonieuse la fidélité aux principes dogmatiques et le respect de toute personne... A une époque de forts contrastes religieux, il évita la dureté de propos et la rhétorique de la violence, chose alors rare entre chrétiens, dans la présentation des racines chrétiennes et du renouveau de la foi en l'Église". Ses écrits de formation spirituelle du peuple "insistent sur l'importance de la liturgie..., sur la messe et les sacrements. Mais il se préoccupait aussi de prouver l'importance de la beauté et de la prière personnelle quotidienne, allant de pair avec le culte et la prière publique de l'Église... La valeur de ses méthodes et recommandations demeure intacte, notamment avec leur reproposition par le concile Vatican II". Pierre Canisius, a conclu Benoît XVI, "a clairement enseigné que le ministère apostolique ne porte des fruits que si le prédicateur est un témoin réel de Jésus, sachant être son instrument dans l'union à l'Évangile et à l'Église, vivant de manière moralement cohérente, dans la prière et l'amour". (source: VIS 20110209 490)
- vidéo: la miséricorde chez Pierre Canisius, conférence, webTV de la CEF.
Mémoire de saint Pierre Canisius, prêtre et docteur de l'Église. Originaire de Nimègue, il entra dans la toute nouvelle Compagnie de Jésus sous influence du bienheureux Pierre Favre. Envoyé en Allemagne, il travailla avec énergie pendant de longues années à défendre la foi catholique et à l'affermir par ses prédications et ses écrits, parmi lesquels son grand et son petit Catéchismes eurent une importance considérable. Il se repose enfin de ses travaux à Fribourg en Suisse en 1597. (En Suisse, sa mémoire est reportée au 27 avril).
SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_pierre_canisius.html
Docteur de l'Église
SOURCE : http://nouvl.evangelisation.free.fr/pierre_canisius.htm
© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110209_fr.html
On 7 September, 1549, he made his solemn profession as Jesuit at Rome, in the presence of the founder of the order. On his journey northward he received, at Bologna, the degree of doctor of theology. On 13 November, accompanied by Fathers Jaius and Salmeron, he reached Ingolstadt, where he taught theology, catechized, and preached. In 1550 he was elected rector of the university, and in 1552 was sent by Ignatius to the new college in Vienna; there he also taught theology in the university, preached at the Cathedral of St. Stephen, and at the court of Ferdinand I, and was confessor at the hospital and prison. During Lent, 1553 he visited many abandoned parishes in Lower Austria, preaching and administering the sacraments. The king's eldest son (later Maximilian II) had appointed to the office of court preacher, Phauser, a married priest, who preached the Lutheran doctrine. 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. Ferdinand three times offered him the Bishopric of Vienna, but he refused. In 1557 Julius III appointed him administrator of the bishopric for one year, but Canisius succeeded in ridding himself of this burden (cf. N. Paulus in "Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie", XXII, 742-8). In 1555 he was present at the Diet of Augsburg with Ferdinand, and in 1555-56 he preached in the cathedral of Prague. After long negotiations and preparations he was able to open Jesuit colleges at Ingolstadt and Prague. In the same year Ignatius appointed him first provincial superior of Upper Germany (Swabia, Bavaria, Bohemia, Hungary, Lower and Upper Austria). During the winter of 1556-57 he acted as adviser to the King of the Romans at the Diet of Ratisbon and delivered many sermons in the cathedral. By the appointment of the Catholic princes and the order of the pope he took part in the religious discussions at Worms. As champion of the Catholics he repeatedly spoke in opposition to Melanchthon. The fact that the Protestants disagreed among themselves and were obliged to leave the field was due in a great measure to Canisius. He also preached in the cathedral of Worms.
During Advent and Christmas he visited the Bishop of Strasburg at Zabern, started negotiations for the building of a Jesuit college there, preached, explained the catechism to the children, and heard their confessions. He also preached in the cathedral of Strasburg and strengthened the Catholics of Alsace and Freiburg in their faith. Ferdinand, on his way to Frankfort to be proclaimed emperor, met him at Nuremburg and confided his troubles to him. Then Duke Albert V of Bavaria secured his services; at Straubing the pastors and preachers had fled, after having persuaded the people to turn from the Catholic faith. Canisius remained in the town for six weeks, preaching three or four times a day, and by his gentleness he undid much harm. From Straubing he was called to Rome to be present at the First General Congregation of his order, but before its close Paul IV sent him with the nuncio Mentuati to Poland to the imperial Diet of Pieterkow; at Cracow he addressed the clergy and members of the university. In the year 1559 he was summoned by the emperor to be present at the Diet of Augsburg. There, at the urgent request of the chapter, he became preacher at the cathedral and held this position until 1566. His manuscripts show the care with which he wrote his sermons. In a series of sermons he treats of the end of man, of the Decalogue, the Mass, the prophecies of Jonas; at the same time he rarely omitted to expound the Gospel of the day; he spoke in keeping with the spirit of the age, explained the justification of man, Christian liberty, the proper way of interpreting the Scriptures, defended the worship of saints, the ceremonies of the Church, religious vows, indulgences. urged obedience to the Church authorities, confession, communion, fasting, and almsgiving; he censured the faults of the clergy, at times perhaps too sharply, as he felt that they were public and that he must avoid demanding reformation from the laity only. Against the influence of evil spirits he recommended the means of defence which had been in use in the Church during the first centuries—lively faith, prayer, ecclesiastical benedictions, and acts of penance. From 1561-62 he preached about two hundred and ten sermons, besides giving retreats and teaching catechism. In the cathedral, his confessional and the altar at which he said Mass were surrounded by crowds, and alms were placed on the altar. The envy of some of the cathedral clergy was aroused, and Canisius and his companions were accused of usurping the parochial rights. The pope and bishop favoured the Jesuits, but the majority of the chapter opposed them. Canisius was obliged to sign an agreement according to which he retained the pulpit but gave up the right of administering the sacraments in the cathedral.
