Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

Reflections from the Saints

Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Leo the Great, pope and doctor, during whose pontificate the Council of Chalcedon (451) defined that Christ is one divine person with two natures, divine and human. It was a confirmation of his Epistola Dogmatica (Tomus) to the Patriarch Flavian of Constantinople. He vigorously defended the unity of the Church. He detained the onrush of the barbarians under Attila. His feast day in the Extraordinary Rite is April 11.

via Catholic Culture : Liturgical Year.

Read the Bible at Mass


First Reading: Titus 3:1-7

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another;

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. (RSV)

Responsorial: Psalm 23:1-6

R. (1) The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.

R. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.

R. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.

R. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for ever. (RSV)

R. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19 (Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers)

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them,

“Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus,

“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (RSV)


Cleansing of the Ten Lepers, Codex Aureus Epternacensis, c. 1035-1040. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

My Comments:

There is no mistake in how the Church chooses the passages to be read at Mass especially for feast days. The Scripture read at Mass today all remind the faithful of our duty to love God first and our neighbors second. However, in loving our neighbor we must remember that we do so in servitude. This service to our neighbors is not always limited to performing an act of kindness or good will but includes being subject to those in authority over us for we must recall that nothing happens in this world without God allowing it. As such, we must recognize that our leaders are in such a position because God allows this to be – even poor and anti-Christian leaders:

The authority required by the moral order derives from God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”(17: Rm 13:1-2; 1P 2:13-17 ) (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 1899)

What the Church, in her wisdom, is teaching us is that those in authority over us are there as part of God’s divine will and to refuse service to those authorities is going contrary to the will of God. Yet the limit of an earthly authority ends at the point of sin or issues of faith and morals:

Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, “authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse.”(23) (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 1903)

Once any authority parts from what is good, Who is God, then we are no longer obliged to comply. The best example of this is the case of legal abortion or euthanasia. We should never, under any circumstances, get involved willfully in these intrinsically evil acts. In fact, out of love for our neighbors (the unborn and the infirmed) we must never cease fighting to guarantee these individual’s right to life and protection from death even if that is a person’s individual choice. Why? Not because we choose to frustrate God’s will but because we do His will in attempting to protect what belongs exclusively to Him as creator: that is our lives.

We can see this exhortation in Paul’s letter to Titus when he states, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work.” Saint Paul goes on to detail other ways that we exhibit this love for neighbor and God.

The theme is again touched upon in the Responsorial Psalm, the famous Psalm 23, where we find that it is God’s rod and staff – His laws and rules – that actually comfort us and leave without want because we are provided everything we need through His grace.

The Gospel reading wraps up this entire sequence when Jesus asks one of the ten He healed the whereabouts of the others. As God, Jesus knew perfectly well what they would do and where they were in addition to the fact that, in leaving Him, they were following His command. The point Our Blessed Lord is making here is that we must always give thanks to God for all of our blessings both miraculous and those seemingly insignificant. Once we acknowledge the origin of all our Gifts, most especially eternal life through the forgiveness of sins, then we can continue to seek our reconciliation and reparation in the manner prescribed by Jesus in the New Testament, which is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

You see, Jesus’ words, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well,” are not a support of the erroneous doctrine of Sola Fide, it is actually an example of the proper reaction to Grace that is, Faith plus works. In returning to Jesus, the Samaritan acting in a manner that shone out his faith. This was a proper response to the grace of healing and forgiveness. As such this man was justified whereas the others, it can be assumed were cleansed of their leprosy (often associated with sin) but no yet justified due to a lack of proper response. I would venture to say these men held a measure of faith in Our Lord for why else would they seek Him out to be healed? On the flip side, their “faith apart from works is dead” (James (RSV) 2:26).

To read these passages on the feast day of Pope Saint Leo the Great is again, no mistake. In these verses we are reminded that it is through the authority of God, and in the case of the Church – the direct authority – that we have bodies and bodies of authority to rule and guide over us. Like a government, the Church is responsible for her citizens who are made such through a valid baptism. Upon the reception of  the Sacrament of Confirmation this same citizen is now an enlisted soldier of Christ, ready to do battle alongside the angels and in cooperation with God’s divine plan of salvation for the good of man to the glory of God. For it is by God that we have the Church, the bishops and the Pope to guide us and lead us towards Him and our salvation in Him.

St. Leo the Great


Pope Leo I (Saint Leo the Great). Image via Wikipedia.

Leo I, Pope and Doctor of the Church, ruled from 440 to 461. He is surnamed “the Great” and ranks among the most illustrious sovereigns that ever sat on the throne of St. Peter. Of his life, we know little; with him the man seems to disappear before the Pope. He saw most clearly that one of his greatest tasks was to vindicate the primacy of the Roman bishop, St. Peter’s successor, and to raise the prestige of the Holy See before the entire world. Hardly any Pope in history has occupied a like position in the ecclesiastical and political world.

As a writer, too, his name is famous. His sermons, which occur frequently in the Divine Office, belong to the finest and most profound in patristic literature. The Council of Chalcedon was held under his direction (451). The Breviary tells us: Leo I, an Etruscan, ruled the Church at the time when Attila, King of the Huns, who was called the Scourge of God, invaded Italy. After a siege of three years, he took, sacked and burned Aquileia, and then hurried on toward Rome. Inflamed with anger, his troops were already preparing to cross the Po, at the point where it is joined by the Mincio.

Here Attila was stopped by Leo (452). With God-given eloquence, the Pope persuaded him to turn back, and when the Hun was asked by his servants why, contrary to custom, he had so meekly yielded to the entreaties of a Roman bishop, he answered that he had been alarmed by a figure dressed like a priest that stood at Leo’s side; this individual was holding a drawn sword and acted as if he would kill him if he advanced farther. As a result Attila retreated to Pannonia.

Meanwhile, Leo returned to Rome, and was received with universal rejoicing. Some time later, the Vandal Genseric entered the city, and again Leo, by the power of his eloquence and the authority of his holy life, persuaded him to desist from atrocity and slaughter (455). Leo was also active in matters liturgical. The so-called Leonine sacramentary, a compendium of Missal prayers, contains

Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Symbols: Image of the Virgin; pick-axe; model of St. Maria Maggiore; horse; Attila kneeling.

Things to Do:

  • Learn more about the Nestorian heresy and the Council of Chalcedon;
  • Just as St. Leo triumphed over the pagan invaders, pray for the civilized barbarians who would persuade us that religion should be eliminated from education and that the State, in its laws and institutions should simply ignore our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • Read Pope John XXIII’s Encyclical on St. Leo;
  • The name Leo means “lion,” so a cake in the shape of a lion would be an appropriate name-day dessert.

via Catholic Culture : Liturgical Year.


2 thoughts on “Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

  1. […] Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church ( […]

  2. […] Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church ( […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s