St. Leo the Great, Attila & Children of Men

One of my favorite saints and favorite popes,
today we remember Pope St. Leo the Great, whose homily excerpts in the Divine Office never fail to stir me:

For there are two loves from which proceed all wishes, as different in quality as they are different in their sources. For the reasonable soul, which cannot exist without love, is the lover either of God or the world. In the love of God there is no excess, but in the love of the world all is hurtful. And therefore we must cling inseparably to eternal treasures, but things temporal we must use like passers-by, that as we are sojourners hastening to return to our own land, all the good things of this world which meet us may be as aids on the way, not snares to detain us.

Over at Patheos, Pat Gohnhas a terrific look at Leo! After recounting his face-to-face meeting with Attila the Hun, Pat writes:

Now I tell you that story of St. Leo so you know the kind of person who would challenge us with this: “Christian recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.”

Christian, recognize your dignity . . .

Remember who you are! And most especially Christian, remember whose you are.

Every Christian needs to have those two qualities: to know who they are, and to know whose they are.

That’s the kind of knowledge Leo had before Attila, the kind of knowledge that knows that you are not alone. You belong to Christ and his Church.

Most especially, the baptism of the Christian removes the stain of sin, and calls one to a life dedicated to avoiding it in the future! The call to holiness requires prayer and dedication and virtue. Sometimes it requires you to stand and fight. Or not.

Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member . . .

As always with anything written by Pat Gohnyou’ll want to read it all

Coincidentally touching on our dignity, and a possible cause of our social depression, Tony Rossi takes a fresh look at the Culture of Life and the Children of Men:

The film version of The Children of Men emphasized what happens to societies when civil rights are suspended. The book, however, focuses just as much if not more on the “life” issues involved.

Recalling the evolution of the infertility problem, Theo says, “We thought that we knew the reasons — that the fall was deliberate, a result of more liberal attitudes to birth control and abortion, the postponement of pregnancy by professional women, the wish of families for a higher standard of living . . . Most of us thought the fall was desirable, even necessary. We were polluting the planet with our numbers . . . When Omega came it came with dramatic suddenness and was received with incredulity.”

Described in these terms, the story seems like an all too plausible scenario. In a society that has largely divorced sex from procreation, no one ever followed that attitude about reproductive choice to its logical if unlikely conclusion. Now, Omega has arrived and the despair is overwhelming.

There is a marked increase in suicides by middle-aged people who would “bear the brunt of an aging and decaying society’s humiliating but insistent needs.” Also, every reminder of children (schools, toys, playgrounds) has been removed from the public landscape “except for the dolls, which have become for some half-demented women a substitute for children.”

People’s attitudes toward sex have also changed in an unexpected way. Theo says, “Sex has become among the least important of man’s sensory pleasures. One might have imagined that with the fear of pregnancy permanently removed, and the unerotic paraphernalia of pills, rubber and ovulation arithmetic no longer necessary, sex would be freed for new and imaginative delights. The opposite has happened. Even those men and women who would normally have no wish to breed apparently need the assurance that they could have a child if they wished. Sex totally divorced from procreation has become almost meaninglessly acrobatic.”

More here.

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  • Margo

    Thank you for this excellent piece! I had no idea that St. Leo the Great was the Pope during the days when the Roman Empire was disintegrating. I heard a talk hosted by Johnette Benkovic on the EWTN network where Father John Corapi made the connection between our country of today and the fallen Roman Empire of centuries ago.

    The rise in middle-aged suicides is a disturbing reminder of how fear of aging and the identity crisis of modern-day society (along with several other factors) is causing a dangerous shift in human values. I really appreciate your addressing these issues and making us aware of the all too obvious state of affairs we have found ourselves in.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    “Children of Men” is an interesting book. From a purely literary point of view, I thought it went too much into what happens when civil rights are suspended, becoming your average Sci-fi dystopian novel (and losing its interesting theme); also, the hero annoyed me so much I just couldn’t sympathize with him.

    But a novel with an interesting idea, to be sure.

  • Bender

    The film version of The Children of Men emphasized what happens to societies when civil rights are suspended.

    The film version TRIED to emphasize that, just as Starship Troopers was supposed to.

    Both attempts were an epic fail.

