Archive for the ‘Bishops of Rome’ Category

Feast of Sts. Hormisdas and Silverius (December 2)   8 comments

Above:  The Roman Empire in 565

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT HORMISDAS (DIED AUGUST 6, 523)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from August 6

father of

SAINT SILVERIUS (DIED DECEMBER 2, 537)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr, 537

Alternative feast day = June 20

Sts. Hormisdas and Silverius, father and son, had to contend with imperial and international politics.  The Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, wanted to retake Italy.  The Ostrogothic kings of Italy disagreed.

St. Hormisdas was a reconciler.  He, a married layman prior to ordination, worked closely with Pope St. Symmachus (in office 498-514).  St. Symmachus had a rival, the antipope Lawrence (498-499, 501-506; died 507 or 508).  The schism led to years of violence in the streets of Rome.  St. Symmachus had permitted Lawrence to retire.  St. Hormisdas, elected to succeed St. Symmachus on July 20, 514, completed the healing by welcoming the remaining, hardcore supporters of Lawrence back into the fold.

St. Hormisdas also ended the Acacian Schism (484-519).  In 584, Acacius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, had compromised regarding Chalcedonian Christology.  He had omitted the doctrine that Jesus had two natures–human and divine.  This was a way of assuaging Monophysites, who thought that Jesus had only a divine nature.  Pope St. Felix III (II) (in office 483-492) had excommunicated Acacius.  For decades the church was split, East and West.  The accession of Emperor Justin I (reigned 518-527), a Chalcedonian Christian, created the opportunity for reunion.  That reunion also had a political purpose; Justin I and his nephew, Justinian I “the Great” (reigned 527-565), wanted Italy back.  Ecclesiastical reunification helped imperial reconquest.

St. Hormisdas, who commissioned St. Dionysius Exiguus (circa 500-circa 550) to translate the canons of the Greek Church into Latin, died on August 6, 523.

The next Bishops of Rome were:

  1. St. John I (August 13, 523-May 10, 526),
  2. St. Felix IV (III) (July 12, 526-September 22, 530),
  3. Boniface II (September 22, 530-October 17, 532),
  4. John II (January 2, 533-May 8, 535), and
  5. St. Agapitus I (May 13, 535-April 22, 536).

There was also an antipope, Dioscorus, briefly (September 22-October 14, 530).

St. Agapitus I died in Constantinople on April 22, 536.  He had displeased Empress Theodora, a Monophysite, by deposing Anthimus, the (Monophysite) Patriarch of Constantinople.  Theodora wanted Antimus restored to his office.  She offered a quid pro quo to the nuncio, deacon Vigilius; she would make him the Pope if he, as the Bishop of Rome, would restore Anthimus to office.  Vigilius agreed then returned to Rome.

Vigilius arrived too late.  Theodahad (reigned 534-536), the last Ostrogothic king of Italy, had already forced the election of subdeacon St. Silverius, son of St. Hormisdas, on June 8, 536.  The new Pope never had a chance, for he was a pawn of one leader and the target of another.

Imperial forces occupied Rome on December 10, 536.  St. Silverius and the Roman Senate, seeking to prevent bloodshed, urged the citizens to surrender to the Roman Army.  Meanwhile, the Ostrogothic Army beseiged the city.  St. Silverius, framed via forged documents, was, according to Imperial authorities, cooperating with the Ostrogoths.  Theodora orchestrated the removal of St. Silverius from office on March 11, 537.  Vigilius became the next Pope on March 29.

St. Silverius, a prisoner, became a monk and an exile at Patara, Lycia, Anatolia.  The local bishop interceded on his behalf with Justinian I, who ordered a fair trial and the return of St. Silverius to Rome.  The result of an acquittal would be restoration to the See of Rome; the result of a conviction would be reassignment to a different see.  None of that came to pass, however.  Vigilius sent agents to St. Silverius; they forced his abdication on November 11, 537.  Our saint, having never returned to Rome, died of starvation and other hardships on December 2, 537.

Vigilius engaged in political conflicts with Justinian I and Theodora during his tenure, which ended with death by natural causes (gall stones) on June 7, 555.  He had been unpopular in life.  He remained so in death.

