SAINT LEO I (the GREAT) (?-461), pope and Doctor of the Church
Today, the Church honors Saint Leo I, also known as Saint Leo the Great, whose pontificate included the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451 A.D., which defined, as a doctrine of faith, Jesus Christ having two Natures – Divine and human.
Prior to Leo’s elevation to the Chair of Peter, he was a deacon who was renowned for his ability to settle disputes between warring factions. After being consecrated pope in the year 440 upon the death of Pope St. Sixtus III, Pope Leo’s chief aim was to sustain the unity of the Church. Not long after the beginning of his papacy, he saw himself compelled to energetically combat the heresies which seriously threatened this unity – Pelagianism, Manichaeism and others.
A second major area of concern was doctrinal controversy in the Church in the East, to which he responded with a classic letter setting down the Church’s teaching on the two Natures of Christ, which were set forth in the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451.
Pope Leo also took on the role of peacemaker, having successfully persuaded Attila the Hun not to plunder Rome. Leo met Attila and his army as they were advancing towards Rome. With inspired eloquence, Pope Leo persuaded him to turn bac.
When Attila 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 further. As a result, Attila retreated from Rome.
In addition to all of these concerns which weighed heavily on Pope Leo, he was deeply moved to care for the pastoral needs of the children of God. Known for his spiritually profound sermons, Pope Leo had the ability to reach the everyday needs and interests of his people. In his heart, he believed that everything he did and said as pope for the administration of the Church represented Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body, and Saint Peter, in whose place Leo was acting.
Pope Leo the Great died on November 10, 461, and is buried in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome under a special Altar dedicated to his name. In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV exalted him to the dignity of Doctor of the Church.
We commemorate his feastday on November 10.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Leo the Great)
“God our Father, You will never allow the power of Hell to prevail against Your Church, founded on the rock of the Apostle Peter. Let the prayers of Pope Leo the Great keep us faithful to Your Truth and secure in Your peace.
“We ask this 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. Amen.”