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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 October 1, 2020

The goal of all our undertakings should be not so much a tas...

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October 1

 

The goal of all our undertakings should be

not so much a task perfectly completed

as the accomplishment of the will of God.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Hearing of a murderer, Henri Pranzini, who had been condemne...

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St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Marie-Françoise Thérèse Martin was born on January 2, 1873 in the town of Alençon in French Normandy. Her parents were Louis Martin, a watch maker, and Zélie Guerin, both beatified by the Church. Called Thérèse, she was the last of nine children, five of which survived to adulthood.

Growing up in a deeply Catholic family, Thérèse’s life was filled with love, consideration and kindness. A pretty, blond and blue-eyed girl, hers was a precocious mind, and passionate, willful, sensitive nature, a nature made yet more sensitive by her mother’s death of breast cancer when Thérèse was four.

After his wife’s death, M. Martin moved his family to the town of Lisieux, and rented a charming home, “Les Buissonnets”, where he raised his five girls in bourgeois comfort. Thérèse was his “Benjamin” for whom he had a special affection and whom he called “my little queen”.

For her mothering needs, the little girl turned to her favorite sister, Pauline, who took the rearing of her “child” seriously looking after her needs of body, mind and soul.

When Pauline decided to enter Carmel in 1882, the shock made Thérèse seriously ill. As the illness progressed, and as her family prepared for the worst, on May 13, the sick girl appealed to a statue of Our Lady by her bed. “Suddenly,” Thérèse writes, “Mary’s face radiated kindness and love…” and she was healed. To the family the statue became “The Virgin of the Smile”.

On Christmas Eve in 1886 at the age of fourteen Thérèse received a great grace. In one moment, she was cured of her hyper-sensitivity, and went through what she calls “her conversion”. From then on she decided to live no longer to please herself but for love. She felt her heart burn with the wish to help Jesus save souls.

Hearing of a murderer, Henri Pranzini, who had been condemned to death, but remained unrepentant, she set out to pray and offer small sacrifices for his conversion, and trusted that God would hear her against all appearances. She was elated when she read that though refusing a priest to the last, at the scaffold Pranzini suddenly turned and, snatching a crucifix from the attending priest’s hands, kissed it repeatedly. Thereafter, Thérèse always called Pranzini her “first son”– her course was set.

She entered Carmel at age sixteen, and though only living as a Carmelite for nine years, she rose to the heights of sanctity through her “little way” of serving God and others in everyday life, and doing everything, even the smallest things, with great love and child-like trust in her God’s paternal love, and mercy.  At the request of her sister Pauline who glimpsed her sanctity, she penned her autobiography, The Story of a Soul.

Struck with tuberculosis, Thérèse suffered greatly. Knowing she was dying she promised, “I shall spend my heaven doing good on earth … I shall let fall a shower of roses”.  Thérèse died on September 30, 1897, after a brief ecstasy. Her last gasping words were, “My God! ... I love Thee!”

She was canonized by Pius XI in 1925 and devotion to her quickly spread throughout the world. For her doctrine of “The Little Way” Thérèse was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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