“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.”
Today, November 10, we also celebrate the feast day of Pope Saint Leo the Great (400-461). Pope Saint Leo is referred to by many names, including “Doctor of Doctrine” and “Doctor of Unity of the Church.” He is the first pope to be referred to by the title “Great,” and the first born pope made Doctor of the Church. His greatness is evident from his roles as peacemaker amidst terror, unifier amidst controversy, and pastoral concern amidst war, diseases, and famine. Despite near constant attack, Pope Saint Leo led the Church for nearly two decades, believing and trusting in the Lord, through the intercession of Saint Peter. His writings, unifying doctrine, and peacemaking (at a time when peace was hard to come by!) continue to inspire and instruct us today in the ways of the faith.
CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY: To feed the hungry; Give drink to the thirsty; Clothe the naked; Shelter the homeless; Visit the sick; Visit the imprisoned; Bury the dead.
SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY: To counsel the doubtful; Instruct the ignorant; Admonish sinners; Comfort the afflicted; Forgive offenses; Bear wrongs patiently; Pray for the living and the dead.
Lastly, and most interesting to secular scholars, Pope Saint led the defense of Rome against barbarian attack, taking the role of peacemaker, against the formidable Attila the Hun, the “Scourge of Europe.” His encounter with Attila the Hun, at the very gates of Rome, in which he persuaded the invaders to turn back without attack, remains a historical memorial to his great eloquence.
"Pope Leo the Great mounted the throne of Saint Peter at a time of terrible danger, both for the Church and the Empire. The fierce barbarian tribes, one after the other, had been on the march for the whole of the century, plundering, ravaging and threatening the entire Empire. The dreaded Attila ¬ the self-designated "Scourge of God," who left in the wake of his savage army burned churches, murdered priests, devastated countrysides, people ravished and maimed, impoverished and homeless, was on his way into Italy.
In the year 452, Attila the Hun, having with remorseless cruelty sieged, burned, sacked and destroyed Aquileia -¬ the city in northeastern Italy at the head of the Adriatic Sea ¬- was as close as Mantua, on his march to Rome. He was boasting, as he advanced, that the total conquest of Italy was to be his crowning work of destruction. Rome was the dowry which he planned to present to his bride, Honoria, the granddaughter of the great Theodosius!
All Rome awaited the coming of the Mongol King in hopeless terror. They had no defense left against him. And then, in the darkest hour ¬- as would often be the case through the centuries ahead ¬- the Eternal City was saved, not by its legions, its tribunes, its senators, or its suffering citizens. Rome was saved by its Bishop, the Holy Roman Pontiff.
Practically alone, Pope Leo went out to meet the wanton murderer who was the terror of the world. He climbed steadily northward, this holy and august Vicar of Christ, and over the mountains, an arduous journey indeed in those days. He found the Mongolian chief below Mantua, at the point where the Mincio River, flowing down from its Alpine source ¬- the beautiful Lago Garda ¬- emptied itself in the Po. Attila's troops, hardened veterans seasoned in plunder and sack and rape, were ready and waiting to cross the Po when Saint Leo, in his papal robes, entered the disordered camp and stood before the King of the Huns.
The glorious Pope threatened Attila with the power which was his from Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, if he did not turn back and leave Italy unmolested. And it is one of the most dramatic, of all the dramatic facts with which the story of the Church is so enchantingly full, that Attila, the Hun, yielded before Leo, the Pope. The "Scourge of God" agreed to turn back. He gave up Rome. And Leo, absorbed in thanksgiving, returned to his See.
Attila's servants, so the story is told, asked him why he had reversed his custom and capitulated so easily to the Bishop of Rome. The brigand chief answered that all the while the Pope was speaking, he, Attila, the generator of terror in others, was himself consumed in fear, for there had appeared in the air above the Pope's head a figure in the dress of a priest, holding in his hand a drawn sword with which he made as if to kill him unless he consented to do as Leo asked. The figure was that of Peter!"
Selected Writings of Pope Saint Leo the Great:
“Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: “We are all one in Christ,” nor is anyone separated from the office of another in such a way that a lower group has no connection with the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, our community is then undivided. There is a common dignity as the apostle Peter says in these words: “And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” And again: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of election.” For all, regenerated in Christ, as made kings by the sign of the cross. They are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?”
“God decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ. Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God’s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the merciful God, “who has made us worthy,” in the words of the Apostle, “to share the position of the saints in light; who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of this beloved Son.” This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ.”
"Short and fleeting are the joys of this world's pleasures which endeavors to turn aside from the path of life those who are called to eternity. The faithful and religious spirit, therefore, must desire the things which are heavenly, and being eager for the Divine promises, lift itself to the love of the incorruptible Good and the hope of the true Light."
“Being therefore, dearly-beloved, fully instructed by these admonitions of ours, which we have often repeated in your ears in protest against abominable error, enter upon the holy days of Lent with Godly devoutness, and prepare yourselves to win God’s mercy by your own works of mercy. Quench your anger, wipe out enmities, cherish unity, and vie with one another in the offices of true humility. Rule your slaves and those who are put under you with fairness, let none of them be tortured by imprisonment or chains. Forego vengeance, forgive offences: exchange severity for gentleness, indignation for meekness, discord for peace. Let all men find us self-restrained, peaceable, kind: that our fastings may be acceptable to God. For in a word to Him we offer the sacrifice of true abstinence and true Godliness, when we keep ourselves from all evil: the Almighty God helping us through all, to Whom with the Son and Holy Spirit belongs one Godhead and one Majesty, for ever and ever. Amen.”
O Holy Pope Leo! Thou didst triumph over barbarian invaders: Attila acknowledged the power of thy sanctity and eloquence, by withdrawing his troops from the Christian land they infested. Oh, help us by thy powerful intercession, for our danger is very great. Many are seduced and have fallen into apostasy. Pray that the light that is left within us may never be extinguished, but ever increase unto light eternal. Amen.
Year 2: Day 314 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Steadfast belief in the true faith; Unification of the Church.
Requested Intentions: Restoration of a marriage (A); Peace and tolerance in a family, support for those with Parkinson’s Disease (M); For the restoration of a daughter’s marriage, end to debt (S); Employment and continued strength (K); Successful examinations for a son (J); Employment and blessings of a child (S); Employment and financial security (F); Successful work placement, continued health (A); Grace and healing for a family (P); Healing of a father (M); Academic success for son, employment for husband and brother (B); Freedom from anxiety and panic attacks (R); Health and healing in preparation for surgery (C); Healing of a chronic illness (P); Safety of a family during storms (A); Successful home ownership (P); Healing of a marriage (M); Employment for a husband, blessings for a marriage (E); Successful examinations for a daughter, healing of a relationships (V); Blessing for a family (V); Healing of baby girl M and all children suffering (M); Special intentions (R); Business success, peace, health (E); Conversion and deliverance of those who suffer, increase in vocations (M); Financial security and safe housing (M); For a daughter (K).
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."