BARBARIANS AT THE GATES!! Literally. There were barbarians at the gates of Rome as the city was invaded by Visigoths led by King Alaric I in the year 408. This was the first time in 800 years that Rome had been defeated by a foreign enemy and this was the beginning of the end of the Roman empire. The fall of Rome correlated with the rise of the Papacy in status and power and Pope Innocent was just the man to take the reins and assert his authority over his city and his fellow Christians. A seemingly energetic man with a love of being Pope(and the prestige that came with it),he had a solid papacy where he successfully combated heresies and settled Church matters from Africa to Greece. Innocent was in the new Roman capital of Ravenna to help with talks of peace with the Visigoths when talks fell through and the invasion commenced. He wasn’t able to safely return to Rome for nearly two years. Miraculously,most Christian sites such as St. Peter’s were left undisturbed during the horrible sack of Rome. Innocent died of natural causes and he was buried above the catacomb of Pontianus. His feast day is on March 12th.
Pope Anastasisus was born in Rome to a man named Maximus. Maximus! I love early Roman names! Anastasius was a advocate of asceticism,(severe self-discipline in all things),in your daily life,and during the Mass he instituted a new rule that priests and bishops had to stand with bowed heads during the readings of the Gospels. He also happened to be good friends with St. Augustine,which to non-Catholics would be like saying you were friends with Batman. I mean it must have been awesome is what I’m saying. He died suddenly and was buried in the Catacombs of Pontian. His tomb was discovered in 1618 and it was found next to the tomb of his successor,Pope Innocent I,who also happened to be Anastasius’ son. The end. Wait! What?? Hold on,chill out,there’s nothing tawdry or salacious going on. Innocent was born before Anastasius became Pope,and probably even before he became a priest. You couldn’t marry after you were ordained a priest but a previous marriage would not have held up the ordination to the priesthood or even election to the Papacy. Celibacy of priests was always encouraged but it wasn’t mandatory until the year 1075. Pope Anastasius’ feast day is December 19th.
Siricius was unanimously elected to the Papacy in 384 and he is widely regarded as the first Pope to be called……well….Pope. Now this doesn’t mean that there were not Popes before him,as some Protestants would claim,it just means that the leader of our Church wasn’t always called Pope.He also didn’t always wear a big hat either.The word Pope is from the Latin word Papa,which means Father,and lest anyone question that the Pope was in charge,Siricius is also the first Pope to use the title PONTIFEX MAXIMUS,which basically means he’s the chief priest of the Christian world. You don’t have to use all caps when typing PONTIFEX MAXIMUS,but it just feels like it needs all capital letters. PONTIFE….sorry…..Pope Siricius is the first Pope to issue something called decretals. A decretal is a official statement to a question that someone may need an answer to,like “Hey Pope,if I’m a priest,can I get married?”,and he would reply “Eh,I wouldn’t encourage that,so that’s a no” and he would probably sign it PONTIFEX MAXIMUS. In all caps.
Damasus was born in 305 to a wealthy family in Lusitania,which is now present day Portugal. He was a deacon under Pope Liberius and when Liberius was exiled,went to work for anti-Pope Felix II. Both Pope Liberius and anti-Pope Felix II had supporters that violently opposed one another. One group wanted Damasus to become the new Pope,and the other side wanted a man named Ursinus. When time came for a new Pope to be elected,the supporters of Felix(and now Damasus),stormed a basilica and murdered all of the supporters of Ursinus thus clearing the path for Damasus to easily be elected. Now whether or not Damasus knew this was going to happen is up for debate. One source says he hired a team of Gladiators to carry out this dirty work(which sounds awesome,even though it’s horrible),some sources say his name was dragged through the mud by herectics and this murderous tale was spread by enemies,along with the nickname “The ladies’ ear scratcher”……..whatever that means.
However Pope Damasus got into office,by all accounts he was a splendid Pontiff once there,and this is according to such prestigious Catholics such as St.Jerome and St.Ambrose,both of whom praised his faith and his leadership. Damasus should be remembered mostly for commissioning a complete version of the Bible. Yes,THE Bible. Prior to this point the Bible was a loosely collected series of books and scriptures mostly written in either Hebrew or Greek. Damasus wanted a complete and official book in one language to clear up any inconsistencies between the versions. Saint Jerome was Damasus’ personal secretary and he was charged with creating this new official Bible in Latin,the official language of the Church. The Latin Vulgate Bible was THE Bible for over 1000 years before different translations came about,and it was this Bible that was the first major mass produced book printed by the Gutenberg press in the 1400s.This was THE Bible that the world was built on……so yeah,Pope Damasus is a big deal,and like Ron Burgundy,he probably had many leather bound books. Papal High five.