Sts. Hormisdas and Silverius manifested reconciling spirits and concern for people.  St. Silverius did his best, but others had plans for him.  He was faithful to the end, starving in exile.

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God of shalom, we thank you for the reconciling spirit of St. Hormisdas

and the commitment unto death of St. Silverius, Bishops of Rome.

May we also lead conciliatory lives and be willing, if necessary,

to remain faithful unto persecution, ill treatment, and martyrdom,.

May the light of your love shine through us no matter what,

so that we may live and die as agents of divine grace.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tobit 3:1-6

Psalm 2

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Feast of St. Clement I of Rome (November 23)   2 comments

Above:  St. Clement I of Rome

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME

Bishop of Rome, 88/91-97/101

Alternative feast days = November 24 and 25

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Think, my friends, how the Lord offers us proof after proof that there is going to be a resurrection, of which He has made Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead.  My friends, look how regularly there are processes of resurrection going on at this very moment.  The day and the night show us an example of it; for night sinks to rest, and day arises; day passes away, and night comes again.  Or take the fruits of the earth; how, and in what way, does a crop come into being?  When the sower goes out and drops each seed into the ground, it falls to the earth shriveled and bare, and decays; but presently the power of the Lord’s providence raises it from decay, and from that single grain a host of others spring up and yield their fruit.

–1 Clement 24 (Staniforth/Louth, 1987)

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We know little about the life of St. Clement I of Rome.  Ancient traditions contradict each other on many details, including whether he was the third or fourth Bishop of Rome and whether he became a martyr.  Certain ancient texts are allegedly of his authorship, but the (First) Epistle to the Corinthians, a.k.a. First Clement, composed via 96 C.E., is genuine.

St. Clement I, who apparently knew some of the Apostles, was one of a group of presbyters of house churches in the imperial capital city at the end of the first century C.E.  He had the duty of writing to churches in other cities.  In his (First) Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Clement I urged that church to restore its fired presbyters to their rightful positions.  This letter was an early example of the church at Rome involving itself in the matters of churches in other cities.  St. Clement I’s claim to ecclesiastical authority related to Rome being the imperial capital, not the Bishop of Rome being a Supreme Pontiff, for the monarchical Papacy had not yet emerged.

St. Clement I emphasized two primary themes in the epistle.  He stressed obedience to proper leaders–respect for the ecclesiastical hierarchy.  Our saint also emphasized respect for the liturgy and sacraments.  He placed these concerns in the context of Christ and love for God:

Love knows no divisions, promotes no discord; all the works of love are done in perfect fellowship.

–1 Clement 49; from Early Christian Writings (1987), translated by Maxwell Staniforth and Andrew Louth

St. Clement I’s epistle is an intriguing follow-up to the Pauline epistles to that church.

We Christians of today live in a different world than St. Clement I did.  We dare not dismiss him and his concerns, for we own him and many like him a great debt of gratitude; a chain of faith links him and them to us.  Furthermore, his advice in his epistle to the Corinthians retains much of value in contemporary settings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2019 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Almighty God, you chose your servant Clement of Rome

to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability:

Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled

in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit;

reveal to it what is not yet known;

fill up what is lacking;

confirm what has already been revealed;

and keep it blameless in your service;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 23:28-32

Psalm 78:3-7

2 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 6:37-45

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 699

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Feast of St. Leo the Great (November 10)   3 comments

Above:  St. Leo I “the Great”

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT LEO I “THE GREAT” (LATE 300S-NOVEMBER 10, 461)

Bishop of Rome

Former Western feast day = April 11

Eastern feast day = February 11

The number of Roman Catholic Supreme Pontiffs called “the Great” is short.  St. Leo I is deservedly on that list.

St. Leo I, of Tuscan parentage, was a deacon immediately prior to becoming the Pope.  Under his two immediate predecessors, St. Celestine I (in office September 10, 422-July 27, 432) and St. Sixtus III (in office July 31, 432-August 19, 440), St. Leo I had been an influential advisor.  St. Leo I had been an influential advisor.  He was on a diplomatic mission in Gaul in August 440, during the Papal election.  St. Leo I, back in Rome, assumed the office on September 29, 440.

