Next Monday, 21st February, is the (optional) Memorial of St. Peter Damian, monk, bishop, cardinal and doctor of the Church. Born in Ravenna in 1007, he first became a teacher, but in 1035, chose to become a monk of the Camaldonese Benedictine community at Fonte Avellana. This was a community of hermits who lived under an austere regime of fasting, abstinence and vigils. In addition to liturgical and private prayer, he studied Scripture and patristic theology, devoting time too to manual labour, transcribing manuscripts and private reading. In 1043, he was elected abbot of this poor and small community. Ardent and energetic, Peter was kind to his monks and indulgent to penitents, although his writings reveal his strictness and severity. In 1057, he was appointed Bishop of Ostia and a cardinal. He took a prominent part in the Gregorian reform and went on diplomatic and ecclesiastical missions to Milan, Germany and France. In 1059, he took part in the Lateran Synod which proclaimed the right of cardinals alone to elect the future bishops of Rome. He always remained a monk at heart and repeatedly asked to be relieved of his episcopal duties. This was eventually granted by Pope Nicholas II and he returned to his monastery at Fonte Avellana. St. Peter Damian was important as an ecclesiastic and a reformer. He made a significant contribution to monastic thought. He had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He died on a mission to Ravenna in 1072 and was declared a doctor of the Church in 1828.