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Saint of the day: Damasus I

St. Damasus was born at the beginning of the fourth century in Rome. He was a father and a widower before receiving his Holy Orders and becoming the parish priest at the church of St. Laurence.

In 355, when Damasus was archdeacon of the Roman Church, Pope St. Liberius was banished to Berda. Damasus initially followed him, but returned to Rome. When St. Liberius died in 366, Damasus was chosen to succeed him. However, a man named Ursinus was jealous of Damasus’ election, and had his followers proclaim him pope. In the ensuing revolt against Rome, 137 people died.

Damasus did not lead armies into war, but Emperor Valentinian defended him and drove Ursinus out of Rome for a while. When Ursinus returned, he accused Damasus of adultery. Damasus assembled a synod of 64 bishops, and defended himself against the accusations before them. The bishops agreed to excommunicate and banish Ursinus and his followers.

Damasus then began to minister to Christians who were being persecuted in Constantinople under Emperor Valens. He sent St. Zenobius to console them, and convened several councils to fight against Arianism in the West and Apollinarianism in the East.

Under Damasus’ orders, St. Jerome translated a Latin version of the Bible, now known as the Vulgate. The pope also rebuilt the Church of St. Laurence and decorated the sepulchers of martyrs. He consecrated 62 bishops during his papacy.

When he was nearly 80 years old, and had been pope for a little over 18 years, St. Damasus died on Dec. 10, 384. His relics were placed at the church of St. Laurence, except his head, which was preserved in the Basilica of St. Peter.


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