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Although he descended of a noble Tuscan family, Leo was born in the Eternal City. He was already known outside of Rome even as a deacon under Pope Celestine I, and had some relations with Gaul during this period.

During the pontificate of Pope Sixtus III, Leo was sent to Gaul by the Emperor Valentinian III to settle a dispute and bring about a reconciliation between Aëtius, the chief military commander of the province, and the chief magistrate, Albinus. This commission is a proof of the great confidence placed in the clever and able deacon by the Imperial Court.

While Leo was away in Gaul, the Pope died on August 19, 440 and the deacon-delegate was chosen as his successor.

Returning to Rome, Leo was consecrated as Vicar of Christ on September 29 of the same year, and governed the Church for the next twenty-one years.

Whilst the Eastern Empire was distracted by heretical factions, the Western was harassed by barbarian hordes. Halted in his ruinous advance through Gaul by the Roman general Aëtius, Attila the Hun turned south into Italy. Leaving blood and desolation in his wake, he sacked Milan, razed Pavia and laid waste whole provinces.

The weak Emperor Valentinian III shut himself up in Ravenna, and the Romans, in the utmost terror, expected to see the barbarian invaders speedily before their gates. Such was the state of affairs when Pope Leo went to meet Attila.

They found the proud tyrant near Ravenna and contrary to the general expectation he received the pope with great honor, gave him a favorable audience, and, at his suggestion, concluded a treaty of peace with the empire on the condition of an annual tribute. It is said that Attila saw two venerable personages, supposed to be the apostles Peter and Paul, standing on the side of the pope whilst he spoke.

The barbarian king immediately commanded his army to forbear all hostilities, and soon after recrossed the Alps, and retired beyond the Danube. On his way home “the Scourge of God” was seized with a violent vomiting of blood, of which he died in 453.

It was the glory of this saintly pope to have checked Attila’s fury and protected Rome, when it was in no condition to be defended. Pope Leo rose to its defense once again in the year 455, this time prevailing upon the Arian Vandal king Genseric to restrain his troops from slaughter and burning, and to content himself with the plunder of the city, thus demonstrating by his example that even in the worst of times, a holy pastor is the greatest comfort and support of his flock.

His militant vigilance was not limited to the defense of merely earthly treasures, but was above all active in the spiritual realm. Leo’s chief aim was to sustain the unity of the Church. Not long after his elevation to the Chair of Peter, he saw himself compelled to combat energetically the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West.

Former adherents of Pelagius (who denied original sin and its effects and believed in man’s self-justification without grace) who had been admitted to communion without an explicit abjuration of their heresy were directed to do so publicly before a synod and to subscribe to an unequivocal confession of Faith.

He emphatically warned the Christians of Rome to be on their guard against the Gnostic teachings of the Manichæans who, among other tenets, denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, taught an elaborate form of dualism, professed salvation through knowledge and repudiated marriage as evil. His pastoral zeal in waging war against Manichæism was ably followed up by a number of imperial decrees and the edict of June, 445 establishing civil punishments for the obdurate adherents of the sect.

In Spain, the heresy of Priscillianism still survived, and for some time had been attracting fresh adherents. In response to a letter from Bishop Turibius of Astorga regarding the spread of its false teachings in his jurisdiction, Pope Leo wrote a lengthy refutation of its errors and ordered that a council of neighboring bishops should be convened to determine to what extent the heresy had contaminated the hierarchy of the surrounding provinces. He also called for a universal synod of all the main pastors in the Spanish provinces. These two synods were in fact held in Spain to deal with the Gnostic-Manichæan doctrines of the Priscillianists.

In 448, Eutyches appealed to the pope after he had been excommunicated by Flavian, the Patriarch of Constantinople, on account of his Monophysite views which denied the hypostatic union of Christ and the fact that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. In response, Pope Leo wrote a sublime dogmatic letter to Flavian, concisely setting forth and confirming the doctrine of the Incarnation, and the union of the Divine and human natures in the one Person of Christ.

In Leo’s conception of his duties as supreme pastor, the maintenance of strict ecclesiastical discipline occupied a prominent place. This was particularly important at a time when the continual ravages of the barbarians were introducing disorder into all conditions of life, and the rules of morality were being seriously violated. Leo used his utmost energy in maintaining this discipline, insisted on the exact observance of the ecclesiastical precepts, and did not hesitate to rebuke when necessary.

The primacy of the Roman Church was thus manifested under this pope in the most various and distinct ways and we cannot but admire the clear, positive, and systematic manner in which Leo, fortified by the primacy of the Holy See, took part in this difficult entanglement.

Leo was no less active in the spiritual formation of souls, and his sermons are remarkable for their profundity, clearness of diction, and elevated style. Five of these discourses, delivered on the anniversaries of his consecration, manifest his lofty conception of the dignity of his office, as well as his thorough conviction of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.

Leo died on November 10, 461, and was buried in the vestibule of Saint Peter’s on the Vatican. In 688 Pope Sergius had his remains transferred to the basilica itself, and a special altar erected over them.

They rest today in Saint Peter’s, beneath the altar specially dedicated to St. Leo. In 1754 Benedict XIV exalted him to the dignity of Doctor of the Church.

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 21, 2019

Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are alway...

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November 21

 

Make friends with the angels, who though
invisible are always with you.
Often invoke them,
constantly praise them, and make good use
of their help and assistance
in all your
temporal and spiritual affairs.


St. Francis de Sales


DEFEND Our Lady's HONOR !

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple

Mary asked if she might have the honor to be the servant of...

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The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple

On the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, we celebrate the fact that Our Lady’s parents brought her to the Temple at the age of three and handed her over to live there for a long period as a consecrated virgin where she might exclusively contemplate God.

There is a special beauty to this feast since it highlights the fact that Our Lady was chosen even before time began. She is called the root of Jesse (Isaiah, 11:1) from which Our Lord Jesus Christ would be born. She is introduced to the synagogue, the institution in charge of keeping this promise. Thus, the synagogue receives Our Lady as a first step. In this act, the hopes of ages would soon be fulfilled.

Our Lady, a supremely holy soul, is received in the Temple and entered into the service of God. Despite the corruption of the nation of Israel and the transformation of the Temple into a den of the Pharisees, an incomparable light appeared: the sanctity of Our Lady.

Unknowingly, Our Lady began to prepare herself to become the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In an atmosphere of grace in the Temple, she was set apart from everyone in order to serve God. She increased her love of God until she formed the ardent desire for the imminent coming of the Messiah and asked God if she might have the honor to be the servant of His Mother. She did not know that she was the one chosen for this honor. That is why she was perplexed when the Archangel Gabriel greeted her to ask her permission for the Incarnation.

Our Lady’s magnificent preparation to be the Mother of Jesus Christ began with her Presentation in the Temple, a feast the Church celebrates on November 21. It is fitting that we ask Our Lady to prepare us with the best of Catholic doctrine to serve God by serving her. We should present ourselves before Our Lady, asking her to assist us in taking up the task of our sanctification, as the Holy Ghost did with her in the Temple of Jerusalem.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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