December 17, 2010

St. Damasus I

Damasus was born in Rome. He was brought up in a very pious family as his father was a priest in Rome. When Damasus grew up, he served as a deacon in his father's church. Then he converted, became a Catholic and joined the priesthood. 

These were exciting times for the Church. Damasus was a priest who was generous and made many sacrifices for his people. When Pope Liberius died in 366, Damasus became the pope. 

He faced many severe difficulties. There was a false pope named Felix. He and his followers ill-treated Damasus. They lied about him, especially about his personal moral life. 

The pope had to stand trial before the Roman authorities. He was proved innocent, but he suffered very much because of it. His great friend, St. Jerome, spoke strongly about the goodness of Damasus. 

And Jerome had high standards. Pope Damasus realized that the city priest were very rich and living like kings. The country priests were a lot stricter. 

Damasus asked the priests to live simple lives and not to collect money and possessions. He set a wonderful example himself. 

There were also many false teachings during his time as pope. Damasus explained the true faith. He also called the Second Ecumenical Council which was held in Constantinople. It was during his rule that Christianity officially became the religion of Rome. 

Pope Damasus greatly encouraged people to love the Word of God in the scriptures. He asked St. Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin. He also changed the official language of the liturgy from Greek-except for the Kyrie - to Latin. 

Pope St. Damasus died at the age of about eighty on December 11, 384. He was buried with his mother and sister in a little chapel he had built. 

The history of the papacy and the Church is inextricably mixed with the personal biography of Damasus. In a troubled and pivotal period of Church history, he stands forth as a zealous defender of the faith who knew when to be progressive and when to entrench.

Damasus makes us aware of two qualities of good leadership: alertness to the promptings of the Spirit and service. His struggles are a reminder that Jesus never promised his Rock protection from hurricane winds nor his followers immunity from difficulties. His only guarantee is final victory.

"He who walking on the sea could calm the bitter waves, who gives life to the dying seeds of the earth; he who was able to loose the mortal chains of death, and after three days' darkness could bring again to the upper world the brother for his sister Martha: he, I believe, will make Damasus rise again from the dust" (epitaph Damasus wrote for himself).

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