For some reason when I hear Saint Peter Chrysologus’ nickname, “golden-worded”, I automatically think of the 1995 James Bond film, GoldenEye. Maybe it’s because I think of Saint Peter as the preaching James Bond of his time. Bond is eloquent in his appearance and demeanor; Chrysologus is eloquent in his simple words that sound like gold. Where James Bond had a license to kill; Saint Peter Chrysologus had a license to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is Theme Music For Today’s Blog while you read about one of the Doctors of the Church.
Saint Peter Chrysologus was born in Imola (in eastern Emilia), Italy in the year 406. His education consisted of the sacred sciences and was eventually ordained a deacon by Cornelius, Bishop of Imola. He spoke very highly of the Bishop because of their close relationship. It was the Bishop who baptized him and assisted in his education.
In the year 433, Pope Sixtus III consecrated Saint Peter Archbishop of Ravenna (the capital of the Western Roman Empire from 405-476). As Archbishop, he practiced a variety of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He was a loving Shepherd that cared for his flock with passion and attentiveness. At the port of Ravenna, in the town of Classis, Saint Peter built a Church and baptistery in honor of Saint Andrew the Apostle. He also rebuilt churches that had fallen into ruin.
As a good Bishop should teach, sanctify, and govern, Saint Peter routed out (very Bond like) the last holdouts of Paganism and other abuses that had formed within the faithful of his archdiocese with words of caution and firmness. He fought against one of the major heresies of the Early Church, Monophysitism. This heresy claimed that Christ only had one nature that was divine and his divine nature absorbed the human nature. Through letters, he engaged the heretical monk from Constantinople, Eutyches, who promoted this heresy.
He gained the confidence and regard of Emperor Valentinian III, who lived with his mother, Galla Placidia, in the city at that time. Pope Saint Sixtus III trusted him as well as his successor, Saint Leo the Great, another Doctor of the Church.
He was an excellent preacher who believed that discourses should remain short, because he was afraid that the hearers would become fatigued. Although his discourses are short, they are doctrinally sound. It has been said that Saint Peter would speak with such passion in his preaching that he would often become speechless from excitement. Below is an excerpt from his Sermons, No. 117 on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary –
“Where are they who think that the Virgin’s conception and giving birth to her child are to be likened to those of other women? For, this latter case is one of the earth, and the Virgin’s is one from heaven. The one is a case of divine power; the other of human weakness. The one case occurs in a body subject to passion; the other in the tranquility of the divine Spirit and peace of the human body. The blood was still, and the flesh astonished; her members were put at rest, and her entire womb was quiescent during the visit of the Heavenly One, until the Author of flesh could take on His garment of flesh, and until He, who was not merely to restore the earth to man but also to give him heaven, could become a heavenly Man. The Virgin conceives, the Virgin brings forth her child, and she remains a Virgin.”
Words like these and many others that focus mainly on the Gospels is what led Pope Benedict XIII to declare Saint Peter Chrysologus a Doctor of the Church in 1729. To this day, we still have 176 of his sermons. He also taught with beauty and awe on the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, teachings on the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, and Apostles Creed.
After being warned that death was approaching, he returned to Imola and died there on December 2, 450. July 30 is now the optional memorial for Saint Peter Chrysologus.
Holy God, you created Saint Peter Chrysologus as a faithful Bishop and passionate preacher of the Gospels. We ask you to send us zealous and profound Bishops and priests who will help us open our hearts to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.