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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 April 19, 2021

He asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise....

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April 19

 

A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. 
A man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom. 
A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. 
 
One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul 
purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption. 
 

But in the Divine plan it was a thief 
who was the escort of the King of kings 
into Paradise.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Alphege of Canterbury

Alphege hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing...

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St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a...

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The Robber Who Stole Heaven

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by decreasing that of his victims.

One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.

"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in God’s displeasure.”

The robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled unarmed on Saturdays.

Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.

Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that all present wept with him.

He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug nearby.
Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold, and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.

There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person, for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.

All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to even a notorious robber.

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

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. 

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