St Leo the Great

Pope (Leo I) and Doctor of the Church (entered heaven this day in 461)

Dear Lisa,

Letting “cafeteria” Catholics enrage you is almost as destructive as becoming one yourself.  The devil loves division, and when faithful Catholics like yourself start angrily confronting less conscientious Catholics, it almost always increases division rather than healing it.  So what to do? Be simple. Stay in synch with the Holy Father yourself; keep the rest of Compass in synch with the Holy Father; promote the Church’s official teaching actively and confidently, and let God take care of bringing the others back in line.  If you just stay close to Peter’s successor, and stay positive, you can be sure the Lord will take care of the rest. It’s a lesson you can learn from today’s saint.

Leo the Great faced more and greater obstacles in his 21 years as Pope than most people face in a whole lifetime.  It all began even before he was elected to the Chair of Peter – they had to send a delegation from Rome to Gaul (modern day France) to inform him of his Papal dignities; the previous Pope had dispatched Leo to resolve the violent quarrels between two imperial generals (Aetius and Albinus) that were threatening to leave all of Gaul at the mercy of invading Gothic barbarians.  That kind of set the tone for the next two decades. In the Eastern half of the waning Roman Empire heresies were running rampant under the indecorous encouragement of haughty emperors. Leo had to reclaim the true faith from the energetic upstart Eutyches, who collaborated with Emperor Theodosius in calling an illegitimate Council (the infamous “Robber Synod” of Ephesus in 448) in order to propagate his errors. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Attila the Hun had invaded Italy, sending shock waves of terror and destruction throughout the peninsula.  The Emperor (who had relocated to far away Constantinople) was helpless in the face of Attila’s frightful savagery, and as the barbarians approached Rome, the Romans, quaking in their sandals, huddled behind their dilapidated defenses and sent Leo out to negotiate. Miraculously, the negotiations were successful, and Leo saved Rome from destruction by agreeing to pay an annual tax to Mr Attila. It also helped that Attila had a vision of St Peter and St Paul brandishing their swords in the sky above Pope Leo during the interview.

And that’s the point.  Imagine you were a Christian back in Leo’s time.  To dodge the cataclysmic crises that filled his daily agenda for 21 years, all you had to do was stay in step with him.  Half the Empire fell into heresy, but not his half. Half of Europe fell to the barbarian, but not his half. And when he faced off with the invaders, who came to his aid but Peter himself….

What else could God do to show us where the safe and sure path is always to be found? Right at the side of the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Pope.  Walk there and leave the cafeteria food-fight to itself.

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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