St Leo the Great

Today the Church remembers St Leo the Great, who was Pope from 440 to 461.  Last year, Pope Benedict XVI devoted one of his General Audience talks to St Leo, highlighting his manly courage and fatherly protection of the Church in this excerpt:

The fame of one particular episode in Leo’s life has endured. It dates back to 452 when the Pope, together with a Roman delegation, met Attila, chief of the Huns, in Mantua and dissuaded him from continuing the war of invasion by which he had already devastated the northeastern regions of Italy. Thus, he saved the rest of the Peninsula. This important event soon became memorable and lives on as an emblematic sign of the Pontiff’s action for peace. Unfortunately, the outcome of another Papal initiative three years later was not as successful, yet it was a sign of courage that still amazes us:  in the spring of 455 Leo did not manage to prevent Genseric’s Vandals, who had reached the gates of Rome, from invading the undefended city that they plundered for two weeks. This gesture of the Pope — who, defenseless and surrounded by his clergy, went forth to meet the invader to implore him to desist — nevertheless prevented Rome from being burned and assured that the Basilicas of St Peter, St Paul and St John, in which part of the terrified population sought refuge, were spared.

In the final section of his teaching, Pope Benedict points to how St Leo “associated the liturgy with the daily life of Christians” and “taught his faithful — and his words still apply for us today — that the Christian liturgy is not the memory of past events, but the actualization of invisible realities which act in the lives of each one of us.”  Especially important was the Christ-centeredness of St Leo’s life and teaching, about which Pope Benedict says:

Through the force of this Christological faith he was a great messenger of peace and love. He thus shows us the way:  in faith we learn charity. Let us therefore learn with St Leo the Great to believe in Christ, true God and true Man, and to implement this faith every day in action for peace and love of neighbor.

In addition to the excerpt from one of St Leo’s sermons found in today’s Office of Readings, you can read many more of his letters and sermons here (scroll down past St Gregory’s stuff).

St Leo the Great, pray for us!

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