November 10, 2017
There are only two Popes who have been given the epithet, ‘the Great’, one of whom we celebrate today.
Leo was born in Rome towards the end of the fourth century. He became Bishop of Rome in 440AD. It was a time of considerable crisis in both Church and state. Heretics were still disputing the true nature of Christ. Leo’s famous ‘Tome’ (an official letter) was acclaimed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 as the epitome of orthodox doctrine that Christ was both fully human and fully divine.
In the secular sphere the once mighty Roman Empire had all but collapsed. The barbarians in the shape of the Huns and Vandals were threatening to massacre the citizens of Rome. Leo managed to arbitrate and secure peace.
We have many of Leo’s letters. They are crystal clear explanations of the Church’s teaching about the mystery of the incarnation, the nature of the sacraments, and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.
Leo was energetic and vigorous: a man of intelligence and also a man of action. He died on 10th November 461AD.
November 6, 2017
St. Charles Borromeo is one of the greatest of the Counter-Reformation saints. Charles was born in northern Italy and, through family patronage, became Archbishop of the great city of Milan when he was just 26. But despite his age this was no sinecure and he was zealous in putting into effect the teachings of the Council of Trent.
He set up ‘Sunday Schools’ to combat the ignorance of the people, and opened seminaries to combat the ignorance of the clergy. He insisted on the decent and proper celebration of the Mass and the sacraments. He was fearless in denouncing the loose living of the rich and powerful.
All this earned Charles much love from his people but much opposition from his enemies who were annoyed to be challenged and confronted. One priest even tried to assassinate him!
The Church is always in need of reform. Pope Benedict challenged us to think again about the way in which we celebrate the Mass. Pope Francis challenges us to think again about the way in which we treat the poor.