Skip to comments.Pope Saint Callistus
Posted on 10/14/2002 5:44:27 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
St. Callistus, Third Century - For our knowledge of St. Callistus we depend mainly on St. Hippolytus's account of him (Philosphoumena, Book IX). It is unfortunate, for it is the account of an unscrupulous enemy. Nevertheless, making the qualifications suggested by common sense--nor could Hippolytus have falsified public facts--we can learn from it more of Callistus's life than is known of any other primitive pope. He was the slave of a Christian, Carpophorus, who, in consideration no doubt of his talent for finance and organization, placed him in charge of a bank. The venture was unsuccessful, though Callistus, we may be sure, was innocent of the misappropriation of funds with which Hippolytus charges him. To recover debts owed by Jews he forced his way into a synagogue. The Jews charged him with the crime of Christianity. The prefect of Rome had him scourged and sent him to forced labor in the Sardinian mines. When Marcia, mistress of the Emperor Commodus, obtained the release of these captives, Callistus returned. Pope Victor sent him to Antium, the Roman Brighton or Coney Island, to recover his health, and settled a pension upon him. This disproved Hippolytus's allegation that Victor had excluded him from the list of confessors sent to Marcia. Victor's successor, St. Zephyrinus, appointed Callistus his archdeacon and placed him in charge of the cemeteries. He opened the catacomb on the Via Appia which bears his name. It was the property and gift of his friend, the heiress Cecilia. He proved himself so capable an administrator that in 217 he was chosen to succeed Zephyrinus as pope.
It was probably Callistus who organized the titles of Rome, parish churches in houses belonging to the donors who gave the title its name. He condemned the monarchist Unitarian Sabellius whom he had formerly patronized. He introduced wise and charitable disciplinary relaxations. In the Trastavere the Cecilii possessed at least one 'insula,' a block of tenements. Cecilia gave the property to Callistus, who established there the title, church and offices, which long bore his name, now Santa Maria in Trastavere. He met a violent death, traditionally and most probably thrown down a well in Trastavere by an angry mob. The supposition presents itself that his death was due to the hostility aroused by his evacuation of the pagan tenement dwellers. From first to last he was a strong minded and high handed man. He was buried, not in the catacomb bearing his name, but in a cemetery near at hand on the Via Aurelia.
Catacomb of Callistus, Image copyright ArtToday
How did someone who is "unscrupulous" become a saint?
BTTT on the Feast Day of St. Callistus, 10-14-04
Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Saint of the Day Ping List.
The most reliable information about this saint comes from his enemy St. Hippolytus, the first antipope, later a martyr for the Church. A negative principle is used: If some worse things had happened, Hippolytus would surely have mentioned them.
Callistus was a slave in the imperial Roman household. Put in charge of the bank by his master, he lost the money deposited, fled and was caught. After serving time for a while, he was released to make some attempt to recover the money. Apparently he carried his zeal too far, being arrested for brawling in a Jewish synagogue. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia. He was released through the influence of the emperor's mistress and lived at Anzio (site of a famous World War II beachhead).
He won his freedom and was made superintendent of the public Christian burial ground in Rome (still called the cemetery of St. Callistus), probably the first land owned by the Church. The pope ordained him a deacon and made him his friend and adviser.
He was himself elected pope by a majority vote of the clergy and laity of Rome, and thereafter was bitterly attacked by the losing candidate, St. Hippolytus, who let himself be set up as the first antipope in the history of the Church. The schism lasted about 18 years.
Hippolytus is venerated as a saint. He was banished during the persecution of 235 and was reconciled to the Church. He died from his sufferings in Sardinia. He attacked Callistus on two frontsdoctrine and discipline. Hippolytus seems to have exaggerated the distinction between Father and Son (almost making two gods) possibly because theological language had not yet been refined. He also accused Callistus of being too lenient, for reasons we may find surprising: (1) Callistus admitted to Communion those who had already done public penance for murder, adultery, fornication; (2) he held marriages between free women and slaves to be validcontrary to Roman law; (3) he authorized the ordination of men who had been married two or three times; (4) he held that mortal sin was not a sufficient reason to depose a bishop; (5) he held to a policy of leniency toward those who had temporarily apostatized during persecution.
Callistus was martyred during a local disturbance in Trastevere, Rome, and is the first pope (except for Peter) to be commemorated as a martyr in the earliest martyrology of the Church.
Some are of the opinion that, even from the little we know about him, Callistus may rank among the greatest popes.
The life of this man is another reminder that the course of Church history, like that of true love, never did run smooth. The Church had to (and still must) go through the agonizing struggle to state the mysteries of the faith in language that, at the very least, sets up definite barriers to error. On the disciplinary side, the Church had to preserve the mercy of Christ against rigorism while still upholding the gospel ideal of radical conversion and self-discipline. Every popeindeed every Christianmust walk the difficult path between "reasonable" indulgence and "reasonable" rigorism.
His contemporaries, Jesus said, were "like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.' For John [the Baptist] came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'He is possessed by a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners'" (Matthew 11:16b-19a).
**How did someone who is "unscrupulous" become a saint?**
Didn't Christ say (paraphrasing): "I came for the sinners."??
BTTT on the Optional Memorial of St. Callistus, 10-14-05!
BTTT on the Optional Memorial of St. Callistus I, October 14, 2006!
BTTT on the Optional Memorial of St. Callistus I, October 14, 2006!
Saint Callistus I, Pope and Martyr
(+222) A slave in youth, St. Callistus was renown for his mercy toward repentant sinners, thus incurring the criticism of many Rigorists, most notably Tertullian. He defended the faith against the Adoptionist and Modalist heresies regarding the Holy Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ. He was martyred in Rome during the reign of Alexander Severus.
Source: Daily Roman Missal, Edited by Rev. James Socías, Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, Illinois ©2003
God of mercy,
hear the prayers of Your people
that we may be helped by St. Callistus,
whose martyrdom we celebrate with joy.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever . Amen.
First Reading:1 Peter 5:1-4
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.
Gospel Reading: Luke 22:24-30
A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
"You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.