Here is an extract from a homily by Pope St Leo the Great, fifth century, delivered on the anniversary of his elevation to the pontificate:

‘As often as God’s mercy deigns to bring round the day of His gifts to us, there is, dearly-beloved, just and reasonable cause for rejoicing, if only our appointment to the office be referred to the praise of Him who gave it. For though this recognition of God may well be found in all His priests, yet I take it to be peculiarly binding on me, who, regarding my own utter insignificance and the greatness of the office undertaken, ought myself also to utter that exclamation of the Prophet, “Lord, I heard Thy speech and was afraid: I considered Thy works and was dismayed”. For what is so unwonted and so dismaying as labour to the frail, exaltation to the humble, dignity to the undeserving? And yet we do not despair nor lose heart, because we put our trust not in ourselves but in Him who works in us’.

These words echo those of St Benedict in the Holy Rule, in the ‘Instruments of Good Works’: ‘Never despair of the mercy of God’.

May we take Pope St Leo’s humility very much to heart, and thereby come to a deeper understanding of the love and mercy of our God, whose blessing we ask this day. May you ever know that mercy.