Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Piotr Skarga
Piotr Skarga (February 2, 1536 [1]September 27, 1612 [2]; actual name: Piotr Powęski; referred to in some English sources as Peter Skarga) was a Polish Jesuit, preacher, hagiographer, polemicist, and leading figure of the Counter-reformation in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He was called the "Polish Bossuet" due to his oratorical abilities.
Educated at Grójec and Kraków, he began life as a tutor to the family of Andrew Tenczynski, castellan of Kraków, and, some years later, after a visit to Vienna, took orders, and from 1563 was attached to the cathedral church of Lwów. His oratory was so successful that he determined to become a missionary-preacher among the people, in order the better to combat the social and political evils of the day. By way of preparation he studied theology in Italy from 1568 to 1570, and finally entered the Society of Jesus. On his return he preached successively at Pultusk, Jaroslaw, and Plock under the powerful protection of Queen Anna Jagiellon. During a subsequent mission to Lithuania he converted numerous noble families, including the Radziwills.
He became the first rector of the Vilnius Academy in 1579, where he wrote the Lives of the Saints (Żywoty świętych), which is still popular reading today. In 1584 he was transferred to the new Jesuit College at Kraków, and in 1588 he became court preacher to King Sigismund III Vasa (a position he would hold until 1611), and thus sometimes preached to the Sejm (parliament). The nobility (Polish: szlachta) ascribed to him a great (and baleful: he advocated strong royal authority) influence on King Sigismund.
Skarga is remembered by Poles as a vigorous early advocate of reforms to the Polish-Lithuanian polity and as a critic of the Commonwealth's governing classes. He advocated the strengthening of the monarch's power at the expense of Sejm, magnates and szlachta.
His name "Skarga", which in Polish means, "accusation", is likely because of this career as a reformer and critic. The loose translation of his name would therefore be "Peter the Accuser".
He established or enlarged many Catholic charitable societies and Jesuit schools.

Piotr Skarga Prominent writings

Lives of the Saints (Żywoty świętych, 1579, 8 editions in his lifetime).
Sejm Sermons (Kazania sejmowe, 1597, published posthumously).
Soldiers' Devotions (Żołnierskie nabożeństwo, 1618).

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