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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 January 17, 2021

People hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is they lo...

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January 17

 

People hate the truth
for the sake of whatever it is they love more than the truth.
They love truth when it shines warmly upon them
and hate it
when it rebukes them.

St. Augustine of Hippo


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Anthony of Egypt

Anthony’s parents died before he was twenty leaving him in...

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St. Anthony of Egypt

Anthony was born in 251 in the village of Koman, south of Memphis in Egypt. Anthony’s well-to-do parents died before he was twenty leaving him in charge of a younger sister, and the owner of a considerable estate.

In 272, wishing to leave all to follow Christ, after securing his sister’s support and upbringing, he distributed his holdings among the poor, and retired to a life of solitude. He lived a life of penance, sleeping on a rush mat on the bare floor, eating and drinking bread and water. The devil was allowed to attack him grievously, on one occasion subjecting him to a beating that left him for dead, only to be saved by friends.  Anthony emerged victorious from all these trials.

At the age of thirty-five, the holy hermit moved from his solitude in the vicinity of his native village, to a location across the eastern branch of the river Nile where he made his abode in some ruins on the summit of a mountain. There he lived for twenty years, rarely seeing any man except one who brought him bread every so often.

St. Athanasius, his friend and first biographer, speaks of Anthony as not only spending his time in prayer and meditation but also in making mats. He also gardened.

At fifty-four, being sought out by men who wanted to follow his way of life, Anthony founded his first monastery in Fayum in a series of scattered caves, which he visited occasionally.

In 311 as religious persecution again broke out under Emperor Maximinus, Anthony left his solitude to give courage to the martyrs in Alexandria. When the persecution abated, he returned to his previous solitude. He later founded another community of monks near the Nile called Pispir, though he continued to live on his mountain.

Years later, at the request of the bishops, Anthony again journeyed to Alexandria to confute the Arians, who denied the divinity of Christ. All ran to hear the holy hermit, and even pagans, struck by the dignity of his character, flocked around him. Heathen teachers and philosophers often sought him out, and were astounded at his meekness and wisdom.

Anthony died at age 101 surrounded by his spiritual sons in his hermitage on Mount Kolsim. His last words were, “Farewell, my children, Anthony is departing and will no longer be with you.” Thus saying, he stretched out his feet and calmly ceased to breathe.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

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

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

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