As the Pope, St. Leo I dealt with challenges, theological and political.  He defended Papal authority via words and deeds.  Our saint resisted heresies, such as Manichaeism (dualistic), Arianism (Christ is a created being), Pelagianism (we can save ourselves via free will), and Priscillianism (the human body is evil).  St. Leo I’s theology vis-à-vis Christology defined the Definition of Chalcedon (451):  Jesus, one person, had two natures (human and divine).  Our saint also corrected ecclesiastical abuses, resolved disputes, and insisted on the uniformity of liturgical practice.

The Western Roman Empire was crumbling during the lifetime of St. Leo I.  This reality led to circumstances in which our saint rose to the occasion.  In 452 he met with Atilla the Hun near Mantua and persuaded Atilla to withdraw.  Three years later, St. Leo I spoke with Gaiseric, the King of the Vandals, outside the walls of Rome.  Our saint persuaded the Vandal king not to burn the city and massacre the inhabitants.

St. Leo I died on November 10, 461.  Pope Benedict XIV declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1754.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SEYMOUR ROBINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

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O Lord our God, grant that your Church, following the teaching of yours servant Leo of Rome,

may hold fast the great mystery of our redemption,

and adore the one Christ, true God and true Man,

neither divided from our human nature and not separate from your divine Being;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Lamentations 3:22-33

Psalm 77:11-15

2 Timothy 1:6-14

Matthew 5:13-19

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 673

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Feast of St. Paul VI (September 26)   5 comments

Above:  St. Paul VI 

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT PAUL VI (SEPTEMBER 26, 1897-AUGUST 6, 1978)

Bishop of Rome

Born Giovanni Battista Montini

This post, as of the drafting and publication of this post, is slightly anticipatory.  Documentation tells us that Pope Benedict XVI declared Paul VI a Venearble in 2012 and that Pope Francis beatified Montini in 2014.  According to news reports, Pope Francis is set to canonize Paul VI on October 14, 2018.  Given that fact, plus the reality that, for me, differences among Venerables, Blesseds, and full Saints are purely semantic, I choose to proceed with calling the deceased Supreme Pontiff St. Paul VI, although he will remain a Blessed Paul VI for about one more month.

The feast day for St. Paul VI is September 26, the anniversary of his birth.  Usually a saint’s feast day falls on the anniversary of his or her death, but that date, for Montini, is the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Giovanni Battista Montini, born in Concescio, Italy, on September 26, 1897, came from a devout family.  His father was an attorney and a member of parliament.  Montini, devoted to his mother, became a priest on May 29, 1920.  Graduate studies in Rome ensued.

Montini’s star rose quickly in the Church.  In 1922 he joined the Vatican Secretariat of State.  He, the Nuncio to Poland from May to November 1923, resigned for health reasons.  On July 8, 1931, our saint became a domestic prelate to the Holy See.  Montini, assistant to Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) from December 13, 1937, worked closely with Pacelli/Pius XII until 1954.

Montini must have severely offended the Holy Father, for Pius XII exiled our saint to Milan.  On November 1, 1954, Montini began his duties as the Archbishop of Milan, far from being a plumb assignment.  In Milan, Montini was the “workers’ archbishop,” winning the approval of disaffected industrial workers.  He presided over an archdiocese still recovering from World War II.  Furthermore, Montini’s ecumenism became evident when he conducted dialogues with a group of Anglicans–a revolutionary practice prior to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).

In 1958 Pope St. John XXIII succeeded the late Pius XII.  On December 5, 1958, St. John XXIII made Montini a Cardinal.  (Five years prior our saint had declined a similar offer from Pius XII, who had never repeated the offer.)  Cardinal Montini and St. John XXIII were two of the primary shapers of Vatican II.  St. John XXIII died in June 1963.  The conclave elected Cardinal Montini to succeed him; our saint became Pope Paul VI.  He presided over the final sessions of Vatican II.

