Dec. 11, 2018

December 11, 2018: POPE ST. DAMASUS I



Holy Pontiff Damasus! O thou virgin Teacher of the virgin Church! during thy life on earth, thou wast the Light, which guided the children of the Church; for thou didst teach them the mystery of the Incarnation, and didst guard them against those perfidious doctrines, wherewith hell ever strives to corrupt that glorious Symbol of our faith, which tells us of God's infinite mercy towards us, and of the sublime dignity of man thus mercifully redeemed.


Prayer (Collect).

Give ear, O Lord, to our prayers, and, by the intercession of blessed Damasus, thy Confessor and Bishop, mercifully grant us pardon and peace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.


A.D. 384

This great Pontiff comes before us in the Liturgical Year, not to bring us tidings of Peace, as St. Melchiades did, but as one of the most illustrious defenders of the great Mystery of the Incarnation. He defends the faith of the Universal Church in the divinity of the Word, by condemning, as his predecessor Liberius had done, the acts and the authors of the celebrated Council of Rimini. With his sovereign authority, he bears witness to the teaching of the Church regarding the Humanity of Jesus Christ, and condemned the heretic Apollinaris, who taught that Jesus Christ had only assumed the flesh and not the soul of man. He commissioned St. Jerome to make a new translation of the New Testament from the Greek, for the use of the Church of Rome; here, again, giving a further proof of the faith and love which he bore to the Incarnate Word. Let us honour this great Pontiff, whom the Council of Chalcedon calls the ornament and support of Rome by his piety. St. Jerome, too, who looked upon St. Damasus as his friend and patron, calls him a man of the greatest worth; a man whose equal could not be found, well versed in the holy Scriptures, and a virgin Doctor of the virgin Church.


The Legend of the Breviary gives us a brief account of his life.

Damasus was a Spaniard, a man of highest worth, and learned in the Scriptures. He called the first Council of Constantinople, in which he condemned the impious heresy of Eunomius and Macedonius. He also condemned the Council of Rimini, which had already been rejected by Liberius, inasmuch as it was in this assembly of Rimini, as St. Jerome tells us, that mainly by the craft of Valens and Ursascius, was published a condemnation of the faith which had been taught by the Nicene Council, and thus the whole world grieved to find itself made Arian.

He built two Basilicas; one dedicated to St. Laurence, near Pompey's theatre, and this he endowed with magnificent presents, with houses and with lands: the other, on the Ardeatine Way, at the Catacombs. The bodies of SS. Peter and Paul lay for some time in a place richly adorned with marbles; this place he dedicated, and composed for it several inscriptions in beautiful verses. He also wrote on Virginity, both in prose and verse, and several other poems.

He established the law of retaliation for cases of false accusation. He decreed that, as was the custom in many places, the Psalms should be sung in all churches in alternate choirs, day and night; and that at the end of each Psalm, there should be added: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. It was by his order that St. Jerome translated the New Testament from the Greek text. He governed the Church seventeen years, two months, and twenty days; and five times during this period, he gave Ordinations, in the month of December, to thirty-one Priests, eleven Deacons, and sixty-two Bishops, for divers places. Conspicuous for his virtue, learning, and prudence, and having lived little short of eighty years, he slept in the Lord, during the reign of Theodosius the Great. He was buried in the Basilica which he had built on the Ardeatine Way, where also lay his mother and sister. His relics were afterwards translated to the Church of Saint Laurence, called after him, St. Laurence's in Damaso.


Another account of Pope St. Damasus I

St. Damasus, one of the noblest and holiest of Popes, was by birth a Spaniard. He received his instruction in virtue, as well as in the liberal arts, at Rome, whither he was taken by his father after his mother's death. His progress in both was such, that he was soon esteemed one of the most pious and learned men of his time. He was ordained deacon, and when Pope Liberius died, he was placed in the papal chair, of which he was thought worthy as well on account of his great erudition and holy life, as also for the fearlessness with which he had defended the Church of Christ against heresy. He governed the Church seventeen years and two months, in the most difficult times, with so much wisdom and virtue, that all ancient historians join in praising him. St. Jerome calls him, “a lover of chastity and a virgin teacher of a virgin church;” Theodoret, “a man adorned with virtue, and worthy of praise.” St. Ambrose says, that Providence had especially chosen him to promote the welfare of the Church. The bishops, assembled in council at Constantinople, praise the fortitude which he displayed in protecting the true faith, and compare him to a wall of adamant. This strength of character the holy Pope evinced on several occasions. Soon after he had been elected Head of the Church, a certain man, named Ursicinus, sought to overthrow him. He made a cabal of some unruly minds, by whose aid he endeavored to gain for himself the papal throne. The holy Pope was deeply saddened by this, not because he dreaded to lose the dignity, but because he feared that the consequence might be a schism in the Church. Hence he was willing to give way to Ursicinus and pass his life in obscurity. The better disposed refused, however, to consent to this, and prevailed on the Governor of Rome to banish Urcisinus and his principal followers from the city. The others, who were allowed to remain, received the holy Pope's pardon, who never thought of revenging himself. Notwithstanding all this, there were several among them who, instigated by Ursicinus, endeavored to rob the holy Pope of his honor and good name, as they could not take his pontifical dignity and his life. They spread the report that Damasus had been surprised in the act of committing a crime against chastity. Most of the people, convinced of the holiness of their chief Shepherd, looked upon it as a slander; but the innocent man desired to lay the wickedness of the defamers bare to the eyes of the whole world. Hence he called to Rome forty bishops who were to hear the accusation and investigate the matter with all possible rigor. The evil-doers confessed their falsehood, and the innocence of Damasus was most clearly established. Hardly had the holy Pope overcome this and other persecutions of his enemies, when he had to fight, for a long time, against the heretics, who arose in different places and even at Rome. He assembled several councils at Rome, examined the doctrines disseminated by the heretics, and anathematized them as impious and heretical. Similar councils were also held in other cities. The most renowned of these was the general council which the Emperor Theodosius, induced by the Pope, called together at Constantinople, in which the decrees of the general council at Nice were confirmed, and Macedonius and others were anathematized as heretics and banished from the city. Besides this, the watchful Shepherd did not neglect to uproot the abuses which had crept into the church, and to exhort all Christians especially the bishops, to fulfil their duties. Among other regulations, he ordered that after the recital or singing of each Psalm, the following words should be added, as a confession of the Most Holy Trinity: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” He also built new churches and ornamented them splendidly. Many bodies of Saints he reverentially exhumed and exhibited for public veneration. The holy men who lived at that period, as Athanasius, Ambrose and Jerome, he esteemed highly and made use of their counsel. He specially honored St. Jerome, whom he exhorted to work for the benefit of the Church by translating and expounding the Holy Scriptures. On account of these and many other endeavors, but above all, in consequence of his irreproachable life, he was so highly esteemed, that the Emperors, Theodosius, Gratian and Valentinian, commanded their subjects to profess only that faith and no other, which St. Peter had formerly preached at Rome, and which Damasus was now teaching; and declared as heresy, all doctrines which had been denounced by the Pope. At the age of eighty years, the Saint ended his holy life by a holy death. It is known that, during his life, he restored the sight of a blind man, while after his death, many possessed were freed from the Evil One at his grave, and many infirm restored to health by his intercession.

Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Advent, Edition 1870;
The Lives of the Saints, Rev. F.X. Weninger D.D., S.J. Vol. II, Permissu Superiorum, 1876; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.


Pope St. Damasus I, pray for us.