In 1559 he opened a college in Munich; in 1562 he appeared at Trent as papal theologian. The council was discussing the question whether communion should be administered under both forms to those of the laity who asked for it. Lainez, the general of the Society of Jesus, opposed it unconditionally. Canisius held that the cup might be administered to the Bohemians and to some Catholics whose faith was not very firm. After one month he departed from Trent, but he continued to support the work of the Fathers by urging the bishops to appear at the council, by giving expert opinion regarding the Index and other matters, by reports on the state of public opinion, and on newly-published books. In the spring of 1563 he rendered a specially important service to the Church; the emperor had come to Innsbruck (near Trent), and had summoned thither several scholars, including Canisius, as advisers. Some of these men fomented the displeasure of the emperor with the pope and the cardinals who presided over the council. For months Canisius strove to reconcile him with the Curia. He has been blamed unjustly for communicating to his general and to the pope's representatives some of Ferdinand's plans, which otherwise might have ended contrary to the intention of all concerned in the dissolution of the council and in a new national apostasy. The emperor finally granted all the pope's demands and the council was able to proceed and to end peacefully. All Rome praised Canisius, but soon after he lost favour with Ferdinand and was denounced as disloyal; at this time he also changed his views regarding the giving of the cup to the laity (in which the emperor saw a means of relieving all his difficulties), saying that such a concession would only tend to confuse faithful Catholics and to encourage the disobedience of the recalcitrant.
In 1562 the College of Innsbruck was opened by Canisius, and at that time he acted as confessor to the "Queen" Magdalena (declared Venerable in 1906 by Pius X; daughter of Ferdinand I, who lived with her four sisters at Innsbruck), and as spiritual adviser to her sisters. At their request he sent them a confessor from the society, and, when Magdalena presided over the convent, which she had founded at Hall, he sent her complete directions for attaining Christian perfection. In 1563 he preached at many monasteries in Swabia; in 1564 he sent the first missionaries to Lower Bavaria, and recommended the provincial synod of Salzburg not to allow the cup to the laity, as it had authority to do; his advice, however, was not accepted. In this year Canisius opened a college at Dillingen and assumed, in the name of the order, the administration of the university which had been founded there by Cardinal Truchsess. In 1565 he took part in the Second General Congregation of the order in Rome. While in Rome he visited Philip, son of the Protestant philologist Joachim Camerarius, at that time a prisoner of the Inquisition, and instructed and consoled him. Pius IV sent him as his secret nuncio to deliver the decrees of the Council of Trent to Germany; the pope also commissioned him to urge their enforcement, to ask the Catholic princes to defend the Church at the coming diet, and to negotiate for the founding of colleges and seminaries. Canisius negotiated more or less successfully with the Electors of Mainz and Trier, with the bishops of Augsburg, Würzburg, Osnabrück, Münster, and Paderborn, with the Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, and with the City and University of Cologne; he also visited Nimwegen, preaching there and at other places; his mission, however, was interrupted by the death of the pope. Pius V desired its continuation, but Canisius requested to be relieved; he said that it aroused suspicions of espionage, of arrogance, and of interference in politics (for a detailed account of his mission see "Stimmen aus Maria-Laach", LXXI, 58, 164, 301).
At the Diet of Augsburg (1566), Canisius and other theologians, by order of the pope, gave their services to the cardinal legate Commendone; with the help of his friends he succeeded, although with great difficulty, in persuading the legate not to issue his protest against the religious peace, and thus prevented a new fratricidal war. The Catholic members of the diet accepted the decrees of the council, the designs of the Protestants were frustrated, and from that time a new and vigorous life began for the Catholics in Germany. In the same year Canisius went to Wiesensteig, where he visited and brought back to the Church the Lutheran Count of Helfenstein and his entire countship, and where he prepared for death two witches who had been abandoned by the Lutheran preachers. In 1567 he preached the Lenten sermons in the cathedral of Würzburg, gave instruction in the Franciscan church twice a week to the children and domestics of the town, and discussed the foundling of a Jesuit college at Würzburg with the bishop. Then followed the diocesan synod of Dillingen (at which Canisius was principal adviser of the Bishop of Augsburg), journeys to Würzburg, Mainz, Speyer, and a visit to the Bishop of Strasburg, whom he advised, though unsuccessfully, to take a coadjutor. At Dillingen he received the application of Stanislaus Kostka to enter the Society af Jesus, and sent him with hearty recommendations to the general of the order at Rome. At this time he successfully settled a dispute in the philosophical faculty of the University of Ingolstadt. In 1567 and 1568 he went several times to Innsbruck, where in the name of the general he consulted with the Archduke Ferdinand II and his sisters about the confessors of the archduchesses and about the establishment of a Jesuit house at Hall. In 1569 the general decided to accept the college at Hall.
During Lent of 1568 Canisius preached at Ellwangen, in Würtemberg; from there he went with Cardinal Truchsess to Rome. The Upper German province of the order had elected the provincial as its representative at the meeting of the procurators; this election was illegal, but Canisius was admitted. For months he collected in the libraries of Rome material for a great work which he was preparing. In 1569 he returned to Augsburg and preached Lenten sermons in the Church of St. Mauritius. Having been a provincial for thirteen years (an unusually long time) he was relieved of the office at his own request, and went to Dillingen, where he wrote, catechized, and heard confessions, his respite, however, was short; in 1570 he was obliged again to go to Augsburg. A year latter he was compelled to move to Innsbruck and to accept the office of court preacher to Archduke Ferdinand II. In 1575 Gregory XIII sent him with papal messages to the archduke and to the Duke of Bavaria. When he arrived in Rome to make his report, the Third General Congregation of the order was assembled and, by special favour, Canisius was invited to be present. From this time he was preacher in the parish church of Innsbruck until the Diet of Ratisbon (1576), which he attended as theologian of the cardinal legate Morone. In the following year he supervised at Ingolstadt the printing of an important work, and induced the students of the university to found a sodality of the Blessed Virgin. During Lent, 1578, he preached at the court of Duke William of Bavaria at Landshut. The nuncio Bonhomini desired to have a college of the society at Fribourg; the order at first refused on account of the lack of men, but the pope intervened and, at the end of 1580, Canisius laid the foundation stone. In 1581 he founded a sodality of the Blessed Virgin among the citizens and, soon afterwards, sodalities for women and students; in 1582 schools were opened, and he preached in the parish church and in other places until 1589.
The canton had not been left uninfluenced by the Protestant movement. Canisius worked indefatigably with the provost Peter Schnewly, the Franciscan Johannes Michel, and others, for the revival of religious sentiments amongst the people; since then Fribourg has remained a stronghold of the Catholic Church. In 1584, while on the way to take part in another meeting of the order at Augsburg, he preached at Lucerne and made a pilgrimage to the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin at Einsiedeln. According to his own account, it was then that St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Fribourg, made known to him his desire that Canisius should not leave Fribourg again. Many times the superiors of the order planned to transfer him to another house, but the nuncio, the city council, and the citizens themselves opposed the measure; they would not consent to lose this celebrated and saintly man. The last years of his life he devoted to the instruction of converts, to making spiritual addresses to the brothers of the order, to writing and re-editing books. The city authorities ordered his body to be buried before the high altar of the principal church, the Church of St. Nicolaus, from which they were translated in 1625 to that of St. Michael, the church of the Jesuit College.
