‘Liberius died on the 24th of September 366, and Damasus, who was then sixty years old, was chosen Bishop of Rome and ordained in the basilica of Lucina, otherwise called St Laurence’s, which title he bore before his pontificate. Soon after Ursinus, called by some moderns Ursicinus, who could not bear that St Damasus should be preferred before him, got together a crowd of disorderly and seditious people in the Church of Sicin, commonly called the Liberian basilica, now St Mary Major, and persuaded Paul, Bishop of Tibur, now Tivoil, a dull, ignorant man, to ordain him Bishop of Rome, contrary to the ancient canons, which require three bishops for the ordination of a bishop, and to the ancient custom of the Roman church, whose bishop was to be consecrated by the Bishop of Ostia, as Baronius and Tillemont observe. Juventius, prefect of Rome, banished Ursinus and some others of his party. Seven priests, who adhered to him, were seized to be carried into exile, but were rescued by their partisans and carried to the Liberian basilica. The people that sided with Damasus came together with swords and clubs, besieged the basilica to deliver these men up to the prefect, and a fight ensued in which one hundred and thirty-seven persons were killed, as Ammianus Marcellinus and St Austin relate. In September the following year, 367, the Emperor Valentinian allowed Ursinus to return to Rome; but, on account of new tumults, in November banished him again with seven accomplices into Gaul. The schismatics still kept possession of a church, probably that of St Agnes without the walls, and held assemblies in the cemeteries; but Valentinian sent an order for that church to be put into the hands of Damasus; and Maximin, a magistrate of the city, a man naturally inclined to cruelty, put several schismatics to the torture. Rufin clears Damasus of any way concurring to, or approving of such barbarous proceedings, and the schismatics fell into the snare they had laid for him, by which it seems they demanded an inquiry to be made by the rack, which turned to their own confusion and chastisement. It appears by certain verses of Pope Damasus that he had made a vow to God, in honour of certain martyrs, to engage their intercession for the conversion of some of the clergy who continued obstinate in the schism; and that these clergymen, being converted to the unity of the church, in gratitude adorned at their own expense the tombs of these martyrs. By the same poem we learn that the warmest abettors of the cause of Ursinus, after some time sincerely submitted to Damasus. His election was both anterior in time, and in all its circumstances regular; and was declared such by a great council held at Aquileia in 381, composed of the most holy and eminent bishops of the western church, and by a council at Rome in 378, in both which the acts of violence are imputed to the fury of Ursinus. St Ambrose, St Jerome, St Austin, Rufin, and others, bear testimony to the demeanour and to the due election of Damasus’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
Grant, we pray thee, O Lord: that we may constantly exalt the merits of thy Martyrs, whom Pope Saint Damasus so venerated and loved; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon