St. Leo the Great // A Lion of a Pope

pope leo the great

St. Leo the Great lived up to his name as Leo means lion. This great pope challenged Attila the Hun and won.

We celebrate Pope St. Leo the Great on November 10. His courage, devotion, and perseverance remind me of the description of Aslan in C.S Lewis’, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe . The conversation about Aslan between Susan and Mr. Beaver is about what to expect when they meet the great Aslan.

“Aslan is a lion-the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s’ the King, I tell you.”

St. Leo was Good but not Safe

St. Leo the Great was a kingly and good pope, but he certainly wasn’t safe. He defeated Attila the Hun. Attila’s very name meant the scourge of God, and it invoked terror.  In 452 Attila was coming for Rome. The bravest men faltered before him and his legion of warriors who were cruel, tortuous and ravenous in plunder.

No one could stop Attila, except the faith of one white-haired pope. Attila came to Rome, the Eternal City, thinking he might meet an army. Instead, Attila faced one old man with his crosier of a shepherd to save his flock.  This is why Pope Leo was the first pope ever to be called great!

St. Leo the Great. Around the age he defeated the cruelest conqueror Attila the Hun.

What Pope Leo Said to Attila the Hun

The pious legend of Pope Leo’s meeting with Attila the Hun shows mystical assistance from the heavenly realm.

The pope admitted Rome’s defeat to the giant:

“The people of Rome, once conquerors of the world, now kneel conquered. We pray for mercy and deliverance. O Attila, you could have no greater glory than to see suppliant at your feet this people before whom once all peoples and kings lay suppliant. You have subdued, O Attila, the whole circle of the lands granted to the Romans. Now we pray that you, who have conquered others, should conquer yourself. The people have felt your scourge. Now they would feel your mercy.”

The mercy of God was called down by Pope Leo who was kneeling on the ground in front of Attila. This is when God intervened in an astounding way.

Attila beheld two giants flanking the pontiff, one on his right and the other on his left. The apostles Peter and Paul appeared, wielding swords of flame over the elderly head of the pope.

Maybe for the first time in Atilla’s life, he felt true fear. As there arose before him a glorious army, ten thousand times greater than his own, ranked in row on row of flashing fire against the night sky, hovering over the city, flaming weapons at the ready.

Attila the Hun Defeated

The Hun approached the brave pope, raising him to his feet and swearing an enduring truce.

Attila retreated to the Danube and Pope Leo, a lion of a pope, who was good, but not safe for a warrior like Attila the Hun, saved his flock.

pope leo the great

Pope Leo the Great meets the fierce warrior Attila the Hun by Raphael.