"Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life." Ps. 1
Today we honor St. Pope Damasus I, (born in 304; died Dec. 11, 384)
He was, to say the least, a man of contradictions.
He defended papal supremacy. Yet, for a time he served the antipope Felix II, in defiance of the oath taken by Roman clergy not to recognize anyone else as Bishop of Rome while Pope Liberius, who was in exile, was still alive.
He had compassion for the poor. Yet he lived lavishly, keeping company with the aristocracy.
As Pope, he was the vicar of the "Prince of Peace." Yet, he and those who elected him to the papacy hired thugs to rout his papal challenger, Ursinus, and his supporters. The violence turned so bloody that Emperor Valentinius was forced to intervene.
Some saint. Yet, we are called to honor Damasus on this day. Why, because despite those weaknesses "…he followed the Lord."
He defended the young Church against heresies.
He honored the martyrs and called on the faithful to do the same
He loved Scripture and wanted all to love the Bible. In 382, he set down the canon of Scripture with the "Decree of Damasus." The Council of Trent upheld that decree. He commissioned St. Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin, the common language of the day, so that an accurate translation of Scripture would accessible to the faithful.
Damasus was a man of contradictions. And for all that, we honor him on this day. And why not? Of him, we can say: "Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life."
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.