On July 30, the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Peter Chrysologus, a fifth-century Italian bishop known for testifying courageously to Christ’s full humanity and divinity during a period of doctrinal confusion in the Church.
A man who vigorously pursues a goal may produce results far beyond his expectations and his intentions. Thus it was with Peter ” of the Golden Words,” as he was called, who as a young man became bishop of Ravenna, the capital of the empire in the West.
St. Peter Chrysologus was a pivotal bishop who preserved the faith in his region of Italy in the fifth century. He was an adult convert to Christianity, then was ordained a deacon and priest before being raised to bishop of Ravenna in 433.
Many people were still practicing paganism in Ravenna when he began his work there, and this caused other Christians to fall away from the faith. He reformed and solidified the Church there with his preaching and by encouraging frequent reception of Communion. Many of his homilies are still intact—most are brief because he did not want to exhaust the attention of his listeners. “Anyone who wishes to frolic with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ,” he told his people.
The witness of his life also converted many back to the faith—he was known to have offered many works of mercy, and he attended to the people under his care with diligence.
His title, “Chrysologus,” means “golden-tongued” so we know that he had a great impact on those who heard him. During his homilies, he would become so excited and animated that he would find himself at a loss for words. His simple and straightforward explanations of what we believe led the Church to declare him a doctor of the faith. He joins 35 other saints who are also known as doctors for the way their words or examples taught the faith to others. His relics rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica.
This is an excerpt from one of his homilies:
Listen to the Lord’s appeal: … You may run away from me as the Lord, but why not run to me as your father? Perhaps you are filled with shame … Do not be afraid. This cross inflicts a mortal injury, not on me, but on death. These nails no longer pain me, but only deepen your love for me. I do not cry out because of these wounds, but through them I draw you into my heart. My body was stretched on the cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of my all-embracing love. I count it no loss to shed my blood: it is the price I have paid for your ransom. Come, then, return to me and learn to know me as your father, who repays good for evil, love for injury, and boundless charity for piercing wounds.
St. Peter Chrysologus, you were known for preaching with “golden words”—pray for us!