Peter Canisius

Peter Canisius, S.J. (Dutch: Pieter Kanis, 8 May 1521 – 21 December 1597) was a renowned Dutch Jesuit Catholic priest. He became known for his strong support for the Catholic faith during the Protestant Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The restoration of the Catholic Church in Germany after the Protestant Reformation is largely attributed to the work there of the Society of Jesus, which he led. He is venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and as a Doctor of the Church.

St Peter Canisius, S.J.
Saint Petrus Canisius
Priest, Religious and Doctor of the Church
Born8 May 1521
Nijmegen, Duchy of Guelders, Habsburg Netherlands
Died21 December 1597 (aged 76)
Fribourg, Switzerland
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified1864, Rome by Pope Pius IX
Canonized21 May 1925, Rome by Pope Pius XI
Major shrineCollege of St. Michael
Fribourg, Switzerland
Feast21 December; 27 April (General Roman Calendar, 1926–1969)
PatronageCatholic press, Germany


He was born in 1521 in Nijmegen in the Duchy of Guelders, which, until 1549, was part of the Habsburg Netherlands within the Holy Roman Empire and is now the Netherlands. His father was a wealthy burgermeister, Jacob Kanis. His mother, Ægidia van Houweningen, died shortly after Peter's birth. He was sent to study at the University of Cologne, where he earned a Master's degree in 1540, at the age of 19.[1]

While there, he met Peter Faber, one of the founders of the Society of Jesus. Through him, Canisius became the first Dutchman to join the newly founded Society of Jesus in 1543. Through his preaching and writings, Peter Canisius became one of the most influential Catholics of his time. He supervised the founding and maintenance of the first German-speaking Jesuit colleges, often with little resources at hand. At the same time he preached in the city and vicinity, and debated and taught in the university.[1] Due to his frequent travels between the colleges, a tedious and dangerous occupation at the time, he became known as the Second Apostle of Germany.

Canisius also exerted a strong influence on the Emperor Ferdinand I. The king's eldest son (later Maximilian II) appointed Phauser, a married priest, to the office of court preacher. Canisius warned Ferdinand I, verbally and in writing, and opposed Phauser in public disputations. Maximilian was obliged to dismiss Phauser and, on this account, the rest of his life he harboured a grudge against Canisius.[1]

In 1547 he attended several sessions of the Council of Trent.[2] Canisius was an influential teacher and preacher, especially through his "German Catechism", a book which defined the basic principles of Catholicism in the German language and made them more accessible to readers in German-speaking countries. He was offered the post of Bishop of Vienna in 1554, but declined in order to continue his traveling and teachings. He did, however, serve as administrator of the Diocese of Vienna for one year, until a new bishop was appointed for it.

He moved to Germany, where he was one of the main Catholic theologians at the Colloquy of Worms in 1557, and later served as the main preacher in the Cathedral of Augsburg from 1559 to 1568, where he strongly witnessed to his faith on three or four occasions each week. Canisius was renowned as a popular preacher.[2] In 1562 he founded what was to become the University of Innsbruck.[3]

In "Christ The King- Lord of History" by Anne W. Carroll, it states,

" Protestantism had made much headway in Germany because many intellectuals had adopted it, making Catholicism appear to be the religion of the ignorant. By his debates, his writing and his teachings, Peter showed that Catholicism was thoroughly rational, that the Protestant arguments were not convincing."

" By his efforts, Peter won Bavaria (southern Germany) and the Rhineland (central Germany) back to the Catholic Church. He also won converts in Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and Poland. Poland had become largely Protestant, but thanks to the efforts of Peter and other Jesuits, it returned to the Church and is still Catholic today despite Communist persecution."

