Blog Post - September 16th
Pope S. Cornelius and Bishop S. Cyprian| SS. Euphemia and Lucy| S. Geminianus of Modena| Daily Meditation| Daily Quote by S. Padre Pio| Divine Mercy Reflection
Saints Cornelius and Cyprian
Cornelius (d. 253). There was no pope for 14 months after the martyrdom of St. Fabian (January 20) because of the intensity of the persecution of the Church. During the interval, the Church was governed by a college of priests. St. Cyprian, a friend of Cornelius, writes that Cornelius was elected pope "by the judgment of God and of Christ, by the testimony of most of the clergy, by the vote of the people, with the consent of aged priests and of good men."
The greatest problem of Cornelius's two-year term as pope had to do with the Sacrament of Penance and centered on the readmission of Christians who had denied their faith during the time of persecution. Two extremes were finally both condemned. Cyprian, primate of North Africa, appealed to the pope to confirm his stand that the relapsed could be reconciled only by the decision of the bishop.
In Rome, however, Cornelius met with the opposite view. After his election, a priest named Novatian (one of those who had governed the Church) had himself consecrated a rival bishop of Rome—one of the first antipopes. He denied that the Church had any power to reconcile not only the apostates, but also those guilty of murder, adultery, fornication or second marriage! Cornelius had the support of most of the Church (especially of Cyprian of Africa) in condemning Novatianism, though the sect persisted for several centuries. Cornelius held a synod at Rome in 251 and ordered the "relapsed" to be restored to the Church with the usual "medicines of repentance."
The friendship of Cornelius and Cyprian was strained for a time when one of Cyprian's rivals made accusations about him. But the problem was cleared up.
A document from Cornelius shows the extent of organization in the Church of Rome in the mid-third century: 46 priests, seven deacons, seven subdeacons. It is estimated that the number of Christians totaled about 50,000.
Cornelius died as a result of the hardships of his exile in what is now Civitavecchia (near Rome).
Cyprian (d. 258). Cyprian is important in the development of Christian thought and practice in the third century, especially in northern Africa.
Highly educated, a famous orator, he became a Christian as an adult. He distributed his goods to the poor, and amazed his fellow citizens by making a vow of chastity before his baptism. Within two years he had been ordained a priest and was chosen, against his will, as Bishop of Carthage (near modern Tunis).
Cyprian complained that the peace the Church had enjoyed had weakened the spirit of many Christians and had opened the door to converts who did not have the true spirit of faith. When the Emperor Decian's persecution began, many Christians easily abandoned the Church. It was their reinstatement that caused the great controversies of the third century, and helped the Church progress in its understanding of the Sacrament of Penance.
Novatus, a priest who had opposed Cyprian's election, set himself up in Cyprian's absence (he had fled to a hiding place from which to direct the Church—bringing criticism on himself) and received back all apostates without imposing any canonical penance. Ultimately he was condemned. Cyprian held a middle course, holding that those who had actually sacrificed to idols could receive Communion only at death, whereas those who had only bought certificates saying they had sacrificed could be admitted after a more or less lengthy period of penance. Even this was relaxed during a new persecution.
During a plague in Carthage, he urged Christians to help everyone, including their enemies and persecutors.
A friend of Pope Cornelius, Cyprian opposed the following pope, Stephen. He and the other African bishops would not recognize the validity of baptism conferred by heretics and schismatics. This was not the universal view of the Church, but Cyprian was not intimidated even by Stephen's threat of excommunication.
He was exiled by the emperor and then recalled for trial. He refused to leave the city, insisting that his people should have the witness of his martyrdom.
Cyprian was a mixture of kindness and courage, vigor and steadiness. He was cheerful and serious, so that people did not know whether to love or respect him more. He waxed warm during the baptismal controversy; his feelings must have concerned him, for it was at this time that he wrote his treatise on patience. St. Augustine (August 28) remarks that Cyprian atoned for his anger by his glorious martyrdom.
It seems fairly true to say that almost every possible false doctrine has been proposed at some time or other in the history of the Church. The third century saw the resolution of a problem we scarcely consider—the penance to be done before reconciliation with the Church after mortal sin. Men like Cornelius and Cyprian were God's instruments in helping the Church find a prudent path between extremes of rigorism and laxity. They are part of the Church's ever-living stream of tradition, ensuring the continuance of what was begun by Christ, and evaluating new experiences through the wisdom and experience of those who have gone before (Roliner).
