December 21st 1597 - Petrus Canisius
† in Fribourg/Swizerland
Petrus Canisius was the first and most important German Jesuit, the Second Apostle of Germany (after Bonifatius), church teacher and patron of Central Europe.
He was born on May 8th 1521 in Nijmegen which belonged at that time politically to the duchy Geldern, and ecclesiastically to the archdiocese Cologne. His father Jakob, who was nine times mayor of Nijmegen, sent him 1536 to the university of Cologne. At his twenty third birthday Peter Faber admitted him on May 8th 1943 in Mainz as Novice to the Society of Jesus, after he had made the thirty-days retreat with him.
After his studies in Cologne Canisius was ordained priest by the Cologne Bishop Johann Nopel. It was at Whitsun, June 13th 1546. He said his First Mass in the Church of Our Lady of the Augustinian Nuns in Cologne.
Otto Karrer writes about him:
'The clear, soulful eyes, the high furrowed forehead beneath the wavy dark hair which was left to him up to his old age, the strong but not sharp nose, the rather severe mouth framed by the reddish beard tell the manly controlled, harmonious character of his nature, that friendly earnestness to which, in spite of all idealism, the impetus to ingenuity and its dangerous reverse, the inclination to extremes, were quite far off.'
He worked as Provincial of the new created Upper German Province for thirteen years, as preacher, as university teacher in Ingolstadt and Vienna, as active participant in religious discussions and Imperial Diets, as imperial theologian in Trent and Innsbruck, as advisor and correspondent of numerous religious and lay leaders, as founder of several colleges and seminaries, as author and publisher of scientific and devotional writings.
His Catechisms achieved a unique importance. He wrote also a 'Manual for Catholics', which was named by the historian Hubert Jedin the 'Sunday's-Schott' of the German Catholics of the sixteenth and seventeenth century.
The aim of Canisius' life, the reconciliation of the split off Christian countries, remained in the whole unequalled, despite of his and his co-workers powerful contribution.
Since the year 1580 Canisius lived and worked in the city Fribourg (Switzerland). Upon the request of the pope he should establish there a Jesuit College. Already in October 1582 he could be begun with that. Canisius spent the last seventeen years of his life in the new college. There he died on December 21st 1597.
Pope Pius IX has beatified him in 1869, Pius XI has canonized him, and at the same time given to him the title 'Doctor of the Church'.
[back to Otto Syre's SJ-Calendar]