Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Theology of Peter Damian: "Let Your Life Always Serve as a Witness"

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Theology of Peter Damian: "Let Your Life Always Serve as a Witness"

Article excerpt

The Theology of Peter Damian: "Let Your Life Always Serve as a Witness." By Patricia Ranft. (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. 2012. Pp-xii, 258. $64.95. ISBN 978-0-8132-1997-4.)

St. Peter Damian often has been characterized as a man who struggled to balance the demands of withdrawal from the world and engagement in it. A passionate advocate of the superiority of the contemplative life and especially the eremitical life, he viewed his own career as cardinal-bishop of Ostia in the service of the reform papacy as being at odds with his role as a hermit and monastic reformer. This new book by Patricia Ranft challenges this characterization by arguing, through close readings of Damian's letters, that a theology of witness lay at the heart of Damian's thought.

Following the introduction, where Ranft sets out her ideas that a theology of witness best explains Damian's thought, chapter 1 provides the historical context. In chapter 2, Ranft looks to explore the nature of Damian's early thinking on the witness of the solitary life and its connection with the salvation of society, and in chapter 3 she addresses his mature theological thought. In chapter 4, on standards of monastic reform, Ranft explores Damian's thinking on simony, hierarchy, and the institutional Church through the prism of witness. In chapter 5, on renewal in religious life, Ranft considers Damian's position on regular canons, hermits, and monks, focusing here in particular on his clash with the Florentine hermit Teuzo and the case of the Vallombrosans who stepped beyond the lines of monastic propriety by condemning the simonist bishop of Florence, Peter Mezzabarba. In the final chapter Ranft addresses Damian's thinking on the relationship of secular and ecclesiastical power, the spirituality of the laity, and the value of secular knowledge. The book includes a series of appendices indexing key themes in Damian's letters and sermons. …

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