St Leo the Great or Pope Leo I was born in 400 AD in Tuscany, Italy and was the bishop of Rome from September 29 440 AD until he died on November 10 461 in Rome. We celebrate his feast day on November 10 every year in the Catholic Church.
St Leo the Great is the Patron Saint of
- Popes and Confessors
|St Leo the Great, Pope Biography|
|Date of Birth||400 AD|
|Place of Birth||Tuscany, Italy|
|Profession||Pope and Doctor of the Church|
|Place of Work||Rome, Italy|
|Date of Death||November 10 461|
|Place of Death||Rome, Italy|
|Feast Day||November 10|
|Patron Saint of||Popes and Confessors|
St Leo the Great Life History
St Leo the Great was ordained into Holy Orders and rose rapidly to become a papal advisor. He also acted as an emissary of the pope before he himself became a pope.
Pope Leo I was very well known and as a deacon in 431 AD, John Cassian, an influential monk, applauded his exposition against Nestorius, the Archbishop of Constantinople who was preaching controversial Christian beliefs.
On September 29 440, after the death of Pope Sixtus III, St Leo the Great was elected as pope by a unanimous vote. His first assignment was to stop the practice of the Pelagians in Aquileia, Italy, of receiving people into the Church communion before they are formally absolved from their sins through Baptism, confession, and repentance. The Pelagians also erroneously and mistakenly believed that mankind can perfect himself without God’s grace and assistance.
He also fought against the controversial Manichaean religion which was beginning to take root in Rome around 440 AD. He burnt their books and challenged them in public debates. They believed that everything material in this world was evil.
Pope Leo I also vehemently opposed the illogical strict form of Christian asceticism by the Priscillianists in Spain and released a treatise on July 21 447 that forbade that practice by the sect.
St Leo the Great did many charitable works in Rome for families suffering from hunger and poverty, and also for refugees coming en-mass into Rome. He encouraged the clergy and the faithful to practice fasting and offer the proceeds of the fasting to charity.
St Leo the Great taught and instituted the name “pope” to mean the Bishop of Rome as opposed to the general view, by then, that any bishop would be referred to as pope.
Pope Leo was instrumental in the process of reaffirming papal authority through the centralization of spiritual authority within the Church.
St Leo the Great arbitrated many disputes that emanated from some bishops not recognizing his authority and teachings as the head of the Church. Hilary of Arles, the bishop of Arles in France, Dioscorus the Great of Alexandria and the Church in Mauretania Caesariensis in North Africa are among those who had initially opposed but later submitted to the Pope in Rome’s authority.
St Leo the Great was, without doubt, one of the most important figures in the growth of the Church. His assertion on the authority of the Bishop of Rome, or Pope helped so much in strengthening the Church of Christ at a time when many heresies and schisms were threatening to tear the Church apart.
He reiterated that the Church is built upon Peter, as Jesus Christ declared and all other bishops are assistants to the holder of the seat of St Peter. This position was reaffirmed during the Council of Chalcedon that was held in 451 AD in Chalcedon, (modern Kadiköy, Turkey). When the Tome was read, all the delegates chanted, “Peter has spoken through Leo!”
It is also here, during the Council of Chalcedon, that the truth of the union of two natures, divine and human, in the one Person of Jesus Christ was re-affirmed. Before then, in 449, during the Second Council of Ephesus, St Leo the Great had written a letter containing these truths (The Tome) to Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople. Flavian was the pope’s delegate in this council. The council did not read this letter and refused to give Flavian any audience to explain his message. Consequently, this Council of Ephesus was never recognized as ecumenical.
In 452 AD, Italy was faced with the invasion of Attila the Hun. Attila had already captured and conquered the cities of Aquileia, Padua, and Milan. When Attila was now about to invade Rome, St Leo the Great met him at Mantua along the Mincio River and held negotiations with him. Legend has it that, Attila saw a vision of St Peter and St Paul carrying swords and standing behind Leo, ready to battle him if he tried to attack Rome. Attila withdrew.
Three years later, Genseric, the Vandal king attacked Rome but St Leo the Great was not lucky in persuading him not to attack but requested that the Archbasilica of St John Lateran and the Basilicas of Sts Peter and Paul be spared. When Rome was finally captured, thousands of residents sought refuge in the basilicas and their lives were spared.
Pope Leo I was the first pope to be given the title “the Great”, the only other is Pope St Gregory the Great.
Pope St Leo the Great wrote many letters and sermons. About 150 letters and 100 sermons he wrote have been preserved to this day and are read extensively like during Christmas.
St Leo the Great died on November 10 461 and was buried in St Peter’s Basilica close to the tomb of St Peter as was his wish.
St Leo the Great was canonized pre-congregation but was later declared a Doctor of the Church in 1754 by Pope Benedict XIV.
St Leo the Great Feast Day
Initially, St Leo the Great’s feast day was celebrated in Rome on June 28, when his relics were placed in Saint Peter’s Basilica. In the 12th century, the feast was moved to April 11 but after the 1969 liturgical reforms, the feast day was moved to November 10 which is the date of his death.
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