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St. Damasus (December 11)

December 11, 2009

Today we honor St. Damasus I (who lived from roughly 304 to 384),
a contemporary of St. Ambrose, whom we celebrated a few days ago. 
Damasus’ father was a priest
(in those days, married men were allowed to become priests,
although Catholic priests have never been allowed to marry or remarry after ordination),
and he followed in his father’s clerical footsteps (although Damasus remained celibate).

Damasus did not live a sheltered life. 
He went into exile with Pope Liberius
when Emperor Constantius wanted to unite the empire under Arianism
(Liberius refused to bend to Arianism, hence the exile). 
When Liberius died, Damasus was elected to succeed him as pope in a hotly contested election. 
An anti-pope, Ursinus, was elected by a smaller, rival faction
and violence rocked the city as the two groups of supporters vied for the upper hand. 
Even after the emperor stepped in to settle the matter (he exiled Ursinus),
Ursinus’ supporters got in one parting shot by accusing Damasus of adultery,
of which he was later cleared.

Finally Damasus could settle in to the serious business of shepherding the Church. 
Heresies were cropping up like the weeds they are. 
He continued the condemnation of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. 
He also condemned Apollinarianism,
which denied Christ’s divinity and His humanity;
Macedonianism, which said the Holy Spirit was inferior to Jesus;
and Priscillianism, one of several heresies
which taught that material things are evil
and consequently denied Jesus’ humanity.

Damasus, who was a scholar himself, is probably best known for commissioning St. Jerome
to correct and revise the Latin (the language of the common people) translations of the Bible
from the original Greek and Hebrew. 
The finished work, the Latin Vulgate, was the official Bible of all Western Europe
for more than a thousand years. 
He is also credited with having the “Glory Be” said after the recitation of the Psalms
in the Liturgy of the Hours. 
Finally, Damasus encouraged pilgrimages  to the catacombs,
making them accessible and composing poetry in honor of the martyrs.

St. Damasus, defender of the Faith, please pray for us
as we seek to join you in our true home.

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