Friday, February 22, 2013

My Favorite Popes

I'll probably do a couple of these in the lead-up to the conclave. I have an excuse to do this one first, though, because his birthday was yesterday (the 20th).

Anyways, it's easy to pick out some popes as favorites. After all, guys like Leo I, Gregory I, and Nicholas I are called "the Great" for a reason. However, I find that a lot of my own faves don't get a lot of play.

Take Leo XIII, for example. His reign was sandwiched between Blessed Pius IX and St. Pius X. It's easy to get lost among a couple of titans like that. It's easy to neglect that he was not only the oldest pope ever, living to age 93, but he also had one of the longest reigns of all time (behind only JPII and the aforementioned Pius IX). This is instructive in our current situation, when you have a lot of media tripe about retirement ages for popes and the ability of medical science to prolong life.

The thing that stands out for me about Pope Leo XIII is the well-nigh supernatural clarity of his writing. If I wanted someone to know Catholic teaching on a subject, I would steer them directly to this guy. Want to know about ecclesiology? Pick up Satis Cognitum. Trinitarian stuff? Divinum Illud Munus. Marriage? Arcanum. The Bible? Providentissimus Deus. Social justice? Rerum Novarum.

Pope Leo covered just about all of it, and he did it in a way that just obliterates confusion and ambiguity. It's some of the most impressive writing I've ever encountered and is sufficient to be a catechism unto itself. Let me go further and say that, if he's ever canonized, he should be considered for Doctor of the Church status due to the quality, clarity, and breadth of his writings.

He accomplished all of this marvelous teaching while engaging in extraordinary diplomatic moves that did a lot to rebuild the Church's standing among the secular powers after the stormy pontificate of Pius IX. That's not a criticism. It's just reality.

In my opinion, this kind of guy is just what the Church needs. A clear-minded teacher, with a firm hand, and a savvy that can challenge world leaders on the big stage. And not to sound shallow, but it also helps that he looks like your grandpa. God bless Pope Benedict, but he was never the most photogenic guy out there.

I close with the following, which I think I've posted before, but it merits repeating. This is Pope Leo himself, in the earliest film footage ever of the Vicar of Christ.

Thanks be to God for Our Holy Father of Happy Memory. Pope Leo XIII, pray for us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to read your post today. I very much love Leo Xlll. Pope Leo Pray for your beloved Church in her hour of need + .