St. Paul VI was doctrinally conservative and socially radical.  That has been a combination common in Christian history.  Many of the English Tractarians, for example, were open about their Christian Socialism.  Actual Jewish and Christian orthodoxy has, by definition, been conservative.  It has also challenged entrenched social structures and institutions, ended chattel slavery in much of the world, condemned the economic exploitation of the poor by the rich, championed labor unions, and opposed racial segregation.

If one is to understand the legacy of St. Paul VI, one must grasp the combination of theological orthodoxy and social and political radicalism.  What, for example, is more theologically orthodox and, sadly, socially and politically radical than the Golden Rule?

Life in the Roman Catholic Church since 1965 has been, depending on one’s perspective, either too liberal or too conservative.  St. Paul VI, who met with Archbishops of Canterbury Michael Ramsey (in 1966) and Donald Coggan (in 1977) and, in 1965, with Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras, lifted the mutual anathemas dating to 1054, angered many traditionalists.  St. Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967), which condemned the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the Third World and committed the Church to addressing that problem constructively, was consistent with the Law, the Prophets, Jesus, and Pope Leo XIIIHumanae Vitae (1968), which maintained the condemnation of artificial contraception, has been controversial from day one.  The decision to sell the papal tiara and give the proceeds to help the poor was at least a good gesture.  St. Paul VI sought to balance innovation and the integrity of ecclesiastical teaching.  The extent to which he succeeded has never ceased to be a topic of disagreement.

St. Paul VI, aged 80 years, died on August 6, 1978.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK J. MURPHY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISCUS CH’OE KYONG-HWAN, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1839; SAINTS LAWRENCE MARY JOSEPH IMBERT, PIERRE PHILIBERT MAUBANT, AND JACQUES HONORÉ CHASTÁN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS, MISSIONARIES TO KOREA, AND MARTYRS, 1839; SAINT PAUL CHONG HASANG, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1839; AND SAINTS CECILIA YU SOSA AND JUNG HYE, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1839

THE FEAST OF KASPAR BIENEMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOSIAH IRONS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS DAUGHTER, GENEVIEVE MARY IRONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

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O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant St. Paul VI

to be a bishop in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all bishops the gifts of your Holy Spirit,

that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 719

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Feast of Sts. Cyprian of Carthage, Cornelius of Rome, Lucius I of Rome, and Stephen I of Rome (September 16)   5 comments

Above:  Carthage and Rome

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (190/210-SEPTEMBER 14, 258)

Bishop of Carthage, and Martyr

Born Thascius Caecillianus Cyprianus

His feast day = September 16

Alternative feast days = August 31, September 15, September  26, and October 2

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SAINT CORNELIUS OF ROME (DIED IN JUNE 253)

Bishop of Rome

His feast day = September 16

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SAINT LUCIUS I OF ROME (DIED MARCH 5, 254)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from March 4

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SAINT STEPHEN I OF ROME (DIED AUGUST 2, 257)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from August 2

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Whoso stands aloof from the Church and is joined to an adulteress [a schismatic sect] is cut off from the promises given to the Church; and he that leaves the Church of Christ attains not to Christ’s rewards.  He is an alien, an outcast, an enemy.  He cannot have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother.

–St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church; quoted in Henry Bettenson and Chris Mander, eds., Documents of the Christian Church, 3d. ed. (1998), 80

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September 15 is the Feast of St. Cyprian of Carthage in The Episcopal Church.  The saint has more than one feast day, not one of them September 14, the anniversary of his death.  September 14 is, after all, the Feast of the Holy Cross.  Of all the feast days of St. Cyprian September 16 makes the most sense for my purposes as I continue to renovate my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days because (1) September 16 is the Feast of St. Cornelius of Rome, and (2) one cannot explain the lives of either St. Cyprian or St. Cornelius properly in isolation from each other.

Most persecution of Christianity in the Roman Empire was local and sporadic.  Sometimes, however, an emperor launched an empire-wide persecution.  Roman pagan orthodoxy, such as it was, mixed politics, religion, and civic duty.  The reasoning was that the empire would prosper as long as the gods allowed.  A civic duty, therefore, was to sacrifice to the gods on behalf of the empire.  Jews were exempt from this obligation, but had to pay a tax instead.  Gentiles who refused to make such a sacrifice were not fulfilling their civic duty, as the government defined it.  As Christianity grew, more and more Gentiles refused.  Was Christianity a threat to the future of the empire?  Were Christians threats to imperial security?