By the time he left Germany, the Society of Jesus in Germany had evolved from a small band of priests into a powerful tool of the Counter-Reformation. Canisius spent the last twenty years of his life in Fribourg, where he founded the Jesuit Collège Saint-Michel, which trained generations of young men for careers and future university studies.[4]

In 1591, at the age of 70, Canisius suffered a stroke which left him partially paralyzed, but he continued to preach and write with the aid of a secretary until his death in Fribourg.[5]

He was initially buried at the Church of St Nicholas. His remains were later transferred to the church of the Jesuit College, which he had founded and where he had spent the last year of his life, and interred in front of the main altar of the church; the room he occupied during those last months is now a chapel open for the veneration of the faithful.[6]

Pastoral strategy

Canisius lived during the height of the Protestant Reformation and dedicated much of his work to the clarification of the Catholic faith in light of the emergence of the new Protestant doctrines. His lasting contribution is his three catechisms, which he published in Latin and German, which became widespread and popular in Catholic regions.[2] In his fight with German Protestantism, he requested much more flexibility from Rome, arguing:

If you treat them right, the Germans will give you everything. Many err in matters of faith, but without arrogance. They err the German way, mostly honest, a bit simple-minded, but very open for everything Lutheran. An honest explanation of the faith would be much more effective than a polemical attack against reformers.[7]

He rejected attacks against John Calvin and Melanchthon: With words like these, we don’t cure patients, we make them incurable.[8]

Mariology of Canisius

Canisius taught that, while there are many roads leading to Jesus Christ, for him the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the best.[9] His sermons and letters document a clear preoccupation with Marian veneration.[9] Under the heading "prayer" he explains the Ave Maria (Hail Mary) as the basis for Catholic Marian piety.[10] Less known are his Marian books, in which he published prayers and contemplative texts. He is credited with adding to the Hail Mary the sentence: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.[11] Eleven years later it was included in the Catechism of the Council of Trent of 1566.

Canisius published an applied Mariology for preachers, in which Mary is described in tender and warm words.[12] He actively promoted the sodalities of our Lady and the rosary associations.

Theologically, Canisius defended Catholic Mariology, in his 1577 book, De Maria Virgine Incomparabili et Dei Genitrice Sacrosancta Libri Quinque. The book was ordered by Pope Pius V to present a factual presentation of the Catholic Marian teachings in the Bible, the early Christians, the Church Fathers and contemporary theology. Canisius explains and documents Church teachings through the ages regarding the person and character of Mary, her virtues and youth.[13] He traces historical documents about the perpetual virginity of Mary, and her freedom from sin.[14] He explains the dogma of "Mother of God" with numerous quotations from the fathers after the Council of Ephesus. He shows that Church teaching has not changed.[15] He answers the sola scriptura arguments of Protestants by analyzing the biblical basis for mariology.[16] Book five explains the Catholic view of the assumption as living faith for centuries, supported by most prominent Church writers. In addition he justifies the cult of Mary within the Catholic Church.

From today's perspective, Canisius clearly erred in some of his sources, but, because of his factual analysis of original sources, it is considered as representing one of the best theological achievements in the 16th century.[17]


Canisius was beatified by Pope Pius IX in the year 1864, and later canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church on 21 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI.[18] His feast day was included in the General Roman Calendar in 1926, for celebration on 27 April. In the liturgical reform of 1969, it was moved to 21 December, the anniversary of his death, the normal day for celebrating a saint's entry into heaven (although it is still kept by the Society of Jesus on 27 April).


Relieken canisius
Relics associated with St Peter Canisius

In recognition of Canisius' early work in the establishment of Jesuit education, there are multiple educational institutions named for him. Among them is the Canisius College for seminarians in Vienna, Austria, the first institution named for him, as well as Canisius College, a Jesuit secondary school in his hometown of Nijmegen and the alma mater of Peter Hans Kolvenbach, a recent Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Another Canisius College, a university, and Canisius High School, a secondary school, are located in Buffalo, New York. Furthermore, a Jesuit-run Canisius Kolleg can be found in Berlin, Germany. There are also two secondary schools named after Canisius, Kolese Kanisius (Collegium Canisianum or Canisius College), in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Canisianum Roman Catholic HS in the Omusati Region of Namibia, Africa.[19]

In addition, there is a primary school: Basisschool Petrus Canisius in Puth in Limburg, Netherlands. In 1850 the Canisius Hospital was established on the corner of the Houtmarkt and the Pauwelstraat in Nijmegen. In 1974 it merged with Wilhelmina Hospital located at the Weg door Jonkerbos in Nijmegen, to become Canisius-Wilhemina Hospital.

