October 13, 2016

Optional Memorial of St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr

St. Callistus I
October 14th, is the optional memorial of Saint Callistus I, the 3rd century pontiff and martyr who affirmed that through the sacrament of reconciliation, penitent sinners may be welcomed back into the Church. Born into slavery, in the Trastevere suburb of Rome, his Christian mother instilled in Callistus the Faith. His Christian master, Carpophorus, would also greatly influence him. Few saints have experienced a more serendipitous path to sanctity.

Hippolytus of Rome relates that Callixtus’ master put him in charge of alms collected for the care of widows and orphans. After losing those funds, Callistus fled. but was captured. His master forgave him, and at the request of the creditors, Callistus was released. Attempting to recover the lost money, Callistus was arrested for disturbing the rites of a synagogue when he tried to collect from some Jews in his debt. Other accounts contend that upon being forgiven. he oversaw a failed Christian bank. Callixtus was denounced as a Christian and sentenced to hard labor in the mines of Sardinia. He was later ransomed and went to Rome where he worked with the Christian community at Anzio for some time.

On his return, Callixtus achieved renown for his personal piety and competence as an administrator. He was ordained a deacon by Pope Zephyrinus in 199, and named superintendent of the Christian cemetery on the Appian Way. As administer of the property, the first land owned by the Church, Callixtus organized the burial of martyrs in its catacombs. It would become the resting place of many popes, and is still named the Cemetery of St. Callistus today.

In 217, Callixtus succeeded Zephyrinus as the Bishop of Rome. His brief but consequential papacy was marked by controversy. He was opposed by the anti-pope Hippolytus, who claimed, in part, that Callixtus was lax in allowing sinners back into full communion without performing rigorous public penances. During his pontificate, Callixtus regulated the sacrament of penance, defended the faith against the Adoptionist and Modalist heresies (concerning the Holy Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ). In 222, on orders from Emperor Severus, Callistus was imprisoned, starved and scourged daily. He received the crown of martyrdom after being bound and thrown headlong into a well, where he drowned. O God, who raised up Saint Callistus the first to serve the Church and attend devoutly to Christ's faithful departed, strengthen us, we pray, by his witness, so that, rescued from the slavery of corruption, we may merit an incorruptible inheritance.

No comments :