“O holy Virgin,
Mother of God,
help those who implore your assistance.
Turn toward us.
Have you perhaps forgotten us
because you have been elevated
to a position close to God?
No, certainly not.
You know well in what danger you left us.
You know the miserable condition of your servants.
No, it would not benefit such great mercy
as yours to forget such great misery as ours.
Turn toward us, then,
with your power,
for He who is powerful
has made you omnipotent in heaven and on earth.
For you, nothing is impossible.
You can raise even those who are in despair
to a hope of salvation.
There more powerful you are,
the greater should be your mercy. ..
– Excerpt from St. Peter Damian’s Prayer to the Blessed Virgin
St. Peter Damian, like yesterday’s inspirational figure, was born into poverty. While he struggled financially, he was not deterred mentally. His older brother Damian (who Peter adopted the name Damian from), an archpriest, encouraged him to study the faith and become a scholar focusing in Theology and Canon Law. St. Peter Damian did so. At some point while serving the church and the academy, he decided to leave both and become a Benedictine monk. He dedicated his life to reforming the church, as in that era, the church was full of hypocrisy and corruption.
I had a conversation regarding PhD programs with a colleague of mine. She completed her program, PhD in hand at a school I’m considering. We kind of did it in reverse; I earned my M.Div and DMin (expected) and then, hopefully, PhD. She did the PhD, MDiv (expected), and hopefully DMin.
I struggled to articulate my concern for the PhD. She hit it on the head. She said:
“You are concerned with the expectations of getting the PhD aren’t you? The expectation to get a job at a prestigious university, fight for tenure, publish tons of articles and a couple of books. The pressure to adding something new to the Academy. This is on top of your role as a clergyman and the demands of the ministry. Listen, you have to make sure that if you do embark on a PhD, then it must be on God’s terms. If you earn one, you must use it for God’s purpose. It is all possible that God may want you to get a PhD, and not serve full time in a professorship. God may want you to get a PhD, so you can be an adjunct and serve the church at the same time. The skills and prestige of a PhD are needed for both. In the end, if God wants you get one, you will get it. You have to make sure you use it the way he wants you to.”
St. Peter Damian used his education the way God wanted him to. He could have went into teaching at the university level and wrote enough books that seminarians in 2013 would be forced to read. However, he chose to become a reformer and monk. He decided to use a worldly good, education, and use it for the uplift, development and sustaining of God’s Kingdom on Earth. His story really resonated with me. We all should use our worldly goods for the Kingdom of God. I have a lot to ponder. We have a lot to ponder.