Peter Damian was born in Ravenna, Italy in 1007, the last of seven children. When his mother died, he was raised first by one of his sisters and then by a brother, who treated him poorly and forced him to do menial tasks. Finally, he was entrusted to his oldest brother, Damian, an Archpriest in a parish near Ravenna, who took care of Peter and saw to his education. As a sign of gratitude, Peter added his brother’s name, Damian, to his own.
Two episodes in Peter’s youth had a great effect on his life. The first was when he found a coin and thought he would buy a sweet treat or toy. Suddenly, he realized that anything he bought would bring temporary joy, so he took the money to a priest and had a Mass said for his deceased parents. The second episode was when he was lunching with a poor blind man. Peter Damian chose the better quality white bread for himself and offered his guest the darker bread. It is said that at that moment, he felt like a bone was stuck in his throat. He repented of his selfishness, and when he exchanged his own bread with that of the blind man, the bone disappeared. It was this event that
convinced him to consecrate himself to God alone and embrace the monastic life.
Peter Damian retired to the Camaldolese monastery in 1035 and soon became the spiritual guide of the monks. His fame spread and he was invited to teach in other monasteries as well. Upon his return, he was elected Prior. In reorganizing the hermitage and influencing the
building of new houses, he caught the attention of the Bishop of Ravenna, who asked for his assistance, obliging Peter Damian him to leave the quiet of his monastery.
In 1057, Pope Stephen IX called Peter Damian to Rome to help him reform the clergy. The Pope quickly made him a Cardinal and Bishop of Ostia. He also worked with Pope Gregory VII fighting against the emperor, who claimed for himself alone the appointing bishops and abbots. A few years after the death of Peter Damian, the emperor, dressed as a penitent, begged for pardon and threw himself at the feet of the Pope. Peter Damian died in 1072 while visiting the Benedictine monastery in Faenza. He was immediately acclaimed as a saint by the people, and Pope Leo XII proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1828.