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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 May 26, 2020

Even though a man may be unable to attain such a height of s...

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May 26

 

Even though a man may be unable
to attain such a height of sanctity,
he ought to desire it,
so as to do at least in desire
what he cannot carry out in effect.

St. Philip Neri


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Philip Neri

All taste for earthly things left him and he made his way to...

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St. Philip Neri

Philip Neri, known as “The Apostle of Rome,” was Florentine by birth, one of four children born to a notary.

At eighteen, sent to work with a well-to-do uncle, Phillip had a mystical experience which he called his “conversion”. All taste for earthly things left him and he subsequently made his way to Rome.

There he found lodgings at the house of one Galeotto Caccia and taught his children in return for his keep.

For the next two years, Philip led the life of a virtual recluse, giving up whole days and nights to prayer and contemplation. When he did emerge from his garret, he immersed himself in the study of philosophy and theology, determined to live for God alone.

Philip started an apostolate, first at street corners talking to all who would listen, and then with young Florentines working in Rome.

In 1548 with the help of his confessor, Fr. Persiano Rossa, Philip founded a confraternity of poor laymen, popularized the devotion of the forty hours, and undertook the care of pilgrims in need. Greatly blessed, this work developed into the celebrated hospital of Santa Trinitá dei Pellegrini.

Philip Neri was ordained on May 23, 1551 and became known for the gift of reading the thoughts of his penitents. As the number of conversions increased, he began to give regular conferences.

With five initial disciples, among them the future historian and cardinal, Cesare Baronius, he went on to found the Congregation of the Oratory, which was approved in 1575 by Pope Gregory XIII who gave them the ancient church of Santa Maria in Vallicella. Philip rebuilt the church on a larger scale and it became known as the “Chiesa Nuova,” or the "New Church."

On May 25, 1595, Philip, who was known for his good humor and infectious joy, was in an especially radiant mood. His doctor told him he hadn’t looked so well in years. Only the saint knew his hour had come. He heard confessions all day, and saw visitors as usual but, upon retiring, he remarked to those around him, “Last of all, we must die.” At midnight he was seized by a severe hemorrhage. His disciples gathered around him, and as Baronius besought him for a parting word, unable to speak, the ardent apostle raised his hand and imparted a last blessing to his congregation before entering his reward. He was eighty years old. St. Philip’s body is interred in the Chiesa Nuova, which his sons in the Congregation of the Oratory serve to this day.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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