The controversies about baptism and penance in the third century remind us that the early Church had no ready-made solutions from the Holy Spirit. The leaders and members of the Church of that day had to make the best judgments they could, following the entire teaching of Christ without being diverted by exaggerations to the right or left.
"There is one God and one Christ and but one episcopal chair, originally founded on Peter, by the Lord's authority. There cannot, therefore, be set up another altar or another priesthood. Whatever any man in his rage or rashness shall appoint, in defiance of the divine institution, must be a spurious, profane and sacrilegious ordinance" (St. Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church).
“You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother.... God is one and Christ is one, and his Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the people cemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body.... If we are the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are the sons of God, let us be lovers of peace” (St. Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church).
The Holy and Great Martyr Euphemia.
From the Prologue
Born in Chalcedon, her father was the senator Philophronus and her mother's name was Theodorisia, both devout Christians. Euphemia was a girl beautiful in both body and soul. When the Proconsul, Priscus, celebrated a festival of sacrifice to Ares in Chalcedon, forty-nine Christians absented themselves from the festivities and hid themselves. But they were discovered and brought before Priscus, holy Euphemia being among them. When the furious Priscus asked them why they had not carried out the imperial command, they replied: 'Both the Emperor's commands and yours must be obeyed if they are not contrary to the God of heaven. If they are, they must not only not be obeyed; they must be resisted.' Then Priscus put them to various tortures for nineteen days, from day to day. On the twelfth day, he held Euphemia apart from the others and began to flatter her beauty, hoping to bring her thus to idolatry. When all his flattery proved fruitless, he ordered that she be tortured. First, she was put on a wheel, but an angel of God appeared and broke it. Then he had her thrown into a fiery furnace, but she was preserved by God's power. Seeing this, two soldiers, Victor and Sosthenes, came to faith in Christ, for which they were thrown to the wild beasts and thus finished their earthly course with glory. After that, Euphemia was thrown into a pit filled with water and all kinds of poisonous reptiles, but she made the sign of the Cross over the water as she went into the pit, and remained unharmed. She was finally thrown to the wild beasts and, with a prayer of thanksgiving, gave her soul into God's hands. Her parents buried her body. She suffered in the year 303, and entered into eternal joy. (St Euphemia is also commemorated on July 11th).
Euphemia lived at Chalcedon in the reign of Diocletian (284-305). Her parents were rich and devout and brought her up in the love of Christ. At that time, Priscus became Proconsul of Asia. He was an enthusiastic devotee of Mars, and ordered all the inhabitants of the Province to come to Chalcedon to celebrate the feast of his god, under pain of death. As a result, Christians fled in small groups to isolated houses or to the deserts in order to escape the tyrant and safeguard their faith. Saint Euphemia was among those who went into hiding.
They were soon discovered and brought before the Proconsul, who tried to persuade them to sacrifice by flattering their youth and good sense. “Do not waste your time and your words on us,” the Saint answered him. “We are people endowed with reason, for whom it would be the greatest disgrace to abandon the one true God, the Maker of heaven and earth, in order to worship dumb, senseless idols. We are not afraid of torments you threaten us with. They will be easy for us to bear and will show the power of our God.”
These words enraged the Proconsul, and he had Euphemia and her companions tortured continuously for twenty days. Finding their faith completely unshaken, and seeing that Euphemia was the leading spirit of the group, he ordered her limbs to be crushed by iron wheels. But the Martyr called upon the help of God and was discovered to be completely unscathed. Then she was cast into a furnace with flames forty feet high, but God came to Euphemia’s aid there also, and sent an angel who drew the flames away from her. Seeing this miracle, the executioners Victor and Sosthenes turned to Christ, and died as Martyrs some days later. The Saint had many more torments to endure, from which God each time delivered her, showing how much stronger Grace is than any torture devised by man. In the end, she was thrown to the beasts, and gave up her soul to God through the mere bite of a bear.
When the persecution of Diocletian ended, the Christians laid Saint Euphemia’s relics in a golden sarcophagus, placed within a church that was dedicated to her. Her relics attracted crowds of pilgrims for centuries. They were moved to Constantinople in 616 at the time of the Persian invasions, and remain intact to this day in the church of the Patriarchate at the Phanar. The feast day of Saint Euphemia is celebrated on September 16.
Portions of the preceding text are from “The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church” by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, and translated from the French by Christopher Hookway
Saint s Lucy (Widow) and Her Spiritual Son Geminianus
In peace, O Christ, your servant Lucy passed, entering into a place of peace.
