Peter of the Golden Words

Saint Peter Chrysologous (+450) was, as the traditional account has it, chosen bishop of Ravenna in 433 after the Pope, Sixtus III, had a vision of Saint Peter and Saint Apollinaris (former bishop of Ravenna) who pointed out a young man as the next episcopus. Soon afterwards, a group arrived in Rome from Ravenna, and amongst them the man –our saint – the Pope recognized from the vision, and so consecrated him bishop.

I must confess, this seems a more felicitous way of choosing good and worthy shepherds than whatever goes on behind the scenes today.

Peter was known as ‘doctor of homilies’, presenting short, precise, clear sermons expounding Scripture, condemning heresies – Arianism, Monophysitism being two his and the Church’s banes – and explaining clearly why they were heretical. That, too, we could use far more of our in comfy suburban parishes all-too-often echoing with the sounds of emotive, homiletic pablum, with everyone floating up to heaven on a whiff of incense and perhaps, now, marijuana. Our diocesan priests could do far worse with their study time than peruse his sermons – now that I think of it, should Canon Law ever be enforced, translating them as an exercise to maintain their Latin from their original, sonorous and flowing Roman prose. Galla Placida, regent and mother of the Emperor Valentinian III, loved to hear him, giving him the sobriquet chrysologous, or Peter ‘of the golden word’, like his earlier near-contemporary, John Chrysostom (+407), the ‘golden mouthed’.

Peter died after a fruitful seventeen-year reign on July 31st, 450, with his feast placed on this day in 1969, before Saint Ignatius tomorrow. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1729 by Pope Benedict XIII.