Pope Leo XIII, 1878-1903
Gioacchino Vincenzo Raffaele Luigi Pecci lived ninety-three years, between 1810 and 1903. He witnessed political and social upheavals that changed the face of Europe and helped define the role of the Church in modern times.
His papacy, as Leo XIII, from 1878 until his death, helped the Church survive a stormy period in history. Following the example of Jesus in his pursuit of justice and peace, Leo helped settle troubles between nations and within nations. He showed his talent for diplomatic skills early in his career. His skills were useful to the popes he served before he became Pope himself.
Drawing upon his diplomatic experience as a papal legate to Belgium, he helped guide the government of that nation and others down the path of justice and religious tolerance. As Germany was in the process of unifying under Bismarck, Leo helped Bismarck win the much-needed support of the nation’s Catholics in exchange for ending Kulturkampf, the persecution of Catholics there. Exiled bishops were restored to their offices. Leo also helped solve problems the Church faced in the British Isles, Eastern Europe, North and South America, the Far East, and India. He aided in the creation of new religious orders, and he elevated 147 cardinals. By the time of Leo’s death, he was already regarded as one of the greatest popes of all time.
Discuss: What skills or characteristics do you think Pope Leo XIII had that made him such an effective diplomat?
Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel
In 1884, Pope Leo XIII instituted the Leonine Prayers, prayers that were to be said after low Mass. One of those prayers was this prayer to Saint Michael, the Archangel. Teach this prayer to the young people.
Blessed Michael, Archangel,
defend us in the hour of conflict;
be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God restrain him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, thrust, down to hell, Satan,
and with him the other wicked spirits
who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.