Canisius held that to defend the Catholic truths with the pen was just as important as to convert the Hindus. At Rome and Trent he strongly urged the appointment at the council, at the papal court, and in other parts of Italy, of able theologians to write in defence of the Catholic faith. He begged Pius V to send yearly subsidies to the Catholic printers of Germany, and to permit German scholars to edit Roman manuscripts; he induced the city council of Fribourg to erect a printing establishment, and he secured special privileges for printers. He also kept in touch with the chief Catholic printers of his time — Plantin of Antwerp, Cholin of Cologne, and Mayer of Dillingen — and had foreign works of importance reprinted in Germany, for example, the works of Andrada, Fontidonio, and Villalpando in defence of the Council of Trent.
Canisius advised the generals of the order to create a college of authors; urged scholars like Bartholomæus Latomus, Friedrich Staphylus, and Hieronymus Torensis to publish their works; assisted Onofrio Panvinio and the polemic Stanislaus Hosius, reading their manuscripts and correcting proofs; and contributed to the work of his friend Surius on the councils. At his solicitation the "Briefe aus Indien", the first relations of Catholic missioners, were published (Dillingen, 1563-71); "Canisius", wrote the Protestant preacher, Witz, "by this activity gave an impulse which deserves our undivided recognition, indeed which arouses our admiration" ("Petrus Canisius", Vienna, 1897, p. 12).
The latest bibliography of the Society of Jesus devotes thirty-eight quarto pages to a list of the works published by Canisius and their different editions, and it must be added that this list is incomplete. The most important of his works are described below; the asterisk signifies that the work bears the name of Canisius neither on the title page nor in the preface. His chief work is his triple "Catechism". In 1551 King Ferdinand I asked the University of Vienna to write a compendium of Christian doctrine, and Canisius wrote (Vienna, 1555), at first for advanced students, his "Summa doctrinæ christianæ . . . in usum Christianæ pueritiæ", two hundred and eleven questions in five chapters (the first edition appeared without the name of the author, but later all three catechisms bore his name); then a short extract for school children, "Summa . . . ad captum rudiorum accommodata" (Ingolstadt, 1556), was published as an appendix to the "Principia Grammatices"; his catechism for students of the lower and middle grades, "Parvus Catechismus Catholicorum" (later known as "Institutiones christianæ pietatis" or "Catechismus catholicus"), is an extract from the larger catechism, written in the winter of 1557-58. Of the first Latin edition (Cologne, 1558), no copy is known to exist; the German edition appeared at Dillingen, 1560. The "Summa" only received its definite form in the Cologne edition of 1556; it contains two hundred and twenty-two questions, and two thousand quotations from the Scriptures, and about twelve hundred quotations from the Fathers of the Church are inscribed on the margins; later all these quotations were compiled in the original by Peter Busæus, S.J., and appeared in four quarto volumes under the title "Authoritates Sacræ Scripturæ et Sanctorum patrum" etc. (Cologne, 1569-70); in 1557 Johannes Hasius, S.J., published the same work in one large folio volume, entitled "Opus catechisticum", for which Canisius wrote an introduction. The catechism of Canisius is remarkable for its ecclesiastically correct teachings, its clear, positive sentences, its mild and dignified form. It is today recognized as a masterpiece even by non-Catholics, e.g., the historians Ranke, Menzel, Philippson, and the theologians Kawerau, Rouffet, Zerschwitz.
Pius V entrusted Canisius with the confutation of the Centuriators of Magdeburg. Canisius undertook to prove the dishonesty of the centuriators by exposing their treatment of the principal persons in the Gospel — John the Baptist, the Mother of God, the Apostle St. Peter—and published (Dillingen, 1571) his next most important work, "Commentariorum de Verbi Dei corruptelis liber primus: in quo de Sanctissimi Præcursoris Domini Joannis Baptistæ Historia Evangelica . . . pertractatur". Here the confutation of the principal errors of Protestantism is exegetical and historical rather than scholastical; in 1577 "De Maria Virgine incomparabili, et Dei Genitrice sacrosancta, libri quinque" was published at Ingolstadt. Later he united these two works into one book of two volumes, "Commentariorum de Verbi corruptelis" (Ingolstadt, 1583, and later Paris and Lyons); the treatise on St. Peter and his primacy was only begun; the work on the Virgin Mary contains some quotations from the Fathers of the Church that had not been printed previously, and treats of the worship of Mary by the Church. A celebrated theologian of the present day called this work a classic defence of the whole Catholic doctrine about the Blessed Virgin (Scheeben, "Dogmatik", III, 478); in 1543 he published (under the name of Petrus Nouiomagus) "Des erleuchten D. Johannis Tauleri, von eym waren Euangelischen leben, Göttliche Predig. Leren" etc., in which several writings of the Dominican mystic appear in print for the first time. This was the first book published by a Jesuit. "Divi Cyrilli archiepiscopi Alexandrini Opera" (Latin translation, 2 fol. vols., Cologne, 1546); "D. Leonis Papæ huius nominis primi . . . Opera" (Cologne, 1546, later reprinted at Venice, Louvain, and Cologne), Leo is brought forward as a witness for the Catholic teachings and the discipline of the Church against the innovators; "De consolandis ægrotis" (Vienna, 1554), exhortations (Latin, German, and Italian) and prayers, with a preface by Canisius; "Lectiones et Precationes Ecclesiasticæ" (Ingolstadt, 1556), a prayerbook for students, reprinted more than thirty times under the titles of "Epistolæ et Evangelia" etc.; *"Principia grammatices" (Ingolstadt, 1556); Hannibal Codrett's Latin Grammar, adapted for German students by Canisius, reprinted in 1561, 1564 and 1568; *"Ordnung der Letaney von vnser lieben Frawen" [Dillingen (1558)], the first known printing of the Litany of Loreto, the second (Macerata, 1576) was most probably arranged by Canisius; *"Vom abschiedt des Coloquij zu Wormbs" (s. l. a., 1558?).