Above:  St. Cyprian of Carthage

Image in the Public Domain

St. Cyprian, born in Carthage between 190 and 210, was a pagan rhetorician until he converted to Christianity circa 246.  Within two years he had progressed from convert to deacon to priest then, in 248, to Bishop of Carthage, a post he held for the rest of his life, that is, until 258.  St. Cyprian was one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 250s.

The Emperor Decius (reigned 249-251), unlike his tolerant predecessor, Philip I (reigned 244-249), considered Christianity to be a threat to the future of the Roman Empire.  Decius forced St. Cyprian to flee Carthage; the bishop governed his diocese remotely.  St. Fabian, Bishop of Rome from 236 to 250, became a martyr.  A committee of clergymen, with Novatian (circa 200-258) as the spokesman, governed the Church for fourteen months.  In March 251, toward the end of the reign of Decius, a papal election was finally safe.  Novatian expected to win, but St. Cornelius did instead.

Above:  St. Cornelius of Rome

Image in the Public Domain

In 251, when St. Cyprian returned to Carthage, he had to contend with the question of how to deal with people who had committed apostasy by renouncing their Christian faith during the Decian persecution.  Some confessors were overly eager to readmit the lapsed on the grounds of the merits of the martyrs.  This displeased St. Cyprian, who insisted that apostates must perform penance in order for reconciliation to occur.  This penance, the Bishop of Carthage said, must be suitably long.  St. Cornelius agreed.  The policy would become the policy church-wide, the Bishop of Rome decreed.

Novatian disagreed.  In March 251, via a schismatic papal election, he established himself as a rival Bishop of Rome.  St. Cornelius excommunicated Novatian and his followers.  The Novatianist sect was ridiculously morally rigorous, teaching that there was no forgiveness for serious sins one committed after one’s baptism.  The schism persisted in Armenia and Mesopotamia until the 400s, and later elsewhere.

Sts. Cyprian and Cornelius did not always have friendly relations.  The Bishop of Carthage had initially been dubious about the election of St. Cornelius, but had quickly accepted it.  St. Cyprian even helped St. Cornelius to win the support of many Roman clergymen who might otherwise have supported Novatian.  In the summer of 252, however, St. Cornelius received envoys of Fortunatus, a bishop rival to St. Cyprian.  The Bishop of Rome did not side with Fortunatus, but St. Cyprian complained in writing about the meeting.

The next emperor was Gallus (reigned 251-253), initially tolerant of Christianity.  The reign of Gallus was one disaster after another.  A plague swept through the empire.  In Carthage Christians became scapegoats for the plague.  There were also barbarian invasions as well as military defeats on the Persian frontier.  Gallus distracted much criticism of him by resuming the persecution of Christianity in June 252.  That month the imperial government forced St. Cornelius into exile at Centumcellae (now Civitavecchia, the port of Rome).  The Bishop of Rome died in June 253.  The empire seemed to be coming apart; a civil war seemed unavoidable.  Gallus had two rivals (both generals) for the imperial throne.  In July 253 he died at the hands of his soldiers, who preferred assassinating their emperor to fighting a losing battle in which they would die in vain.  Aemilian, the next emperor, reigned for a few months until dying the same way.

The next emperor was Valerian (reigned 253-260), initially tolerant of Christianity.

Above:  St. Lucius I

Image in the Public Domain

St. Lucius I, elected Bishop of Rome on June 23, 253, had been in exile during the persecution under Gallus.  St. Cyprian wrote to St. Lucius I, who maintained the policy of St. Cornelius vis-á-vis repentant apostates.  The Bishop of Carthage congratulated the new Bishop of Rome for faithful suffering, and welcomed him back to Rome.  St. Lucius I died of natural causes on March 5, 254.

Above:  St. Stephen I

Image in the Public Domain

St. Stephen I, elected Bishop of Rome on May 12, 254, had conflicts with St. Cyprian.