The Apologetische Vereniging St. Petrus Canisius (St. Peter Canisius Association for Apologetics) was founded in the Netherlands in 1904 to defend the Roman Catholic Church against socialism and liberalism.

From the middle of the nineteenth century on German churchmen, including Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber (1869–1952), considered Canisius as a new "Apostle of Germany", a successor of Saint Boniface, for his importance for German Christianity.[20]


The longer version (with quotes from authority):

Vol. 1: Faith, Hope, Charity, the Precepts of the Church
Vol. 2: The Sacraments
Vol. 3: Christian Justification, good works, Cardinal Virtues, Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Ghost, Eight Beatitudes, Evangelical Counsels, etc.


  1. ^ a b c Braunsberger, Otto. "Blessed Peter Canisius", The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.
  2. ^ a b c Media, Franciscan (21 December 2015). "Saint Peter Canisius". Franciscan Media. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  3. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: University of Innsbruck". Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  4. ^ The college was lost by the Jesuits at the time of their Suppression in 1773. First under the administration of the local diocese and then of the canton, the college, now known as St. Michael College, continues to exist as a coeducational preparatory institution.
  5. ^ Ghezzi, Bert. "St. Peter Canisius, SJ (1521-1597)",' accessed 27 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (in French). Archived from the original on 9 September 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  7. ^ Burg, Kontroverslexikon, Essen, 1903, pg. 224
  8. ^ Burg 225
  9. ^ a b Stegmüller, 1052)
  10. ^ Streicher, 95,245,267
  11. ^ This sentence appeared for the first time in his Catechism of 1555 (Streicher Catechismi, I, 12).
  12. ^ Meditaciones, 1591-1593
  13. ^ in Book One
  14. ^ in Book Two
  15. ^ Book Three
  16. ^ Book Four
  17. ^ Otto Stegmüller 1063
  18. ^ *"Lives of the Saints, For Every Day of the Year" edited by Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O.Cist., Ph.D., New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1955, p. 164
  19. ^ "Quality of education slides". Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  20. ^ Heid, Stefan. "Der vereinnahmte Bonifatius: vom apostolischen Völkermissionar zum "Apostel der Deutschen"". Trierer Theologische Zeitschrift (in German). 116: 238–72.


  • Petrus Canisius, (Ed. Bourassee) De Maria Virgine Incomparabili et Dei Genitrice Sacrosancta Libri, 1577 Quinque. Paris, 1862.
  • Petrus Canisius, (ed. Friedrich Streicher), Meditaciones seunatae in evangelicas lectiones, 1591–1593, (Fribourg, Switzerland, 1939, 1955)

In addition to the listed institutions worldwide, there is Peter Canisius College in Sydney, Australia (suburb of Pymble at 102 Mona Vale Road).

External links

Canisius-Kolleg Berlin

The Canisius-Kolleg Berlin (CK) is a coeducational, private, and Catholic Gymnasium (German type of university-preparatory school) in Berlin, Germany directed by the Jesuits. The school is named after Saint Peter Canisius. It is known as one of Berlin's most prestigious schools.

Canisius College, Nijmegen

Canisius College, Nijmegen, is a Catholic school in the Netherlands. It has departments for VMBO, HAVO, athenaeum, and gymnasium.