*"Ain Christlicher Bericht, was die hailige Christliche Kirch . . . sey" (Dillingen, 1559), translation and preface by Canisius (cf. N. Paulus in "Historischpolit. Blätter", CXXI, 765); "Epistolæ B. Hieronymi . . . selectæ" (Dillingen, 1562), a school edition arranged and prefaced by, Canisius and later reprinted about forty times; "Hortulus Animæ", a German prayer-book arranged by Canisius (Dillingen, 1563), reprinted later, probably published also in Latin by him. The "Hortuli" were placed later on the Index nisi corrigantur; *"Von der Gesellschaft Jesu Durch. Joannem Albertum Wimpinensem" (Ingolstadt, 1563), a defence of the order against Chemnitz and Zanger, the greater part of which was written by Canisius; "Institutiones, et Exercitamentas Christianæ Pietatis" (Antwerp, 1566), many times reprinted, in which Canisius combined the catechism for the middle grades and the "Lectiones et Precationes ecclesiasticæ" (revised in Rome); "Beicht und Communionbüchlein" [Dillingen, 1567 (?), 1575, 1579, 1582, 1603; Ingolstadt, 1594, etc.]; "Christenliche . . . Predig von den vier Sontagen im Aduent, auch vonn dem heiligen Christag" (Dillingen, 1570).
At the request of Ferdinand II of Tyrol, Canisius supervised the publishing of *"Von dem hoch und weitberhümpten Wunderzeichen, so sich . . . auf dem Seefeld . . . zugetragen" (Dillingen, 1580), and wrote a long preface for it; then appeared "Zwey vnd neuntzig Betrachtung vnd Gebett, dess . . . Bruders Clausen von Vnterwalden" (Fribourg, 1586); "Manuale Catholicorum. In usum pie precandi" (Fribourg, 1587); "Zwo . . . Historien . . . Die erste von . . . S. Beato, ersten Prediger in Schweitzerland. Die andere von . . . S. Fridolino, ersten Prediger zu Glaris vnd Seckingen" (Fribourg, 1590): in this, the first of the popular biographies of the saints especially worshipped in Switzerland, Canisius does not give a scholarly essay, but endeavours to strengthen the Catholic Swiss in their faith and arouse their piety; "Notæ in Evangelicas lectiones, quæ per totum annum Dominicis diebus . . . recitantur (Fribourg, 1591), a large quarto volume valuable for sermons and meditations for the clergy; "Miserere, das ist: Der 50. Psalm Davids . . . Gebettsweiss . . . aussgelegt" (Munich, 1594, Ingolstadt, 1594); "Warhafte Histori . . . Von Sanct Moritzen . . . vnd seiner Thebaischen Legion . . . Auch insonderheit von Sanct Vrso" (Fribourg, 1594); *"Catholische Kirchengesäng zum theil vor vnd nach dem Catechismo zum teil sonst durchs Jahr . . . zusingen" (Fribourg, 1596); "Enchiridion Pietatis quo ad precandum Deum instruitur Princeps" (s. l., 1751), dedicated by Canisius in 1592 to the future emperor Ferdinand II (Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie; XIV, 741); "Beati Petri Canisii Exhortationes domesticæ", mostly short sketches, collected and edited by G. Schlosser, S.J. (Roermond, 1876); "Beati Petri Canisii Epistulæ et Acta": 1541-65, edited by O. Braunsberger, S.J. (4 vols., Freiburg im Br., 1896-1905). There still remain unpublished four or five volumes containing eleven hundred and ninety-five letters and regesta written to or by Canisius, and six hundred and twenty-five documents dealing with his labours.
"Peter Canisius", says the Protestant professor of theology, Krüger, "was a noble Jesuit; no blemish stains his character" ("Petrus Canisius" in "Geschichte u. Legende", Giessen, 1898, 10). The principal trait of his character was love for Christ and for his work; he devoted his life to defend, propagate, and strengthen the Church. Hence his devotion to the pope. He did not deny the abuses which existed in Rome; he demanded speedy remedies; but the supreme and full power of the pope over the whole Church, and the infallibility of his teaching as Head of the Church, Canisius championed as vigorously as the Italian and Spanish brothers of the order. He cannot be called an "Episcopalian" or "Semi-Gallican"; his motto was "whoever adheres to the Chair of St. Peter is my man. With Ambrose I desire to follow the Church of Rome in every respect". Pius V wished to make him cardinal. The bishops, Brendel of Mains, Brus of Prague, Pflug of Naumburg, Blarer of Basle, Cromer of Ermland, and Spaur of Brixen, held him in great esteem. St. Francis of Sales sought his advice by letter. He enjoyed the friendship of the most distinguished members of the College of Cardinals — Borromeo, Hosius, Truchsess, Commendone, Morone, Sirlet; of the nuncios Delfino, Portia, Bonhomini and others; of many leading exponents of ecclesiastical learning; and of such prominent men as the Chancellor of the University of Louvain, Ruard Tapper, the provost Martin Eisengrein, Friedrich Staphylus, Franz Sonnius, Martin Rithovius, Wilhelm Lindanus, the imperial vice-chancellors Jacob Jonas and Georg Sigismund Seld, the Bavarian chancellor Simon Thaddaeus Eck, and the Fuggers and Welsers of Augsburg. "Canisius's whole life", writes the Swiss Protestant theologian Gautier, "is animated by the desire to form a generation of devout clerics capable of serving the Church worthily" ("Etude sur la correspondance de Pierre Canisius", Geneva, 1905, p. 46). At Ingolstadt he held disputations and homiletic exercises among the young clerics, and endeavoured to raise the religious and scientific standard of the Georgianum. He collected for and sent pupils to the German College at Rome and provided for pupils who had returned home. He also urged Gregory XIII to make donations and to found similar institutions in Germany; soon papal seminaries were built at Prague, Fulda, Braunsberg, and Dillingen. At Ingolstadt, Innsbruck, Munich, and Vienna schools were built under the guidance of Canisius for the nobility and the poor, the former to educate the clergy of the cathedrals, the latter for the clergy of the lower grades. The reformed ordinances published at that time for the Universities of Cologne, Ingolstadt, and Vienna must be credited in the main to his suggestions.
