|Pope saint Leo the Great, Artist: Francisco Herrera the Younger, Date: 17th century|
Celebrated 10th November
Saint Leo was probably born in Rome about 400. He was a deacon under popes Celestine I 422–32 and Sixtus III 432–40, both of whom had entrusted him with diplomatic missions. He was elected pope in August – September 440, while on a mission to Gaul (today’s France), and he was consecrated September 29, 440 on his return to Rome.
There arose the new heresy of Eutyches, who confounded the two natures of Christ. At once the vigilant pastor proclaimed the true doctrine of the Incarnation in his famous “tome;” but fostered by the Byzantine court, the heresy gained a strong hold amongst the Eastern monks and bishops. After three years of unceasing toil, Leo brought about its solemn condemnation by the Council of Chalcedon, the Fathers all signing his tome, and exclaiming, “Peter hath spoken by Leo.”
Leo is one of the three popes designated as “the Great,” and he merits this title because of his teaching and his governance. His teaching is found in ninety-six sermons, which explain the major tenets of the Catholic faith. Regarding governance, he was the best administrator of the ancient Church: he consolidated Church administration and stressed the primacy of the Roman See in his dealings with the rest of the Catholic world. He likewise urged liturgical as well as canonical and pastoral uniformity.
|Francesco Solimena – The Meeting of Pope Leo and Attila|
Near Mantua in 452, he confronted Attila the Hun and persuaded him to withdraw, and on meeting Gaiseric outside Rome in 455, he induced him to spare the city from fire and massacre. St. Leo died on November 10, 461. Pope Benedict XIV declared him a doctor of the Church in 1754. The opening prayer today echoes St. Leo’s constant teaching that the Church is founded on the rock of Peter.
O God, who never allow the gates of hell
to prevail against your Church,
firmly founded on the apostolic rock,
grant her, we pray,
that through the intercession of Pope Saint Leo,
she may stand firm in your truth
and know the protection of lasting peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.