Pope Saint Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church

Today’s readings

Pope St. Leo the Great was known to be a wonderful administrator of the Church. But far from being caught up in purely administrative matters, he was also a very spiritual and prayerful man, many of whose great writings have become part of the lifeblood of our Church. He was elected to the papacy in the year 440, and he set the tone as a pope who believed in the pontiff’s total responsibility for the flock he led.

His work included extensive defense of the church against the heresies of Pelagianism and Manichaeism and others, he played the role of peacemaker, defending Rome against attacks by the Barbarians, and very significantly helped to settle a controversy in the Church of the east on the two natures of Christ. His work on that issue was promulgated at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Leo was well versed in Scripture and ecclesiastical awareness, and he also had the ability to reach the everyday needs and interests of his people. We have many of his writings to this day, and some are used in the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours. Some of his prayers also exist today in the Roman Missal. He would probably have echoed the words the Apostles in today’s Gospel: “Increase our faith!”

St. Leo held that holiness consisted in doing the work we were called upon to do in our station in life, but not so much that it costs us our relationship with Christ. Prayer and spiritual growth are also required of the disciple, and holiness consists of doing both work and prayer in proper balance. Following that way, we too can say that we have done what we were obliged to do, and trust that God will be pleased with our efforts and bless our lives.

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