Feast Day: July 30
Peter, a native of Imola, Italy, was a deacon there when chosen bishop of Ravenna. Upon the death of the Archbishop of Ravena, Italy, Peter accompanied the Bishop of Imola to Rome to deliver the people’s choice of a new archbishop, the custom of the time. However, the pope, having received a vision, rejected their choice and appointed Peter archbishop instead. After he was consecrated bishop, Peter discovered his diocese still had links to paganism, and he used his best skills—teaching and preaching—to deliver fiery sermons to help break the stronghold of heresy.
Ravenna, like Rome, Milan, and Constantinople, was an imperial residence and therefore a very important city. It was also at this time that the Council of Ephesus was held and there was a disagreement concerning Mary’s title as Mother of God (Theotokos). Some theologians, like Theodoret, wanted her to be called simply Mother of Christ.
Peter was an important personage because of his contact with the empress Gallia Placidia, who constructed the church of St. John the Evangelist because of a vow she made while travelling from Constantinople to Ravenna. Moreover, he had close relations with numerous bishops, including Germain of Auxerre and Pope Leo the Great. The title “Chrysologus,” which means “golden word,” was conferred on him because he was an unusually gifted preacher. He frequently used Greek terms in his sermons but he also endeavored to bring the teaching of the New Testament to bear on the lives of Christians. As bishop, he encouraged frequent Communion and was a staunch defender of the primacy of the Church of Rome.
Always a defender of orthodox teaching, Peter advised the heretic Eutychus to be obedient to the pope: “In the interests of peace and of the faith, we cannot make a judicial inquiry into matters pertaining to the faith without the approval of the bishop of Rome. My advice is that you obediently heed what the most blessed pope of the city of Rome has written, because the apostle Peter, who lives and presides over that see, does not refuse to teach the truth to those who seek it.”
St. Peter Chrysologus is known as the “Doctor of Homilies” because of his inspirational talks. Letters still exist today that prove his theological expertise. He taught Holy Communion, as well as the tenets of the Apostles’ Creed, the lives of St. John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Incarnation of Christ. Today, more than 176 homilies, and teachings are credited to Peter.
“He is The Bread sown in the virgin, leavened in the Flesh, molded in His Passion, baked in the furnace of the Sepulchre, placed in the Churches, and set upon the Altars, which daily supplies Heavenly Food to the faithful.”—St. Peter Chrysologus
Farmer, David. “Oxford Dictionary of Saints.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar.” New York: Alba House, 1992.
Trigilio, Rev. John, Ph.D, Th.D, and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti, Ph.D. “Saints for Dummies.” Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, 2010.
Featured photo via WikiArt.