Today is the feast day of St. Leo the Great. St. Leo is believed to have been born in Rome. He was a deacon under Popes Celestine I and Sixtus III and was elected pope to succeed Sixtus III. He reigned as pope between 440 and 461.
He persuaded Emperor Valentinian to recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in an edict in 445. He formulated the doctrine of the Incarnation in a letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had already condemned Eutyches. (Eutyches was abbot of a monastery at Constantinople who was deposed Patriarch Flavian for denying the two natures of Christ.) At the Council of Chalcedon, this same letter was confirmed as the expression of Catholic Faith concerning the Person of Christ.
All secular historical treatises eulogize his efforts during the upheaval of the fifth-century barbarian invasion. His encounter with Attila the Hun, persuading him to turn back at the very gates of Rome, remains a historical memorial to his great eloquence. When the Vandals under Genseric occupied the city of Rome, he persuaded the invaders to desist from pillaging the city and harming its inhabitants. He died in 461, leaving many letters and writings of great historical value.
St. Leo advanced the influence of the papacy to unprecedented heights with his authoritative approach to events, buttressed by his firm belief that the Holy See is the supreme authority in human affairs because of divine and scriptural mandate. In a time of great disorder, he forged an energetic central authority that stood for stability and wisdom. His pontificate affected the concept of the papacy for centuries to come. He was declared a doctor of the Church in 1754.
From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day
The word made flesh lived among us, and in redeeming the whole race, Christ gave himself entirely.
— From a homily of St. Leo the Great
How do I see this definition of love as total self-donation lived out in God the Father? In God the Son? In God the Holy Spirit? In the Blessed Virgin Mary? In myself?
Dear St. Leo, I pray for all to understand that the office of the pontificate was first given to Saint Peter as recorded in sacred scripture (Mt 16:18), and that the power of this office comes directly from God. There are so many in the world who do not accept or understand this truth — even many Catholics. Please St. Leo, intercede for those who are in darkness concerning the Church and the office of the papacy and ask our Lord to remove the scales from their eyes so that they may understand and be docile to this authority that God, Himself, has given. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Andrew Avellino (1608), PriestSaints Tryphon and Respicius (3rd Century), and Saint Nympha, Virgin (4th Century), Martyrs
image: Artaud de Montor (1772–1849), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons