Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Once again, welcome to the League of Saint Peter Damian.
Two-thousand nineteen anno Domini is the year of the League's formation.
Catholics who register with the League during 2019 are considered founding members.
This month's Study Guide #10 features one of Peter Damian's personal letters.
Letter 132 was written sometime between 1065 to 1071, to his nephew, Marinus, who resided at the Monastery of St. Apollinaris in Classe, Italy.It stresses the virtues of chastity, sobriety in food and drink, the custody of the eyes, frequent and sincere confession, and the avoidance of worldly affairs in conversation.
As the reader knows by now, much of Peter Damian's advice is equally suited for the Catholic layman, especially during this Blessed Season of Advent.
Thanks to all our founding members. It's been wonderful meeting many of you by mail and e-mails. I look forward to spending another year with Saint Peter Damian and with you.
"Truly, it is a grand thing to be a Christian, not just to appear or be called such."
Saint Peter Damian's Letter 132
Virtues Proper to the Monastic Life
The Italian city of Classe was, for more than 500 years, an important military and commercial port city for the imperial capital of Ravenna where Saint Peter Damian was born. The saint had served at the investiture of his nephew, Marinus, at the Monastery of St. Apollinaris in Classe.
From his opening remarks, it is abundantly clear that Peter Damian was very solicitous for the spiritual welfare of Marinus, whom he also regarded as his spiritual son.
His opening lines reflect the themes of spiritual warfare and the role of the monk in the army of God: Gaining Mastery Over the Body
Peter Damian begins his instruction to young Marinus by stressing the virtue of chastity. His advice is apropos also not only for monks and priests, but also for fathers advising their young sons and mothers instructing their young daughters, especially as they enter their teen years:Maintaining Custody of the Mind
Peter Damian reminds us that we can sin not only by our actions, but also by thought and word:Gaining Custody Over the Eyes
(9) When at times it becomes necessary, and you are unable to avoid speaking with a woman, always glance to the side as if you were looking at someone else, act as if you were not there, speak as if you were a long way off, stop your conversation and look down to the floor, so that you would be unable to say whether her complexion was pale and ruddy.
Once, as the Blessed Romuald returned from a meeting with the countess of Sibylla, he is reported to have slyly said to his disciple who accompanied him, "What an elegant and beautiful face this woman has, if only she had not unfortunately lost one eye." And the disciple replied, "You are mistaken master, master," he said, "for as I carefully observed her beautiful face, I saw nothing at all wrong with her eyes." Then at once the master severely corrected him: "And who," he said, "taught you to look into a woman's face?" At that, the disciple was aware that he had been taken in, was ashamed of what he had said and asked pardon, and firmly promised that from then on, he would be more cautious.
(10) In fact, our crafty adversary is a painter. Yet, while he can easily cause us to remember things we had once seen, he can hardly produce on the walls of our mind the images that are unknown to us (bold added). So, if you wish to advance to the heights of perfection, you must henceforth make every effort to be instructed in all the virtues. For, while at your age you are still pliable, and your habits are still unformed, they are indiscriminately led in this direction or that. Therefore, let the practice of virtue grow apace with your bodily development, that custom may lighten what the weakness of human frailty finds abhorrent.Gaining Custody Over the Tongue
(11) Your tongue should be accustomed to restricting itself to a few words, and should learn from holding its peace what by speaking it may later find difficult to bear, so that if now it neglects to observe strict silence, it will later be unable to control the sensual urge to speak. ... Be careful of your duty to show courtesy, and always be prompt to refuse deference that is offered to you, but instead always be prepared to serve others. When something must be prepared or brought, immediately rise to the occasion, that it may appear that the voice of authority was directed especially toward you.The Necessity of a Sincere Confession
The holy monk's advice on confession is applicable to every Catholic whatever his state in life: The Virtue of Humility That Binds All
(15) What is the meaning of this, that the repentance of one man is lovingly received, while the other's is rejected and severely punished, except that Saul by proudly making light of the sin of disobedience, never wholeheartedly repented, while David, on the other hand, used only a few words, but the bitterness of true sorrow filled his whole being, transfixed by the sword of the fear of God? Those, I say, who, when pretending to be obedient, imprudently brag that they are immune to committing greater crimes, should not neglect to consider these matters. Indeed, we often see some of these frequently going to confession, devoutly prostrating themselves on the ground, facetiously rather than humbly accusing themselves in ringing and elaborate words, and thus never having their behavior profit from proper correction. Such, to be sure, like Saul repent in word but remain proud of heart.Pattern Your Life on Model Monks
(18) Pay no heed to those who are negligent, but give close attention to monks who are zealous and careful about their soul. The former should be viewed, not with the intention of judging their evil deeds, but the latter, that you might learn to emulate their good example and practice it. And so, select for yourself some of the brothers, namely, the outstanding ones in the community, whose good life you can safely imitate.
(20) Carefully avoid duplicity. Be straightforward, so that your words reflect what you have in mind.
(21) Always be totally involved in the Prophets, totally imbued with the Gospels. At all times occupy your mind with various readings from Scripture, so that no part of it will allow the admission of fantasy and idle thoughts.Leave Secular Affairs to the Laity
Although, as we shall see in future letters, Saint Peter Damian undertook many diplomatic missions out of obedience to a host of successive popes he served over his lifetime, his heart was always with his monastery and his brother monks. So his comments to Marinus on the avoidance of dabbling in secular affairs and idle gossip is not surprising: The End
December 23, 2019
A Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year to all the founders of the League of Saint Peter Damian. We number nearly 200 traditional Catholics from around the world. We are open for one more week for new members. In the meantime, I'll be working on setting up the League's website which will be dedicated to making Saint Peter Damian and his written works better known and loved.
Early in January 2020, I will be sending you a special mailing with more details on the founders' funding of the League. But for now, let us enjoy all the gifts of Christ and the Holy Family, and His angels and saints especially Saint Peter Damian, that comes to us at Christmas time.
With Love and Gratitude,
 Owen J. Blum, O.F.M., The Fathers of the Church Mediaeval Continuation The Letters of Peter Damian 121—150, Catholic University of America, 1998, Letter 132, pp. 57-72.
 Ibid., p. 57. Saint Peter Damian is quoting Saint Paul, 2 Cor 10.3-4.
 Ibid., p. 58.
] 1 Thess 4.4.
 Blum, p. 58.
 Ibid., pp. 58-59,
 Ibid., p. 59.
 Ibid., p. 60.
 Ibid., pp. 60-61.
] Ibid., p. 61.
 Ibid., p. 62.
 Ibid., p. 63.
 Cf. 2Kgsn11.26-27.
 Cf. 1 Kgs 13.8-9.
Blum, pp. 63-64.
Ibid., p. 64.
 Ibid., p. 66.
 Ibid., p. 67.
 2 Cor 6.14.
 Blum., p.70.
 Ibid., p.71.
 Ps 69-4.
 Blum, p. 72.
 Ibid.© Randy Engel
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.