The school offers "bridging" for foreign students who enter without fluency in Dutch. The school is named after the Saint Peter Canisius and is the legal successor to a former Jesuit boarding school of the same name. Since 2005 there have been no Jesuits at Canisius.

Besides the main location there are two branches: De Goffert for pre-vocational secondary including LWOO, and Akkerlaan the international bridging school. In 2013 enrollment at Canisius' three locations was: 1,441 at Berg and Dalseweg, 543 at Goffert, and 51 at Akkerlaan / ISK.

On 1 January 2002 the boards of four Nijmegen secondary schools merged to form Nijmegen School Group, which includes Canisius College, Nijmegen Comprehensive School Groenewoud (NSG), the Kandinsky College, and St. George's School. Teaching is at four levels, VMBO (base, frame, mixed, theoretical), secondary school, grammar school, and high school. The school has a main building, gym, and additional building with classrooms and a gym.

Colloquy of Worms (1557)

The Colloquy of Worms was the last colloquy in the 16th century on an imperial level, held in Worms from September 11 to October 8, 1557. At the Diet of Augsburg in 1555 it had been agreed that the dialog on controversial religious issues should be continued. A resolution was passed at Regensburg in 1556, and the next colloquy took place in Worms in 1557. The Catholics Michael Helding, John Gropper, and Peter Canisius met with the Protestants Philip Melanchthon, Johannes Brenz and Erhard Schnepf. They first discussed the relation between the Bible and tradition. When Canisius alluded to differences among the Protestants themselves in their doctrine of original sin and justification, which they could not overcome, the meeting was dissolved.

Other participants present at this Colloquy included Julius von Pflug, Kaspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig, Johannes Pistorius, François Hotman, Maximilian Mörlin, and Theodore Beza.

Georg Mayr

Georg Mayr (Latin Georgius Marius) (1564–1623) was a Bavarian Jesuit priest and Hebrew grammarian.Mayr spent most of career teaching Hebrew language. His Hebrew grammar (Augsburg, 1616) went through many editions and he published many Hebrew translations. Mayr also published the illustrated version of the catechism of Peter Canisius, and then translations into Greek (Ingolstadt 1595) and Hebrew (1620).

James Patrick Broderick

James Patrick Brodrick s.j. (26 July 1891 in Kingsland, Athenry – 26 August 1973) was an Irish Jesuit and writer.

Brodrick was educated in Dublin and Stonyhurst. He joined the Jesuits in February 1910 at Manresa, London, and was ordained in 1923. Most of his working life was spent at Farm Street in London. He graduated MA from the University of London and was a contributor to periodicals such as The Tablet and The Month.Brodrick published several books. Most of his career as a writer was almost exclusively dedicated to writing Jesuit History. His primary interest was the early history of the Society of Jesus. The first work to come from his pen was his two-volume biography of the Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmine. In 1935 there followed his biography of St. Peter Canisius. Both works were considered major achievements and his success resides in that his work is not one of adulation and hero worship.

List of Jesuit theologians

This is a list of Jesuit theologians, Roman Catholic theological writers from the Society of Jesus, taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, article list and textual allusions, for theologians up to the beginning of the twentieth century.

It is chronologically arranged by date of death.

List of saints of the Society of Jesus

The list of saints of the Society of Jesus here is alphabetical. It includes Jesuit saints from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Since the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius of Loyola, was canonised in 1622, there have been 52 other Jesuits canonised.

North Lambton Secondary School

North Lambton Secondary School is a Canadian public school in Forest, Ontario. It is operated by the Lambton Kent District School Board. It was formerly named Forest District High School. Around 480 students are currently attending NLSS. Its feeder elementary schools are Plympton-Wyoming (Aberarder Central School), Watford (East Lambton and St. Peter Canisius), Grand Bend (Grand Bend Public) and Forest (St.John Fisher and Kinnwood Central) as well as Hillside School on the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation and Bosanquet Central outside Thedford.