Full of courage the Martyr Geminianus, staunchly endured beheading by the sword.
Saint Lucy was a wealthy Roman lady who was a widow of thirty-six years when the persecution of Diocletian (284 - 304) and Maximian (286 - 305) broke out in 303. Therefore she was seventy-five years old when her son Eutropus, who was darkened by idolatry, denounced her as a Christian and had her brought before Diocletian.
Lucy boldly confessed her faith in Christ before the emperor, and reproved him for worshiping idols in vain. For this she was placed inside a cauldron of burning pitch, in which despite her feeble age, she endured for three days. When Diocletian heard that she was still alive, he ordered her to be dragged around the city, with weights loaded on her body, while she was insulted by the populace.
When Lucy was paraded by the house of Geminianus, the statues of Roman gods in his home shattered miraculously and a dove made the sign of the Cross over the head of Geminianus. He followed Lucy, asking for instruction in the Christian faith as well as baptism. For this he too was brought before the emperor and imprisoned with Lucy, whom she instructed and took as her spiritual son. A priest named Protasius helped him with his request for baptism, and seventy-five people were converted to Christianity by the example of Geminianus.
After three months in prison, an Angel of the Lord , conveyed Lucy and Geminianus to Taormina in Sicily and from there to Mendilas, where they converted many pagans to Christianity. And when the persecution came to the faithful of that region, Lucy took refuge in the mountains, where she delivered her soul in peace to the Lord, while Geminianus accomplished his martyrdom by being beheaded.
I think of all the women religious in the United States who touch countless lives, alleviate the suffering of so many, strive to offer a voice to the voiceless, remember the forgotten, care for those most in need, and focus their lives on the greater good of all God's people, without concern or regard for what they could receive in return.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
I know that the cross is a token of love, and earnest of forgiveness, and that love which is not fed and nourished by the cross is not true love but merely a flash in the pan.
Divine Mercy Reflection
Reflections on Notebook Four: 237-262
We continue to the fourth notebook that Saint Faustina filled with reflections and revelations from Jesus. As we enter into this notebook, allow yourself to seek God in the silence. This chapter begins with Saint Faustina revealing that she was experiencing a “dark night” (Diary #1235). She lacked the sensory feelings of closeness to God. By analogy, it would be as if you were in a dark room filled with treasures and someone told you that all the treasures of this room were yours. You could not see them but you trusted the person who spoke about all that was around you. Knowledge of these treasures filled your mind even though the darkness hid them from your eyes.
So it is with God. Saint Faustina loved our Lord with all her heart and with every beat of her heart. She knew His closeness and love. But it appears that she could not sense this through her human senses. This gift of darkness allowed her to enter into a relationship with God on a spiritual level far deeper.
Seek this depth of relationship with God as you read through this chapter. Move beyond a desire to feel close to God and allow yourself to become close to God. He wants to enter your heart on a much deeper level than you ever knew possible. Be open to the newness of a relationship shrouded in darkness and allow the Lord to communicate His Mercy to you on this new level of love.
Reflection 259: The Beauty of the Humble Soul
What is it that makes someone beautiful? More than anything else it is the virtue of humility. Humility is exceptionally attractive. Though some may not be that impressed with the humble soul at first, over time, humility will draw even the most arrogant and self-centered person to itself. It’s hard to ignore the deep attractiveness of a humble soul because God is intimately present in that person. In fact, it could almost be said that God would do anything that a humble soul asks. It’s as if humility imposes an obligation upon God to bestow extraordinary graces through their lowly heart. Humility is a complete self-emptying of oneself before God and others. The result is that the person “disappears” and all that is left is God. God shines through the humble more radiantly than the person filled with the greatest talents. Humble yourself before God. The lower you go, the more God shines through and the more His Mercy is bestowed (See Diary #1306).
Do you seek to be humble? Or do you tend to exert yourself and make yourself the center of attention? The irony is that, as the Scripture says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 14:11). So many of the great saints are perfect examples of this in that their focus was love of God and love of others, but in the end these great saints were often lifted high for others to see. Seek to be one of those great saints by humbling yourself this day. Ponder humility and convince yourself of its value. Through it the beauty and Mercy of God will shine forth.
Lord, I know I am full of pride at times and that pride keeps me from admitting this fact. Please humble me and help me to lower myself before Your infinite majesty. Give me the grace to seek you above all things and to give You all the glory and honor. Jesus, I trust in You.