St. Stephen I readmitted two lapsed Spanish bishops to the Church.  St. Cyprian did not agree that the Spanish bishops had repented of their apostasy.  He convened a synod of north African bishops.  The synod decreed that the Spanish bishops were still apostates, and that they had deceived the Bishop of Rome.

Marcian, Bishop of Arles, was, like Novatian, a moral rigorist who refused forgiveness and reconciliation, to repentant apostates–even on deathbeds.  Some local bishops petitioned St. Stephen I to depose Marcian.  St. Cyprian urged the Bishop of Rome to excommunicate and depose Marcian.  St. Stephen I refused on all counts.

Sts. Stephen I and Cyprian disagreed about the rebaptism of people baptized by heretics, i.e., Novatianists.  The Bishop of Carthage argued that such baptisms were almost always invalid.  He contended that the sacrament was valid only within the Church, so rebaptism was necessary in most of these cases.  The Bishop of Rome, however, regarded baptisms by heretics as generally valid.  Therefore, according to St. Stephen I, absolution via the laying on of hands was the only requirement for reconciliation of heretics.  He refused to permit the churches in Asia Minor to hold valid Eucharists due to their practice of rebaptizing heretics.  However, St. Cyprian convened two synods (in 255 and 256) that reaffirmed his position.  Ironically, Novatian and St. Cyprian had something in common, for Novatian refused to accept orthodox Catholic baptisms, just as St. Cyprian refused to accept Novatianist baptisms.

St. Stephen I was doing something new; he became the first Bishop of Rome to claim the primacy of his office based on succession from St. Simon Peter.  What the Bishop of Rome said, went.  St. Cyprian was having none of it, despite his acknowledgment of St. Simon Peter as the rock upon which Jesus founded the Church.

One may wonder what the long-term consequences of the dispute between Sts. Stephen I and Cyprian would have been.  One must, however, consign those thoughts to the realm of the counterfactual.  One should also consider St. Cyprian’s condemnation of schism as sinful.

Circumstances ended the dispute.  St. Stephen I died of natural causes on August 2, 257.  The next Bishop of Rome was St. Sixtus II.  In August 257 Valerian, seeking to distract attention from ample imperial woes, resumed the empire-wide persecution of Christianity.  St. Cyprian, forced into exile again, eventually returned to Carthage, where he became a martyr on September 14, 258.

Novatian also died in 258, perhaps as a martyr during the persecution under Valerian.

Valerian’s persecution did much to damage the Church, which survived, of course.  St. Sixtus II and many clergy died.  The empire also confiscated Church property.  Nevertheless, St. Dionysius, the Bishop of Rome from 260 to 268, rebuilt the Church.  He also had to contend with the issue of rebaptism.  Valerian failed.

The position of the Roman Catholic Church on baptism is that all Christian baptisms are valid.  Defects in the intentions of those who administer baptism render a baptism invalid, hence the Church’s refusal to accept Mormon baptisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servants

Saint Cyprian of Carthage,

Saint Cornelius of Rome,

Saint Lucius I of Rome, and

Saint Stephen I of Rome,

who were faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following their examples and teachings of their holy lives,

we may by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 718

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Feast of St. Sixtus III (August 19)   1 comment

Above:  St. Sixtus III

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT SIXTUS III (DIED AUGUST 19, 440)

Bishop of Rome

Alternative feast day = March 28

Five Supreme Pontiffs of the Roman Catholic Church have borne the name “Sixtus.”  Extant information about St. Sixtus I (in office circa 116-circa 125) has proven to be unreliable.  St. Sixtus II (in office 257-258) died as a martyr.  Sixtus IV (in office 1471-1484) founded the Spanish Inquisition and practiced simony.  Sixtus V (in office 1585-1590) admired Sixtus IV, encouraged King Philip II of Spain to invade England in 1588, and presided over a repressive regime in the Papal States.

St. Sixtus III is therefore the second of two Sixtuses I choose to add to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

Xystus, son of Xystus, was a Roman by birth.  Our saint had been a Pelagian, but had changed his mind in 418.

