Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church
(Titus 1:1-9; Luke 17:1-6)
St. Leo deserves the distinction “the Great.” He left a legacy of sermons that express the meaning of the Church’s major holydays. He also made a critical contribution to theology by providing the framework for the Council of Chalcedon to explain how Christ is both God and human. Finally, and most memorably, he faced Attila the Hum with a plea to spare Rome of destruction. We might see him as the perfect fulfillment of the Letter to Titus’ profile of a bishop.
The Letter to Titus was probably written by a Pauline disciple late in the first century. It describes some of the structure and also the issues of the Church at that time. Presbyters in today’s reading are the same as bishops. It is not warranted to consider either quite like the priests and bishops that will emerge in time. The supreme quality for Church governance in the letter seems to be blamelessness. A presbyter-bishop should not have any vices. The letter also emphasizes doctrinal competence to refute the errors that crop up because of diverse human thinking.
We tend to think of ourselves as being better than people of past eras. We may know more, but do we act better? And have we forgotten valuable lessons known in former times? Certainly there is much for us to ponder from both the life of Leo the Great and the Letter to Titus. Leo shows us the need to confront our problems head-on and to be judicious in proclaiming truth. Titus reminds us of the need to develop virtue to stem our tendency to sin.