152. Pope Saint Leo IX 1049-1054

Pope Leo IX

Pope Saint Leo IX was a strict reformer and one of our warrior Popes,leading armies against the Normans in southern Italy. He began his career as a reforming Bishop in Germany and was handpicked by Emperor Henry III to be the new Pope. Being a stickler for rules,Leo only accepted his new position if the clergy and people of Rome actually wanted him(they did). Leo set about reforming the Papacy(and the Universal Church)in many ways,combating simony(disposing Bishops elected by bribery),fixing the Vatican’s finances and condemning priests that were not celibate. Leo took his reforms on the road and traveled to Churches in other parts of Italy,Germany and France to make sure every one was on the same page in this effort to clean up the Church.
The Eastern Church begged Leo to help with Norman(Vikings!)invaders in Southern Italy(which was under their jurisdiction),so Leo himself led a ragtag Papal army south to rid the area of the invaders. The leader of the Normans was horrified that he would have to fight,and possibly kill,the Pope,so he tried every effort to compromise but to no avail. The Pope’s army was crushed(because…Vikings!)and Leo was taken prisoner. The respectful Normans apologized to him probably everyday for the next nine months that he was their captive. Leo passed away shortly after being released in 1054. For his moral character and his efforts for reform,he was Canonized in 1082. His feast day is April 19,which is the same day my family and I were baptized and joined the Catholic Church!

141. Pope John XVIII 1003-1009

pope john xviii

Pope John XVIII was a major reformer and a stickler for making sure the clergy followed the rules of proper conduct. John flexed his Papal muscle during a dispute between three Bishops in France. Two Bishops refused to acknowledge Papal privileges given to the third and Pope John was not having this at all. He demanded an explanation and when the offending Bishops refused,he gave one of the most ballsy ultimatums in Church history. Either the Bishops settle their differences,or there would be no more more Church services in France. Period!(Holy Le Cow) The childish Bishops quickly backed down,on order of the King of France.
Pope John XVIII improved relations between Western and Eastern Churches,to the point of being revered in Constantinople. He is one of the few Popes to retire voluntarily and he lived out his last few years in a monastery.