Saturday after Ash Wednesday
The reading from Isaiah continues from yesterday and serves as word of encouragement for the Israelites by naming the good gifts that will be bestowed on those who show concern for the poor and downtrodden. For example, by giving food to the hungry, the interior gloom will be lifted and the Lord will renew your strength. By putting the Lord over oneself, the Lord will bless the individual (Isaiah 58:13). Yet, Jesus notes not all people will put the Lord first, so the Great Physician (Jesus) comes to heal the sick (Matthew 5:31-32).
Just as Levi was called to leave everything behind to follow Jesus (Matthew 5:27), so did St. Peter Damian. The life of St. Peter Damian whom the Church commemorates today was born in Ravenna, Italy in 1007 and after losing his parents at a young age, he was sent to live with his brother who treated him more as a slave than as family. An archpriest from Ravenna took pity on him and sent him to school, where Peter flourished and soon achieved the status of master teacher. Yet, he abandoned this life to join a hermitage of two Benedictines of St. Romuald (died 1027), but was so eager to pray and slept so little that he developed severe insomnia. After the death of the superior, he was named abbot and founded five other hermitages.
Peter Damian was often called upon by successive Popes to serve as a peacemaker, and Pope Stephen IX made him cardinal-bishop of Ostia in 1057. Addressing the major concerns of the day, he sought to wipe out simony (buying of church offices), encourage priestly celibacy, and urge diocesan clergy to live together. A prolific writer of numerous sermons and letters still available, he inspired many to return back to the Church. He was overcome by a fever and died on 22 February 1072. The Catholic Church declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1828.