Saint of the Day – 19 April – St Pope Leo IX (1002-1054) – known as “Apostolic Pilgrim.” Born on 21 June 1002 at Eguisheim, Alsace, France as Bruno of Eguisheim-Dagsburg – 19 April 1054 in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy of natural causes.
St Leo was born to Count Hugh and Heilwig and was a native of Eguisheim, Upper Alsace (present day Alsace, France). His family was of noble rank and his father, Count Hugh, was a cousin of Emperor Conrad II (1024–1039). He was educated at Toul, where he successively became canon and, in 1026, bishop – he administered the Diocese of Toul for twenty years. In the latter capacity he rendered important political services to his relative Conrad II, and afterwards to Emperor Henry III. He became widely known as an earnest and reforming ecclesiastic.
When the German Pope Damasus II died in 1048, Bishop Bruno was selected by the emperor, Henry III, to succeed him. Bruno agreed to go to Rome and to accept the papacy if freely elected thereto by the Roman people. He wished, at least, to rescue the See of Peter from its servitude to the German emperors. When, in company with Hildebrand he reached Rome and presented himself to its people clad in pilgrim’s guise and barefooted but still tall and fair to look upon, they cried out with one voice that him and no other would they have as pope. Assuming the name of Leo, he was solemnly enthroned 12 February, 1049.
One of his first public acts was to hold the well-known Easter synod of 1049, at which celibacy of the clergy (down to the rank of subdeacon) was required anew. Also, the Easter synod was where the Pope at least succeeded in making clear his own convictions against every kind of simony. The greater part of the year that followed was occupied in one of those progresses through Italy, Germany and France which form a marked feature in Leo IX’s pontificate. Leo chose a body of capable and reform-minded advisers from outside the Roman Curia: Hildebrand, who was to become Pope St Gregory VII; Frederick of Liege, who was to become Pope Stephen IX; and Humbert of Moyenmoutier. He also took advice from reformers such as St Hugh of Cluny and St Peter Damian.
Pope Leo did not just write letters or give sermons to announce his reforms. He travelled to major dioceses to conduct meetings and discuss why the reforms were necessary. He travelled so much that he was nicknamed the “Apostolic Pilgrim.” Leo also appointed men who believed in the reforms to important Church positions. Leo knew that the changes he wanted would not be accomplished in his lifetime. He trusted the men he appointed to carry out the needed reforms and they did.
He died in 1054 and was Canonised in 1082 by Pope Saint Gregory VII.