top of page

The Catholic Defender: Saint Peter Chrysologus Bishop and Doctor

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.

We exhort you in every respect, honorable brother, to heed obediently what has been written by the most blessed pope of the city of Rome, for blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own see, provides the truth of faith to those who seek it. For we, by reason of our pursuit of peace and faith, cannot try cases on the faith without the consent of the bishop of Rome. ~Saint Peter Chrysologus, Letter to Eutyches

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.

He was a close friend of Pope St. Leo I the Great and was highly respected by the Western and Eastern churches for his orthodoxy.

Peter developed a close relationship with the local bishop, Cornelius, who is believed to have baptized, educated, and ordained him as an archdeacon for the Diocese of Imola. Peter regarded Bishop Cornelius as his spiritual father and praised his manifest virtue.

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.]

At the time there were abuses and vestiges of paganism evident in his diocese, and these Peter was determined to battle and overcome. His principal weapon was the short sermon, and many of them have come down to us. They do not contain great originality of thought. They are, however, full of moral applications, sound in doctrine, and historically significant in that they reveal Christian life in fifth-century Ravenna. So authentic were the contents of his sermons that some 13 centuries later, he was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII. He who had earnestly sought to teach and motivate his own flock was recognized as a teacher of the universal Church.

In addition to his zeal in the exercise of his office, Peter Chrysologus was distinguished by a fierce loyalty to the Church, not only in its teaching, but in its authority as well. He looked upon learning not as a mere opportunity but as an obligation for all, both as a development of God-given faculties and as a solid support for the worship of God.

history relates that the Pope had experienced a vision from God on the night before the meeting, commanding him to overrule Ravenna's choice of a new archbishop. The Pope declared that Peter, instead, was to be ordained as John's successor.

Bishop Peter Chrysologus understood the importance of theological precision. He recognized Jesus as the Son of God, fully divine, sharing the same substance with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Additionally, he grasped the truth that the divine Son assumed human nature, uniting His divinity with humanity in His Person to redeem humanity. Thus, Jesus was both fully God and fully man, with His divinity and humanity united, providing the pathway to eternal salvation for humanity.

he fervently promoted religious practices, such as daily reception of the Eucharist, fasting, almsgiving, Lenten penance, and pious devotions, with his primary concern always being the salvation of souls.

His surviving works offer eloquent testimony to the Church's traditional beliefs about Mary's perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ's Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors in the Church.

Some time before his death around A.D. 450, Peter returned to his birthplace of Imola, in northern Italy. His liturgical feast is celebrated on July 30.

c. 380 or 406–c. 450

Patron Saint of Imola, Italy

Invoked against fevers and vicious dogs

Pre-Congregation canonization

Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729

It was 1729 that Pope Benedict XIII declared Saint Peter Chrysologus a Doctor of the Church.

Quite likely, it was Saint Peter Chrysologus’ attitude toward learning that gave substance to his exhortations. Next to virtue, learning, in his view, was the greatest improvement to the human mind and the support of true religion. Ignorance is not a virtue, nor is anti-intellectualism. Knowledge is neither more nor less a source of pride than physical, administrative, or financial prowess. To be fully human is to expand our knowledge—whether sacred or secular—according to our talent and opportunity.

During his lifetime, Peter witnessed the rise of new heresies and fiercely defended the Church.

Saint Peter Chrysologus, you were a staunch defender of the nature of Christ, a powerful preacher, and a pastor of souls. Please pray for me, that I may come to a deeper understanding of Christ and, with that understanding, give myself more fully to His service. Saint Peter Chrysologus, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.


bottom of page