    With Children of Men (no “The”), despite the efforts of the director, the clear message was the pro-life message of what would happen if we were to take the abortion/contraceptive mentality to its fullest extent of no one ever having children again. Any intended sympathies for the “oppressed” refugees in the movie totally evaporated when one group turned to terrorism (including wanting to kill Theo and kidnap you know who) and when the other group started chanting “Allahu Akbar.”

    And Starship Troopers apparently was not supposed to be a gung-ho, rally to patriotism story. Rather, the message that the filmmakers wanted to send was similarly to brand western society as being Nazi-like or some silly thing like that. That attempt failed as well.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Bender, yes—sadly, sci-fi novels have a very hard time making it intelligently to the big screen! (A lot of them make it stupidly, of course.)

    When said sci-fi novel has a politically incorrect theme, the chances are virtually nil that’s it’s going to good treatment.

    I didn’t see the movie, “Children of men”, but, from your description, it doesn’t sound good. As for “Starship Troopers”—it’s obvious the director was completely out of sympathy with the book, and, instead decided to put down Western society, and trot out those reliable villains—the Nazis—again.

    In the actual book, the earth is good and worth saving, the bugs are truly evil, and NOT misunderstood, Earth’s fighting force is multi-racial and multi-cultural, and Rico, the hero, is a Filipino, who speaks Tagalog!

    (In the movie, I kept shaking my head and grousing, “Who is this Aryan Nazi type they’ve got playing Rico, ferGod’ssake!”)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    You can just imagine the indigation that would erupt, of course, if you were to re-do one of the holy books of the Left in such a way: do “Catcher in the Rye” with Holden Caulfield deciding to stop being a jerk, and get a job, or “The Awakening” with the main character deciding she actually loves being a wife and mother, or “Mrs. Dalloway”—-um, I don’t know how you’d re-write “Mrs. Dalloway”, because I don’t know what it was supposed to be about in the first place!

  • Mutnodjmet

    Anchoress: Thanks for featuring Pope St. Leo the Great today. I chose my son’s confirmation name based on St. Leo’s thwarting of Attila, as my son loves ancient Rome. He was delighted to learn it was a special day on the Catholic calender this morning.

  • Bender

    “The Awakening” with the main character deciding she actually loves being a wife and mother

    Don’t get me started on The Awakening. It’s been over 25 years since I read it, but I remember that our teacher, who promoted the woman as some epitome of greatness and her walk into the ocean as an act of supreme empowerment, simply could not understand why everyone in the class thought that she was a selfish, miserable, unlikeable person. No wonder the modern feminist movement is so screwed up, holding up that book as a model for women.

  • Tim H

    >>>In a society that has largely divorced
    >>>sex from procreation, no one ever
    >>>followed that attitude about reproductive
    >>>choice to its logical if unlikely conclusion.

    It is already happening.

    We have a society of men who, thanks to contraception, demand as their right sex before marriage and cry out against the percieved injustice when they no longer get any after.

    And women, again thanks to birth control, who so easily give themselves to men before marriage can hardly be blamed for not wanting sex after marriage, especially if it with the very same man who respect her enough in the first place to be able to wait.

    The “meaningless acrobatic” of sex “divorced from procreation” (thanks to the culture of recreational sex brought on by widespread availability and use of contraception) is driving us to the “new and imaginative delights” of pornography addiction, divorce, and on demand abortion.

    Can Catholics spell R-O-O-T C-A-U-S-E ?


  • Tim H

    Should read

    “…especially if it -is- with the very same man who -didn’t- respect her enough…”


  • F

    So, is that the sermon of the loaves the wishes?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. Thanks for educating me on that great saint!

    Speaking of culture of life, dignity of the person, etc., China, Russia, India and Indonesia are lining up at the UN to bust us on our alleged human rights violations. yeah. Right. Get this, China wants to haul us up on our treatment of women and children. China. The great murderer of the unborn through FORCED abortions! Don’t get me started. Indonesia wants to bust us for religious intolerance. Indonesia, the great respector of all things non-muslim. Right. Riiiiiiiiiiight. And it just gets more ridiculous from there. And, our President himself is welcoming this criticism. Argh. These are the nations who most abuse civil rights but they must have read the Dems playbook on smear campaigns. And, the Ob-1 is helping them.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    LOL, Bender, I tried reading “The Awakening” once, couldn’t get all the way through it—just too awful!