With apostolic zeal he loved the Society of Jesus; the day of his admission to the order he called his second birthday. Obedience to his superiors was his first rule. As a superior he cared with parental love for the necessities of his subordinates. Shortly before his death he declared that he had never regretted becoming a Jesuit, and recalled the abuses which the opponents of the Church had heaped upon his order and his person. Johann Wigand wrote a vile pamphlet against his "Catechism"; Flacius Illyricus, Johann Gnypheus, and Paul Scheidlich wrote books against it; Melanchthon declared that he defended errors wilfully; Chemnitz called him a cynic; the satirist Fischart scoffed at him; Andreæ Dathen, Gallus, Hesshusen, Osiander, Platzius, Roding, Vergerio, and others wrote vigorous attacks against him; at Prague the Hussites threw stones into the church where he was saying Mass; at Berne he was derided by a Protestant mob. At Easter, 1568, he was obliged to preach in the Cathedral of Würzburg in order to disprove the rumour that he had become a Protestant. Unembittered by all this, he said, "the more our opponents calumniate us, the more we must love them". He requested Catholic authors to advocate the truth with modesty and dignity without scoffing or ridicule. The names of Luther and Melanchthon were never mentioned in his "Catechism". His love for the German people is characteristic; he urged the brothers of the order to practise German diligently, and he liked to hear the German national hymns sung. At his desire St. Ignatius decreed that all the members of the order should offer monthly Masses and prayers for the welfare of Germany and the North. Ever the faithful advocate of the Germans at the Holy See, he obtained clemency for them in questions of ecclesiastical censures, and permission to give extraordinary absolutions and to dispense from the law of fasting. He also wished the Index to be modified that German confessors might be authorized to permit the reading of some books, but in his sermons he warned the faithful to abstain from reading such books without permission. While he was rector of the University of Ingolstadt, a resolution was passed forbidding the use of Protestant textbooks and, at his request, the Duke of Bavaria forbade the importation of books opposed to religion and morals. At Cologne he requested the town council to forbid the printing or sale of books hostile to the Faith or immoral, and in the Tyrol had Archduke Ferdinand II suppress such books. He also advised Bishop Urban of Gurk, the court preacher of Ferdinand I, not to read so many Protestant books, but to study instead the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers. At Nimwegen he searched the libraries of his friends, and burned all heretical books. In the midst of all these cares Canisius remained essentially a man of prayer; he was an ardent advocate of the Rosary and its sodalities. He was also one of the precursors of the modern devotion of the Sacred Heart.
During his lifetime his "Catechism" appeared in more than 200 editions in at least twelve languages. It was one of the works which influenced St. Aloysius Gonzaga to enter the Society of Jesus; it converted, among others, Count Palatine Wolfgang Wilhelm of Neuburg; and as late as the eighteenth century in many places the words "Canisi" and catechism were synonymous. It remained the foundation and pattern for the catechisms printed later. His preaching also had great influence; in 1560 the clergy of the cathedral of Augsburg testified that by his sermons nine hundred persons had been brought back to the Church, and in May, 1562, it was reported the Easter communicants numbered one thousand more than in former years. Canisius induced some of the prominent Fuggers to return to the Church, and converted the leader of the Augsburg Anabaptists. In 1537 the Catholic clergy had been banished from Augsburg by the city council; but after the preaching of Canisius public processions were held, monasteries gained novices, people crowded to the jubilee indulgence, pilgrimages were revived, and frequent Communion again became the rule. After the elections of 1562 there were eighteen Protestants and twenty-seven Catholics on the city council. He received the approbation of Pius IV by a special Brief in 1561. Great services were rendered by Canisius to the Church through the extension of the Society of Jesus; the difficulties were great: lack of novices, insufficient education of some of the younger members, poverty, plague, animosity of the Protestants, jealousy on the part of fellow-Catholics, the interference of princes and city councils. Notwithstanding all this, Canisius introduced the order into Bavaria, Bohemia, Swabia, the Tyrol, and Hungary, and prepared the way in Alsace, the Palatinate, Hesse, and Poland. Even opponents admit that to the Jesuits principally is due the credit of saving a large part of Germany from religious innovation. In this work Canisius was the leader. In many respects Canisius was the product of an age which believed in strange miracles, put witches to death, and had recourse to force against the adherents of another faith; but notwithstanding all this, Johannes Janssen does not hesitate to declare that Canisius was the most prominent and most influential Catholic reformer of the sixteenth century (Geschichte des deutschen Volkes, 15th and 16th editions, IV, p. 406). "Canisius more than any other man", writes A. Chroust, "saved for the Church of Rome the Catholic Germany of today" (Deutsche Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, new series, II, 106). It has often been declared that Canisius in many ways resembles St. Boniface, and he is therefore called the second Apostle of Germany. The Protestant professor of theology, Paul Drews, says: "It must be admitted that, from the standpoint of Rome, he deserves the title of Apostle of Germany" ("Petrus Canisius", Halle, 1892, p. 103).
Soon after his death reports spread of the miraculous help obtained by invoking his name. His tomb was visited by pilgrims. The Society of Jesus decided to urge his beatification. The ecclesiastical investigations of his virtues and miracles were at first conducted by the Bishops of Fribourg, Dillingen, and Freising (1625-90); the apostolic proceedings began in 1734, but were interrupted by political and religions disorders. Gregory XVI resumed them about 1833; Pius IX on 17 April, 1864, approved of four of the miracles submitted, and on 20 November, 1869, the solemn beatification took place in St. Peter's at Rome. In connection with this, there appeared between 1864-66 more than thirty different biographies. On the occasion of the tercentenary of his death, Leo XIII issued to the bishops of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland his much-discussed "Epistola Encyclica de memoria sæculari B. Petri Canisii"; the bishops of Switzerland issued a collective pastoral; in numerous places of Europe and in some places in the United States this tercentenary was celebrated and about fifty pamphlets were published. In order to encourage the veneration of Canisius there is published at Fribourg, Switzerland, monthly since 1896, the "Canisius-Stimmen" (in German and French). The infirmary of the College of St. Michael, in which Canisius died, is now a chapel. Vestments and other objects which he used are kept in different houses of the order. The Canisius College at Buffalo possesses precious relics. In the house of Canisius in the Broersstraat at Nimwegen the room is still shown where he was born. Other memorials are: the Canisius statue in one of the public squares of Fribourg, the statue in the cathedral of Augsburg, the Church of the Holy Saviour and the Mother of Sorrows, recently built in his memory in Vienna, and the new Canisius College at Nimwegen. At the twenty-sixth general meeting of German Catholics held at Aachen, 1879, a Canisius society for the religious education of the young was founded. The general prayer, said every Sunday in the churches originated by Canisius, is still in use in the greater part of Germany, and also in many places in Austria and Switzerland. Various portraits of Canisius exist: in the Churches of St. Nicolaus and St. Michael in Fribourg; in the vestry of the Augsburg Cathedral; in the Church of St. Michael at Munich; in the town hall at Nimwegen; in the town hall at Ingolstadt; in the Cistercian monastery at Stams. The woodcut in Pantaleo, "Prosopographia", III (Basle, 1566), is worthless. Copper-plates were produced by Wierx (1619), Custos (1612), Sadeler (1628), Hainzelmann (1693), etc. In the nineteenth century are: Fracassini's painting in the Vatican; Jeckel's steel engraving; Leo Samberger's painting; Steinle's engraving (1886). In most of these pictures Canisius is represented with his catechism and other books, or surrounded by children whom he is instructing. (See CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE; COUNTER-REFORMATION; SOCIETY OF JESUS.)
