Saint Leo the Great    

Feast Day:   November 10

Place of Birth:   Tuscany, Italy

Died:   November 10, 461

Pope:   From 440 to 461

Consecrated On:   September 29, 440

Declared Doctor of the Church:   1574

Patron of:   Confessors, Popes, Moral Theology and Vocations

Pope Leo the Great is only one of two popes named “the Great.”  Pope Gregory is the other. 

Saint Leo the Great is known for his many letters and sermons, many of which survive today.  These ninety-six writings are known for their clear diction, profundity and elevated style.  They are lyrical and full of powerful imagery.  Many excerpts taken from his writings are now part of the Roman Office of Readings.

Saint Leo the Great had great devotion to the first Pontiff, Saint Peter. 

At a time when barbarians were attacking every vestige of civilization, introducing disorder and immorality he insisted on exact observance of ecclesiastical precepts writing letters and admonishing and educating.

He called for the Council of Chalcedon to condemn the many heresies of the day.  He fought against Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Manicheaism and Pelagianism.

Excerpts from letter by St. Leo the Great – “He who is true God was therefore born in the complete and perfect nature of a true man, whole in his own nature, whole in ours.  By our nature we mean what the Creator had fashioned in us from the beginning, and took to himself in order to restore it.”  “One and the same person – this must be said over and over again – is truly the Son of God and truly the son of man.  He is God in virtue of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God..  He is man in virtue of the fact the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

Excerpt from his most famous Christmas Sermon – “Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition.  Bear in mind who is your head and whose body you are a member.  Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.  Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for our liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.”

Excerpts from sermon in Lent – “The special note of the paschal feast is this:  the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins.”  “Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of baptism.  Yet there still is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature…”

“The works of mercy are innumerable.  Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part.  Those who are unequal in the capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts.”

Excerpt from Sermo 12 de Passione – “And so all that the Son of God did and taught for the world’s reconciliation is not for us simply a matter of past history.  Here and now we experience his power at work among us.  Born of a virgin mother by the action of the Holy Spirit, Christ keeps his Church spotless and makes her fruitful by the inspiration of the same Spirit.  In baptismal regeneration she brings forth children for God beyond all numbering.  These are the sons of whom it is written:  They are born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

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