Damasus I was elected pope at a crisis-filled time in the Church during the fourth century. Soon after he had been chosen, a minority elected another man, Ursinus, to be pope. He and his followers carried out a plot to accuse Damasus of a serious crime.
Only by defending himself both in civil court and in front of 44 bishops at a Church synod did Damasus prove himself innocent. Damasus’s faith in the risen Jesus shines out from the epitaph he wrote for his tomb:
He who walking on the sea could calm the bitter waves, who gives life to the dying seeds of the earth; he who was able to loose the mortal chains of death, and after three days’ darkness could bring again to the upper world the brother for sister Martha: he, I believe, will make Damasus rise again from the dust.
His projects included encouraging missionaries, getting architects to build and restore churches, and developing the papal chancery. He reformed the liturgy, making Latin its official language, commissioned Saint Jerome to translate the Bible, and fought heresy. He restored and decorated the tombs of the early martyrs in the catacombs.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Pope Saint Damasus I by Pedro Augusto Guglielmi, 1840. Public Domain via Wikimedia.