B.P. Canisii Epist. et Acta, ed. BRAUNSBERGER, (5 vols., Freiburg im Br., 1896-1905) s.v. Confessions and Testamentum; the Beatification Acts (some printed as manuscripts in only a few copies, the others unprinted); Mon. Hist. Societatis Jesu: Chronicon Polanci, Epistola quadrimestres mittæ etc., so far about thirty volumes (Madrid. 1894--). Of the complete biographies, the following are the most important: RADERUS, De Vita Canisii (Munich, 1614); SACCHINUS, De vita et rebus gestis P. Petri Canisii (Ingolstadt, 1616); BOERO, Vita del Beato Pietro Canisio (Rome, 1864); RIESS, Der selige Petrus Canisius (Freiburg, 1865); LE BACHELET in Dict. de Théol. Cath. (Paris, 1905), s.v. Canisius. Biographies, in German: by PRATISS (Vienna, 1865), MARCOUR (Freiburg, 1881), PFÜLF (Einsiedeln, 1897), MEHLER (Ratisbon, 1897); in Latin by PYTHON (Munich, 1710); in French by DORIGNY (Paris, 1707), SÉGUIN (Paris, 1864), BOVET (Fribourg, 1865, 1881), DE BERTIGNY (Fribourg, 1865), MICHEL (Lille, 1897); in Dutch by DE SMIDT (Antwerp, 1652), SÉGUIN-ALLARD (Nimwegen, 1897); in Italian by FULIGIATTI (Rome, 1649), ODDI (Naples, 1755); in Spanish by NIEREMBERG (Madrid, 1633), GARCIA (Madrid, 1865). Cf. also KROSS, Der selige Petrus Canisius in Oesterreich (Vienna, 1898), from manuscript sources; REISER, B. Petrus Canisius als Katechet (Mainz, 1882); ALLARD, Canisiana, from the Dutch Studien (Utrecht, 1898-99); BRAUNSBERGER, Entstehung u. erste Entwicklung d. Katechismen d. seligen Petrus Canisius (Freiburg, 1893); SOMMERVOGEL, Bibliothèque de la C. de J. (new ed., Brussels and Paris, 1890-1900), II, 617-88; VIII, 1974-83; DUHR, Gesch. d. Jesuiten in den Länden deutscher Zunge, I (Freiburg, 1907); various Nuntiature Reports of Germany and Switzerland published by STEINHERZ, SCHELLHASS, HANSEN, STEFFENS-REINHARDT, etc.
St. Peter Canisius
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.
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I want to talk to you about St Peter Kanis, Canisius in the Latin form of his surname, a very important figure of the Catholic 16th century.
He was born on 8 May 1521 in Wijmegen, Holland. His father was Burgomaster of the town. While he was a student at the University of Cologne he regularly visited the Carthusian monks of St Barbara, a driving force of Catholic life, and other devout men who cultivated the spirituality of the so-called devotio moderna [modern devotion].
He entered the Society of Jesus on 8 May 1543 in Mainz (Rhineland — Palatinate), after taking a course of spiritual exercises under the guidance of Bl. Pierre Favre, Petrus [Peter] Faber, one of St Ignatius of Loyola’s first companions.
He was ordained a priest in Cologne. Already the following year, in June 1546, he attended the Council of Trent, as the theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsberg, where he worked with two confreres, Diego Laínez and Alfonso Salmerón. In 1548, St Ignatius had him complete his spiritual formation in Rome and then sent him to the College of Messina to carry out humble domestic duties.
He earned a doctorate in theology at Bologna on 4 October 1549 and St Ignatius assigned him to carry out the apostolate in Germany. On 2 September of that same year he visited Pope Paul III at Castel Gandolfo and then went to St Peter’s Basilica to pray. Here he implored the great Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for help to make the Apostolic Blessing permanently effective for the future of his important new mission. He noted several words of this prayer in his spiritual journal.
He said: “There I felt that a great consolation and the presence of grace had been granted to me through these intercessors [Peter and Paul]. They confirmed my mission in Germany and seemed to transmit to me, as an apostle of Germany, the support of their benevolence. You know, Lord, in how many ways and how often on that same day you entrusted Germany to me, which I was later to continue to be concerned about and for which I would have liked to live and die”.
We must bear in mind that we are dealing with the time of the Lutheran Reformation, at the moment when the Catholic faith in the German-speaking countries seemed to be dying out in the face of the fascination of the Reformation. The task of Canisius — charged with revitalizing or renewing the Catholic faith in the Germanic countries — was almost impossible.
It was possible only by virtue of prayer. It was possible only from the centre, namely, a profound personal friendship with Jesus Christ, a friendship with Christ in his Body, the Church, which must be nourished by the Eucharist, his Real Presence.
In obedience to the mission received from Ignatius and from Pope Paul III, Canisius left for Germany. He went first to the Duchy of Bavaria, which for several years was the place where he exercised his ministry.
As dean, rector and vice chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt, he supervised the academic life of the Institute and the religious and moral reform of the people. In Vienna, where for a brief time he was diocesan administrator, he carried out his pastoral ministry in hospitals and prisons, both in the city and in the countryside, and prepared the publication of his Catechism. In 1556 he founded the College of Prague and, until 1569, was the first superior of the Jesuit Province of Upper Germany.
In this office he established a dense network of communities of his Order in the Germanic countries, especially colleges, that were starting points for the Catholic Reformation, for the renewal of the Catholic faith.
At that time he also took part in the Colloquy of Worms with Protestant divines, including Philip Melanchthon (1557); He served as Papal Nuncio in Poland (1558); he took part in the two Diets of Augsberg (1559 and 1565); he accompanied Cardinal Stanislaw Hozjusz, Legate of Pope Pius IV, to Emperor Ferdinand (1560); and he took part in the last session of the Council of Trent where he spoke on the issue of Communion under both Species and on the Index of Prohibited Books (1562).
In 1580 he withdrew to Fribourg, Switzerland, where he devoted himself entirely to preaching and writing. He died there on 21 December 1597. Bl. Pius IX beatified him in 1864 and in 1897 Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him the “Second Apostle of Germany”. Pope Pius XI canonized him and proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1925.