Peter Canisius Minor Seminary Mertoyudan

Peter Canisius Minor Seminary, Mertoyudan, is a secondary school for those intending to be priests. It opened in 1912 and is a work of the Society of Jesus.

After the independence of the Republic of Indonesia's independence in 1945, the seminary has assisted in the schooling of policemen.

Peter Thyraeus

Peter (or Petrus) Thyraeus (1546 – December 3, 1601) was a German Jesuit theologian.

Thyraeus was born in Neuss, the brother of Herman Thyraeus, also a Jesuit theologian. He joined the Jesuits in 1561, and taught at Jesuit colleges in Trier and Mainz from 1574.In 1590, he was appointed professor of theology at the University of Würzburg, where he was well regarded by Prince-Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn. He died at Würzburg in 1601.He published a number of works on theology, which the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie grouped into three classes: writings on visions and apparitions, writings on possession and exorcism, and writings on traditional theological subjects such as the Eucharist and the role of the Catholic Church. His writing on exorcism "has been called the first 'scientific' (i.e. systematic) research on modern exorcism, based in part on the experiences of Peter Canisius".

Petey (mascot)

Petey is the mascot for the Canisius Golden Griffins, the athletic teams of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, USA. Petey is an anthropomorphic golden griffin who performs live at all Canisius athletic events. Canisius adopted the nickname "Golden Griffins" for their school athletic teams in 1932, in honor of Great Lakes explorer La Salle's ship, Le Griffon. Canisius first used an unnamed costumed griffin as a sideline mascot in 1967. In preparation for the 2002–2003 athletic season, the griffin mascot was completely re-designed and given a new costume and name. The name "Petey" was chosen as a reference to St. Peter Canisius, who Canisius College is named for.Canisius' golden griffin has been called one of the most unusual of all NCAA mascots. In 2010, after the College of William & Mary adopted the Griffin as their new school mascot, Petey "wrote" a satirical open letter to the William & Mary griffin that was published in USA Today, welcoming the new griffin mascot to the college mascot community.In 2013, the Catholic website Busted Halo held a March Madness-style competition to determine the title of "Best Catholic Mascot" through online voting. Petey won the online tournament, besting a field of 32 Catholic school mascots, including Notre Dame's Leprechaun and Boston College's Baldwin the Eagle. The following year, Petey advanced to the Final 4 of the same Busted Halo contest, but was ultimately defeated by Iggy the Royal Wolf from the University of Scranton. In 2015 Petey was entered in to the College Court Report "Mascot Mayhem" contest, where he made it to the Final 4 - surpassing Butler, North Florida, St. Louis, and UNLV. Sam the Minuteman from the University of Massachusetts Amherst claimed the 1st place prize. In 2016 Petey faced off against Boomer from Missouri State in the semi-finals of Court Report's "Mascot Mayhem" contest. Over 7,000 votes were cast in the final contest pairing, and Petey was narrowly defeated by a margin of 56.8% to 43.2%, claiming the 2nd place title.

Pierre Busée

Pierre Busée (Petrus Busaeus, Buys) (born at Nijmegen in 1540; died at Vienna in 1587) was a Dutch Jesuit theologian. He assisted in producing the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum and the catechism of Peter Canisius.

Procurator (canon law)

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, a procurator is one who acts on behalf of and by virtue of the authority of another. In a monastery, the procurator is the friar, monk or nun charged with administering its financial affairs. Bishops have been represented at councils by procurators, as Peter Canisius attended the Council of Trent as procurator for the Bishop of Augsburg.

Rosary devotions and spirituality

Devotion to the Rosary is one of the most notable features of popular Catholic spirituality. According to Pope John Paul II, rosary devotions can foster some central objectives of Christian spirituality and they are "among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation." From its origins in the twelfth century the rosary has been seen as a meditation on the life of Christ, and it is as such that many Popes have approved of and encouraged recitation of the rosary.

