December 21 – Peter of Kiev; Peter Canisius

Peter of Kiev (Kyiv) (d. 1326) (aka Peter of Moscow) grew up in a devout home (his parents were pretty devout, too) and went to seminary at twelve (it was hard for him to get up early). He learned the sciences of the day, as well as asceticism, Scriptures, iconography, and GAZ maintenance. After many years, he went off to become a hermit. He built a cell near the Rata River, which feeds into the Bug. (In my country, rats feed on bugs, not into them) (go back and read that with a Russian accent for full effect). Before long, as is the way of things, he attracted a monastery’s worth of followers, and became their abbot.

When the Metropolitan died, a power-hungry abbot named Gerontius dressed himself as Peter, took one of Peter’s icons, and went to Constantinople to get metropolitanated. Peter was (barely) persuaded to apply for the job, and reluctantly headed to Constantinople himself. During a storm on the Black Sea, the Mother of God appeared to Gerontius and said, “Give it up. The guy who painted this icon is going to be Metropolitan. You’ll never even become a bishop.” Unsurprisingly, she turned out to be right.

Back in the Rus’, Peter had his work cut out for him, although he did the stitching himself. The Mongols/Tatars/Khans/whatevers caused him to change residence frequently, until he went to see the khan and obtained a sort of bill of rights for Orthodox clergy. He brokered peace between various princes, and moved the Metropolitanate to Moscow, although his title still referred to Kiev (Kyiv). He blessed the foundation of the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Moscow Kremlin, and even prepared his own stone coffin, in which he was buried just days after he died. Many miracles are associated with his relics and his prayers, and he was recognized as a saint in 1339. He is also celebrated on October 5 (with other Moscow Mets) and August 24 (translation of his relics).

Peter Canisius (1521–1597) was the son of the burgomeister (mayor) of Nijmegan, the Netherlands. He was raised by his loving and devout stepmother, who was decidedly unlike any Disney stepmother, who are all pretty Grimm. He went to University of Köln (which is fun to say if one knows how) (if one doesn’t, one should just say “Cologne”) intending to become a canon lawyer, but fell in love with theology (many say she was prettier then), and became a Jesuit instead. He gave his inheritance to the poor, and began visiting the sick, teaching, and writing books.

Peter attended Trent as a delegate, worked for Ignatius Loyola for a time, then began a career of teaching, preaching, writing, and debating with Protestants (well, debating against Protestants). He believed Catholics could defend their position from the Scriptures just as well as the other guys, and graciously acknowledged when his interlocutors scored a point. In Vienna, he won the admiration of all and sundry (which makes no sense—once you have all, what sundry is left to add to it?) by working with the sick during a plague. He turned down an offer to become bishop (and they let him!), and after a year of pro-temporizing, he went to Prague, where he was made provincial against his will, but did the job with a will. The college he founded there gained such a reputation that even Protestant parents sent their kids to it.

It is said Peter traveled over 200,000 miles in his journeys; he is called the “Second Apostle to Germany” for his preachings and teachings in that language. He was also named a Doctor of the Church. His writings include theological works, historical treatises, and liturgical prayers, one of which is still in use. His catechism went through 200 editions before his death and was translated into 15 languages, and how many of us can say that? Even those of us who can properly pronounce “Köln.”