Old Calendar: St. Leo IX, pope (Hist); St. Alphege, archbishop & martyr (Hist)
Historically today is the feast of St. Leo IX, a cousin of the emperor Conrad the Salie, born in Alsace, and baptized Bruno. He was made bishop of Toul in 1026 and constrained to accept the papal office in 1048. He took his spiritual adviser, Hildebrand, the future Gregory VII, to Rome and began the reform of the Roman curia. Leo combated simony, condemned Berengarius, and strove to prevent the schism between the Eastern and the Western churches then being engineered by the emperor Michael Coerularius. While at Benevento, a city belonging to the Holy See, he was taken prisoner by the Normans. He was released, but shortly after died before the high altar in St. Peter's.It is also the historical feast of St. Alphege, also known as Elphege. Archbishop of Canterbury in 1006, he was imprisoned when the city fell for exhorting the pillaging Danes to desist from their murdering and looting. He refused to pay a ransom for his release and was put to death.
St. Leo IX
Before becoming Pope, St. Leo IX was known as Bruno. He was bitten by a poisonous reptile when a boy, but St. Benedict appeared to Bruno and cured him. In 1026, Bruno, then a deacon, commanded troops in Italy under the Emperor. The Bishop of Toul died during this time, and upon Bruno's return, he was made Bishop of Toul, where he remained for twenty years. After the death of Pope Damasus II in 1048, Bruno was elected to succeed him. As Pope, he denounced simony and began many needed reforms, traveling extensively to ensure their enforcement. For this reason he was given the title Peregrinus Apostolicus, Apostolic Pilgrim. St. Leo condemned the doctrines of Berengarius, who denied Transubstantiation. He increased the papal territory, though he was criticized by St. Peter Damian when he went to battle to defend it. He opposed the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius; this began the complete separation of Rome from the Eastern Church. Within 40 days of St. Leo's death, there were 70 cures through his intercession.
St. Alphege was born in the year 954, of a noble Saxon family. He first became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst, near Tewkesbury, England, and afterwards lived as a hermit near Bath, where he founded a community under the rule of St. Benedict, and became its first abbot.