Use of repetitive prayer formulas goes far back in Christian history, and how these passed into the rosary tradition is not clear. It is clear that the 150 beades (Hail Marys) originated from the 150 Psalms prayed from the Hebrew Psalter. The rosary was a way for the ordinary faithful to simulate the meditation of the monks from the hand-printed Psalter. It is clear that the second half of our Hail Mary, the petition to Mary, appeared for the first time in the catechism of Peter Canisius in 1555 in the Counter-Reformation period, in reaction against Protestant criticism of some Catholic beliefs.Following the establishment of the first rosary confraternities in the fifteenth century, the devotion to the rosary spread rapidly throughout Europe. From the sixteenth century onwards, rosary recitations often involved "picture texts" that assisted meditation. Such imagery continues to be used to assist in rosary meditations.

St. Canisius's Church, Vienna

The St. Canisius's Church is a Roman Catholic parish church in the 9th District of Vienna, Alsergrund.

St. Clair Catholic District School Board

The St. Clair Catholic District School Board (SCCDSB, known as English-language Separate District School Board No. 39 prior to 1999) is the separate school board that manages Catholic education in the county of Lambton including the city of Sarnia as well as in the regional municipality of Chatham-Kent, in southern Ontario, Canada.

The Board manages 26 elementary schools and 2 secondary or high schools.Elementary schools

All Elementary schools

Christ the King - Wallaceburg

Georges P. Vanier - Chatham

Good Shepherd - Thamesville

Gregory Hogan - Sarnia

Holy Family - Wallaceburg

Holy Rosary - Wyoming

Holy Trinity - Sarnia

Monsignor Uyen - Chatham

Our Lady of Fatima - Chatham

Sacred Heart - Port Lambton

Sacred Heart - Sarnia

St. Agnes - Chatham

St. Anne - Blenheim

St. Anne - Sarnia

St. Elizabeth - Wallaceburg

St. John Fisher - Forest

St. Joseph - Chatham

St. Joseph - Corunna

St. Joseph - Tilbury

St. Matthew - Sarnia

St. Michael - Bright's Grove

St. Michael - Ridgetown

St. Peter Canisius - Watford

St. Philip - Petrolia

St. Ursula - Chatham

St. Vincent - ChathamThe secondary schools are:

St. Patrick's Catholic High School in Sarnia

Ursuline College in ChathamThe Board was formed by an amalgamation of the Lambton County Roman Catholic Separate School Board and Kent County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, which took place in 1999.

St Peter Canisius Church, Nijmegen

St Peter Canisius Church (Dutch, Sint-Petrus Canisiuskerk) is a Roman Catholic Parish church in Nijmegen, Gelderland, Netherlands. It is situated on Molenstraat in the centre of the city. It is run by the Society of Jesus and is in the Diocese of 's-Hertogenbosch. It is built on the site of a 14th-century monastery, which was passed into the hands of the Jesuits in 1818. It was rebuilt in 1896 and again in 1960 after being bombed in the Second World War.

University of Fribourg

The University of Fribourg (French: Université de Fribourg; German: Universität Freiburg) is a university in the city of Fribourg, Switzerland.The roots of the university can be traced back to 1580, when the notable Jesuit Peter Canisius founded the Collège Saint-Michel in the City of Fribourg. In 1763, an Academy of law was founded by the state of Fribourg which formed the nucleus of the present Law Faculty. The University of Fribourg was finally created in 1889 by an Act of the parliament of the Swiss Canton of Fribourg.The University of Fribourg is Switzerland’s only bilingual university and offers full curricula in both French and German, two of Switzerland's national languages. Students number about 10,000; there are about 200 tenured professors and 700 other academic teaching and research personnel. The Misericorde Campus, constructed between 1939–42, was designed by the architects Honegger and Dumas, students of Swiss architect Le Corbusier.There are five faculties: Catholic theology, law, natural sciences, humanities, and economics & social sciences.

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