St Peter Canisius spent a large part of his life in touch with the most important people of his time and exercised a special influence with his writings. He edited the complete works of Cyril of Alexandria and of St Leo the Great, the Letters of St Jerome and the Orations of St Nicholas of Flüe. He published devotional books in various languages, biographies of several Swiss Saints and numerous homiletic texts.
However, his most widely disseminated writings were the three Catechisms he compiled between 1555 and 1558. The first Catechism was addressed to students who could grasp the elementary notions of theology; the second, to young people of the populace for an initial religious instruction; the third, to youth with a scholastic formation of middle and high school levels. He explained Catholic doctrine with questions and answers, concisely, in biblical terms, with great clarity and with no polemical overtones.
There were at least 200 editions of this Catechism in his lifetime alone! And hundreds of editions succeeded one another until the 20th century. So it was that still in my father’s generation people in Germany were calling the Catechism simply “the Canisius”. He really was the Catechist of Germany for centuries, he formed people’s faith for centuries.
This was a characteristic of St Peter Canisius: his ability to combine harmoniously fidelity to dogmatic principles with the respect that is due to every person. St Canisius distinguished between a conscious, blameworthy apostosy from faith and a blameless loss of faith through circumstances.
Moreover, he declared to Rome that the majority of Germans who switched to Protestantism were blameless. In a historical period of strong confessional differences, Canisius avoided — and this is something quite extraordinary — the harshness and rhetoric of anger — something rare, as I said, in the discussions between Christians in those times — and aimed only at presenting the spiritual roots and at reviving the faith in the Church. His vast and penetrating knowledge of Sacred Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church served this cause: the same knowledge that supported his personal relationship with God and the austere spirituality that he derived from the Devotio Moderna and Rhenish mysticism.
Characteristic of St Canisius’ spirituality was his profound personal friendship with Jesus. For example, on 4 September 1549 he wrote in his journal, speaking with the Lord: "In the end, as if you were opening to me the heart of the Most Sacred Body, which it seemed to me I saw before me, you commanded me to drink from that source, inviting me, as it were, to draw the waters of my salvation from your founts, O my Saviour”.
Then he saw that the Saviour was giving him a garment with three pieces that were called peace, love and perseverance. And with this garment, made up of peace, love and perseverance, Canisius carried out his work of renewing Catholicism. His friendship with Jesus — which was the core of his personality — nourished by love of the Bible, by love of the Blessed Sacrament and by love of the Fathers, this friendship was clearly united with the awareness of being a perpetuator of the Apostles’ mission in the Church. And this reminds us that every genuine evangelizer is always an instrument united with Jesus and with his Church and is fruitful for this very reason.
Friendship with Jesus had been inculcated in St Peter Canisius in the spiritual environment of the Charterhouse of Cologne, in which he had been in close contact with two Carthusian mystics: Johannes Lansperger, whose name has been Latinized as “Lanspergius” and Nikolaus van Esche, Latinized as “Eschius”.
He subsequently deepened the experience of this friendship, familiaritas stupenda nimis, through contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus’ life, which form a large part of St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. This is the foundation of his intense devotion to the Heart of the Lord, which culminated in his consecration to the apostolic ministry in the Vatican Basilica.
The Christocentric spirituality of St Peter Canisius is rooted in a profound conviction: no soul anxious for perfection fails to practice prayer daily, mental prayer, an ordinary means that enables the disciple of Jesus to live in intimacy with the divine Teacher.
For this reason in his writings for the spiritual education of the people, our Saint insists on the importance of the Liturgy with his comments on the Gospels, on Feasts, on the Rite of Holy Mass and on the sacraments; yet, at the same time, he is careful to show the faithful the need for and beauty of personal daily prayer, which should accompany and permeate participation in the public worship of the Church.
This exhortation and method have kept their value intact, especially after being authoritatively proposed anew by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: Christian life does not develop unless it is nourished by participation in the Liturgy — particularly at Sunday Mass — and by personal daily prayer, by personal contact with God.
Among the thousands of activities and multiple distractions that surround us, we must find moments for recollection before the Lord every day, in order to listen to him and speak with him.
At the same time, the example that St Peter Canisius has bequeathed to us, not only in his works but especially with his life, is ever timely and of lasting value. He teaches clearly that the apostolic ministry is effective and produces fruits of salvation in hearts only if the preacher is a personal witness of Jesus and an instrument at his disposal, bound to him closely by faith in his Gospel and in his Church, by a morally consistent life and by prayer as ceaseless as love. And this is true for every Christian who wishes to live his adherence to Christ with commitment and fidelity. Thank you.
I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Japan and Malaysia, students from Loyola University and the University of St Thomas, as well as students from the Highlands Institute and the Irish Institute in Rome. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s Blessings of joy and peace!
Lastly my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the liturgical Memorial of St Jerome Emiliani, the Founder of the Somaschi Fathers, and of St Josephine Bakhita, a daughter of Africa who became a daughter of the Church.
May the courage of these faithful witnesses of Christ help you, dear young people, to open your hearts to the heroism of holiness in everyday life. May it sustain you, dear sick people, in persevering patiently in order to offer your prayers and your suffering for the whole Church. And may it give you, dear newlyweds, the courage to make your families communities of love, impressed with Christian values.
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110209_en.html
Peter Canisius (Kanis), SJ, Priest Doctor (RM)
Born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, in May 8, 1521; died in Fribourg, Switzerland, December 21, 1597; canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1925; feast day formerly April 27. From the disorders of the 16th century Catholic Church, which helped to create the Protestant Reformation, sprung Peter Canisius. He stood out as the leader of the Counter-Reformation in German lands because his scholarship and theological insight, his courtesy and learning commanded the respect even of his opponents.
I tempi per una missione in Germania non erano facili: «ci troviamo – ricorda il Papa – nel tempo della Riforma luterana, nel momento in cui la fede cattolica nei Paesi di lingua germanica, davanti al fascino della Riforma, sembrava spegnersi. Era un compito quasi impossibile quello di Canisio, incaricato di rivitalizzare, di rinnovare la fede cattolica nei Paesi germanici». Ma, nutrito della spiritualità di sant’Ignazio, san Pietro Canisio riuscì sia a rafforzare la fede cattolica là dov’era rimasta maggioritaria – in Baviera, poi a Vienna, a Praga e in Polonia, dove fu nunzio pontificio – sia a mantenerla nelle regioni tedesche a maggioranza protestante. Partecipò anche ai colloqui di Worms del 1557 con i dirigenti protestanti, fra cui Filippo Melantone (1497-1560), che sfiorarono una riconciliazione poi sfumata soprattutto per l’opposizione dei principi protestanti tedeschi. Consacrò l’ultima parte della sua vita a Friburgo, in Svizzera, dove si era ritirato nel 1580 e dove morirà nel 1597, alla predicazione e alla stesura delle sue ultime opere.