Pelagianism was the heresy named after Pelagius, an English or Irish monk who had moved to Rome circa 400.  He was optimistic about human nature, arguing that it was inherently good.  People could therefore save themselves via free will from damnation, the monk asserted.  His propositions aroused a great controversy in the Church.  St. Augustine of Hippo, for example, replied to those propositions in writing for years.  Eventually the Church declared Semi-Pelagianism (salvation results from the combination of divine grace and human free will) orthodox teaching, but Pope St. Celestine I (in office 422-432) preferred the answer of St. Augustine of Hippo:  we mere mortals are powerless to save ourselves, for Original Sin has corrupted our natures.

St. Sixtus III also opposed NestorianismNestorius, the Archbishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431, made  a distinction between Christ and the Logos.  St. Mary of Nazareth, he argued in his sermon for Easter 428, was the mother of Jesus, but not of God; she was not the Theotokos.  The Patriarch thought that the Logos dwelt within Jesus, as in a temple.  St. Sixtus III, at the Council of Ephesus (431), helped to draft the Formula of Reunion, which asserted the doctrine that, in Christ, there was the union of God and man in one person; that Christ was fully human and fully divine.

St. Sixtus III, elected Pope on July 31, 432, succeeding the late St. Celestine I, contended with the Pelagian and Nestorian heresies as the Supreme Pontiff.  St. Cyril of Alexandria had been engaged in a dispute with John of Antioch (d. 441), a Nestorian.  St. Sixtus III ordered John of Antioch to renounce Nestorianism; he did, and reconciled with St. Cyril.  In 439, with the influence of deacon Leo (the next pope, as St. Leo I “the Great,” in office 440-461), St. Sixtus III refused to permit the Pelagian bishop Julian of Eclanum (d. 454), exiled from the see of Apulia since 418, return.  As St. Sixtus III oversaw rebuilding projects in Rome, to repair damage from and replace structures destroyed in the Visigothic sack of Rome in 410, he had anti-Pelagian and anti-Nestorian inscriptions added to churches and baptistries.

St. Sixtus III asserted his authority against encroachment by St. Proclus of Constantinople, the Archbishop of Constantinople from 434 to 446.  In 434 St. Proclus tried to pry the dioceses in eastern Illyricum (in the Balkans) away from the Bishop of Rome.  St. Sixtus III resolved the situation with a carrot and a stick.  As the Pope requested that St. Proculus not receive any bishops disloyal to Rome, St. Sixtus III ordered all bishops in eastern Illyricum to remain loyal.

St. Sixtus III also founded the oldest known monastery at St. Sebastiano on the Appian Way.

St. Sixtus III died on August 19, 440.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESCHEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Saint Sixtus III,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.

We pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ,

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Sts. Cyriaca, Sixtus II and His Companions, and Laurence of Rome (August 10)   9 comments

Above:  Martyrdom of Sixtus II

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CYRIACA (DIED 249)

Roman Widow and Martyr

Her feast transferred from August 21

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SAINT SIXTUS II (DIED AUGUST 6, 258)

Bishop of Rome, and Martyr

His feast transferred from August 7

His former feast day = August 6

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SAINTS JANUARIUS, VINCENTIUS, MAGNUS, STEPHANUS, FELICISSIMUS, AND AGAPITIUS (DIED AUGUST 6, 258)

Deacons at Rome, and Martyrs

Their feast transferred from August 7

Their former feast day = August 6

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SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME (DIED AUGUST 10, 258)

Archdeacon of Rome, and Martyr

Also known as Saint Lawrence of Rome

His feast = August 10

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Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was off-and-on, usually local, and occasionally empire-wide.  Being a Christian could be risky.  And, to jump the chronology, after Emperor Constantine I “the Great” (reigned 306-337) made Christianity legal (alongside the other legal religions), being a type of Christian other than the type the Emperor was could be perilous.  But for now, back to the time prior to Constantine the Great…..

St. Cyriaca (d. 249) was a wealthy widow.  She gave shelter to persecuted Christians.  St. Laurence, Archdeacon of Rome, responsible for dispensing alms, distributed from her home until she became a martyr (via scourging).  St. Laurence was quite aware of the perils of being a Christian.

