Thought for the day – 21 December – The Memorial of St Peter Canisius S.J. (1521-1597) Doctor of the Church
St Peter Canisius and the Hail Mary
“Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”
On today’s feast of St Peter Canisius S. J., Catholics may wish to thank this Doctor of the Church for giving us the second half of the Hail Mary prayer.
This 16th-century saint, known as the second Apostle of Germany, followed in the giant footsteps of St Boniface, who evangelised Germany a thousand years earlier. He was also quite active at the Council of Trent and wrote much on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first half of the Hail Mary, of course, comes from Scripture. What many Catholics don’t know is that the second half of this Catholic prayer is due to the intervention of St Peter Canisius at the Council of Trent. St Peter began adding on to the scriptural part of the Hail Mary the second half of this familiar prayer, “Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.” It was Trent that officially accepted the prayer and included it in their famous Catechism of the Council of Trent in 1566.
This learned saint was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He was a holy and learned Jesuit, who wrote catechisms based on Trent’s Roman Catechism, which he helped generate. He also wrote a breviary and many works on Mary.
Saint Peter’s main mission was to counter the Protestant revolt in Germany. He was providentially born just four years after Martin Luther penned his 95 theses. To withstand the errors of the Protestant deformers, St Peter wrote his catechism in 1555, which was called a Summary of Christian Doctrine. This catechism basically enshrined what came to be known as the Counter-Reformation.