San Pietro pubblicò in effetti numerosi volumi. «Ma i suoi scritti più diffusi – nota il Pontefice – furono i tre Catechismi composti tra il 1555 e il 1558. Il primo Catechismo era destinato agli studenti in grado di comprendere nozioni elementari di teologia; il secondo ai ragazzi del popolo per una prima istruzione religiosa; il terzo ai ragazzi con una formazione scolastica a livello di scuole medie e superiori. La dottrina cattolica era esposta con domande e risposte, brevemente, in termini biblici, con molta chiarezza e senza accenni polemici. Solo nel tempo della sua vita sono state ben 200 le edizioni di questo Catechismo! E centinaia di edizioni si sono succedute fino al Novecento. Così in Germania, ancora nella generazione di mio padre, la gente chiamava il Catechismo semplicemente il Canisio: è realmente il catechista per secoli, ha formato la fede di persone per secoli».
Si può dire che la caratteristica fondamentale della missione tedesca di san Pietro Canisio sia stata, afferma Benedetto XVI, «saper comporre armoniosamente la fedeltà ai principi dogmatici con il rispetto dovuto ad ogni persona. San Canisio ha distinto l'apostasia consapevole, colpevole, dalla fede, dalla perdita della fede incolpevole, nelle circostanze. E ha dichiarato, nei confronti di Roma, che la maggior parte dei tedeschi passata al Protestantesimo era senza colpa. In un momento storico di forti contrasti confessionali, evitava – questa è una cosa straordinaria – l’asprezza e la retorica dell’ira – cosa rara come ho detto a quei tempi nelle discussioni tra cristiani, – e mirava soltanto alla presentazione delle radici spirituali e alla rivitalizzazione della fede nella Chiesa». Fermezza nella dottrina, contro ogni sincretismo e relativismo, e cordialità nelle relazioni personali, contro un certo zelo amaro, costituiscono la formula per l’ecumenismo che il Papa ha recentemente proposto, con riferimento specifico proprio ai luterani, nella recente Settimana di preghiera per l’unità dei cristiani.
Per mettere in pratica questa formula non serve solo un profondo sapere teologico. Serve anche la vita spirituale, che in san Pietro Canisio era alimentata fin dalla giovinezza secondo il Papa «dalla devotio moderna e dalla mistica renana», movimenti di risveglio spirituale fioriti tra la fine del XV secolo e i primi decenni del XVI. «È caratteristica per la spiritualità di san Canisio – afferma ancora il Papa – una profonda amicizia personale con Gesù. Scrive, per esempio, il 4 settembre 1549 nel suo diario, parlando con il Signore: “Tu, alla fine, come se mi aprissi il cuore del Sacratissimo Corpo, che mi sembrava di vedere davanti a me, mi hai comandato di bere a quella sorgente, invitandomi per così dire ad attingere le acque della mia salvezza dalle tue fonti, o mio Salvatore”. E poi vede che il Salvatore gli dà un vestito con tre parti che si chiamano pace, amore e perseveranza».
Il Papa identifica tre radici della spiritualità del santo: la mistica certosina, gli Esercizi spirituali di sant’Ignazio di Loyola e la devozione al Sacro Cuore. «All’amicizia con Gesù san Pietro Canisio si era formato nell’ambiente spirituale della Certosa di Colonia, nella quale era stato a stretto contatto con due mistici certosini: Johann Lansperger, latinizzato in Lanspergius [1489-1539], e Nicolas van Hesche, latinizzato in Eschius [1507-1578]. Successivamente approfondì l’esperienza di quell’amicizia, familiaritas stupenda nimis, con la contemplazione dei misteri della vita di Gesù, che occupano larga parte negli Esercizi spirituali di sant’Ignazio. La sua intensa devozione al Cuore del Signore, che culminò nella consacrazione al ministero apostolico nella Basilica Vaticana, trova qui il suo fondamento»
Dalla frequenza personale con sant’Ignazio deriva per san Pietro Canisio il convincimento che «non si dà anima sollecita della propria perfezione che non pratichi ogni giorno la preghiera, l’orazione mentale, mezzo ordinario che permette al discepolo di Gesù di vivere l’intimità con il Maestro divino. Perciò, negli scritti destinati all’educazione spirituale del popolo, il nostro Santo insiste sull’importanza della Liturgia con i suoi commenti ai Vangeli, alle feste, al rito della santa Messa e degli altri Sacramenti, ma, nello stesso tempo, ha cura di mostrare ai fedeli la necessità e la bellezza che la preghiera personale quotidiana affianchi e permei la partecipazione al culto pubblico della Chiesa».
Questi tesori della spiritualità ignaziana, afferma il Papa, «conservano intatto il loro valore, specialmente dopo che sono stati riproposti autorevolmente dal Concilio Vaticano II nella Costituzione Sacrosanctum Concilium: la vita cristiana non cresce se non è alimentata dalla partecipazione alla Liturgia, in modo particolare alla santa Messa domenicale, e dalla preghiera personale quotidiana, dal contatto personale con Dio. In mezzo alle mille attività e ai molteplici stimoli che ci circondano, è necessario trovare ogni giorno dei momenti di raccoglimento davanti al Signore per ascoltarlo e parlare con Lui».
Questo vale per tutti i fedeli, ma vale tanto di più per chi è chiamato ad annunciare ad altri il Vangelo. La vita di san Pietro Canisio è la prova che «il ministero apostolico è incisivo e produce frutti di salvezza nei cuori solo se il predicatore è testimone personale di Gesù e sa essere strumento a sua disposizione, a Lui strettamente unito dalla fede nel suo Vangelo e nella sua Chiesa, da una vita moralmente coerente e da un’orazione incessante come l’amore. E questo vale per ogni cristiano che voglia vivere con impegno e fedeltà la sua adesione a Cristo».
Autore: Massimo Introvigne
Mercoledì, 9 febbraio 2011
Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!
Fratelli e sorelle, mentre vi auguro che la luce del Vangelo illumini tutti i passi della vostra vita, volentieri imparto la Benedizione Apostolica a ciascuno di voi ed alle vostre famiglie in Patria.
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!