Emperor Valerian (reigned 253-260) presided over a troubled empire.  Plagues afflicted various provinces, civil strive existed, the Persian army invaded the empire on one part of the frontier, and Germanic tribes were invading elsewhere along the long border.  In 258-260 Valerian did what many potentates have done when woes have piled high; he distracted people.  He invited people to look over there, not over here.  Valerian persecuted Christians.  He seized church property (including cemeteries), forbade Christians to gather in cemeteries, and required Christians to participate in state pagan rituals.  One rationale for requiring people to participate in such rites was patriotic.  The idea was that the empire would thrive as long as the gods blessed it.  Therefore, the reasoning went, if more and more people ceased to bless the gods, the empire was doomed.  Thus Christians were allegedly threats to imperial security.  (How many violations of human rights have governments ordered in the name of national security since the beginning of the keeping of historical records?)

If such violations of human rights are indeed necessary for a state or empire to continue to exist, that state or empire should fall, for the good of the people.  The existence of such states and empires is morally repugnant.  States and/or empires that respect human rights should replace them.

The Bishop of Rome for slightly less than a year (August 30, 257-August 6, 258) was St. Sixtus II, properly Xystus.  He spent part of his pontificate dealing with the thorny issue of how to relate to holier-than-thou northern African Christians who were rebaptizing those originally baptized by heretics.  This matter predated his pontificate and continued afterward.  St. Sixtus II upheld the Roman Catholic orthodoxy that the validity of a baptism depended on the intentions of the baptized, not of the baptizer, so no rebaptism was necessary.  One Lord, one faith, one baptism, with the emphasis on “one.”

The hammer fell on August 6, 258.  (August 6 was not the Feast of the Transfiguration until 1457, by the way.)  St. Sixtus II, the seven deacons in Rome, and a congregation had gathered illegally in the cemetery of Praetextatus.  Imperial forces beheaded the Pope and four deacons.  By the end of the day two more deacons had become martyrs.  St. Laurence escaped–for a few days.

St. Laurence spent his final days giving all the Church’s money to poor people in Rome.  When he stood before a prefect on August 10, the prefect demanded that St. Laurence hand over the treasures of the Church.  According to St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), St. Laurence presented the poor people to whom he had given money.  He said,

These are the treasures of the Church.

The prefect disapproved of that reply.  St. Laurence cooked to death on a gridiron.

Valerian’s persecution disrupted the Church for a few years.  However, his son, Gallienus (reigned 253-268), ceased the persecution of Christians and returned seized property.  The next Pope was St. Dionysius (in office July 22, 260-December 26, 268; feast day = December 26), who had to rebuild the Church and to contend with rebaptizers.

With this post I merge three feasts into one.  This makes sense, for each feast relates to the other in a narrative sense.  One of my goals in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, after all, is to emphasize relationships and influences.

I have written enough hagiographies to recognize religious persecution when I see it.  Sometimes it comes from within a tradition; one branch targets another.  On other occasions such persecution comes from adherents of another tradition.  Another option is atheists persecuting the devout.  Persecution takes various forms, including incarcerations and martyrdoms.  I think of the Gestapo hunting down Roman Catholic priests in Poland during World War II, for example.  Priests dying in German concentration camps was another example of persecution.  I am aware of examples of religious persecution in the United States, for I recall, for example, reading about the incarceration of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors during World War I.  “Persecution” is a strong word, which one should use cautiously.  I am not aware of any government-sponsored religious persecution in the United States in 2018, yet I hear of persecution fantasies among certain members of the so-called Religious Right in the U.S.A.  Nobody is forcing me to participate in pagan ceremonies.  No government agents are arresting priests for simply being priests.  Governments are not seizing control of churches.  None of this is happening in the U.S.A. in 2018.  I thank God for my religious freedom, which I use.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC; AND HIS DAUGHTER, EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND “HERETIC’S DAUGHTER”

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HIRAM FOULKES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of

Saints Cyriaca, Sixtus II, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus, Agapitus, and Laurence of Rome,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross,

and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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