Today in the Latin Calendar we celebrate the Feast Day of SS. Nazarius and Celsus, Martyrs; Pope Victor I, Martyr; and Pope Innocent I. A story about this Feast Day can be found by Clicking Here.
Saint Nazarius and Celsus
Saint Nazarius, born in Rome, was the son of a pagan military man who held an important post in the Roman army. His mother, honored by the Church as Saint Perpetua, was a zealous Christian, instructed by Saint Peter or his disciples in the most perfect maxims of Christianity. Nazarius at the age of nine embraced the Faith with so much ardor that he copied in his own young life all the great virtues he saw in his teachers. He was baptized by Saint Linus, who would later become Pope. His pagan father was touched by his son’s virtue and seconded his project to go elsewhere to preach the Gospel. Out of zeal for the salvation of others, Nazarius therefore left Rome, his native city, and preached the Faith in many places with a fervor and disinterestedness fitting for a disciple of the Apostles.
Ten years later he is known to have been in Milan. He was driven from the city by the prefect after being whipped, and he left Italy to go to eastern Gaul or France. There a young boy by the name of Celsus was brought to him; his mother asked him to teach and baptize her son, and to take him for his disciple. The child was docile, and Nazarius did so; and they were never separated. When conversions multiplied, the local governor was alarmed and the apostle was again arrested, beaten and tortured. The wife of this governor was a Christian, however, and succeeded in obtaining liberty for the two young innocents. They were freed on condition they would not preach at this place any longer.
The two fervent Christians went to the Alpine villages where only a few solitary settlers braved the rigors of the climate and the altitude. They were not rebuffed and went as far as Embrun. There they built a chapel to the true God, and then continued on to Geneva, and to Treves where Saint Nazarius was arrested and imprisoned. Celsus followed him in tears, longing to share his captivity. When after a few days the prefect ordered them brought before him, they were treated cruelly but appeared before the magistrate, their faces shining with glory. The prodigies which followed caused fear in the pagans, and they were released and told to leave the region.
They returned to Milan, but were soon arrested there also. When they would not sacrifice to the gods of the empire, after several tortures in which God again preserved them, they were sentenced to be beheaded. They embraced one another in transports of joy and praise to God for this grace. It was during the reign of Nero, in about the year 56, that these generous Martyrs added their blood to the treasure of the Christians.
Their bodies were buried separately in a garden outside the city, where they were discovered and taken up by Saint Ambrose in 395. In the tomb of Saint Nazarius, whose decapitated body and head were perfectly conserved, a vial of the Saint’s blood was found as fresh and red as if it had been spilt that same day. Saint Ambrose conveyed the bodies of the two martyrs into the new church of the Apostles which he had just built. A woman was delivered of an evil spirit in their presence. Saint Ambrose sent some of these relics to Saint Paulinus of Nola, who received them with great respect as a most valuable gift, as he himself testifies, and placed them in honor at Nola.
Reflection: The martyrs died as the outcasts of the world, but are crowned by God with immortal honor. The glory of the world is false and transitory, an empty bubble or shadow, but that of virtue is true, solid, and permanent, even in the eyes of men.
Sources: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 9.
Pope St. Victor I
Pope St Victor, son of Felix, was born in Africa, in what is now known as Leptis Magna in Tunisia. His birth was probably in the second quarter of the second century. Nothing else is known of his younger years.
Victor's reign showed many changes in the Church. Culture had begun to change in the Roman Empire. No longer was Greek the standard language. Latin had taken precedence as the official language of the Church, as well. Victor, unlike many of his predecessors, wrote in Latin. During the time of peace in the Church, Victor acted more like a ruler than many of the previous bishops of Rome had been able to.
The mistress of Emperor Commodus was a woman named Marcia. It is said that she was a secret Christian, or at least, a woman tolerant towards Christianity. At one time, she called Victor to her, asking for a list of names of the Christians who had been sentenced to work in the mines of Sardinia. He gave her a list. This implies that the Christians were a tight group who knew each other well enough to keep tabs on one another. Marcia had them pardoned and sent the presbyter Hyacinthus, who may have been her advisor, to be sure they were released. One man, Callistus, chose to remain behind, possibly to preach to the pagans there. The Roman Christians sent him a stipend until he left.
At the time, not only was there peace, but Christians could practice their religion and serve in the imperial court, which some did. This was a time when the Church attracted men and women of position and wealth.
Victor sought to solidify Roman control of the Church throughout the Mediterranean. He proclaimed that Easter was to be celebrated only on Sunday, a continuing battle, if you have read other entries on the popes. Many Asian Christians had moved to Rome and were celebrating Easter as they did at home, following the Passover dates, rather than having Easter on a specific day. Victor requested the Asian bishops to send him a letter indicating how many people followed this custom. It was the great majority. Victor was not pleased and he went so far as to demand that the Asian churches follow his rule. He set up the first synod of Rome to deal with this. But, Asian churches chose to ignore Victor and continued as they were despite his threat of excommunication. Ireneas, bishop of Lyons, and others wrote to Victor asking him to not be so harsh and demanding and to keep the other churches within the fold. There are no letters of response from Victor, but he must have relented, because the Asian churches remained.
There was a presbyter who had known St. Polycarp and was probably taught by him. The man's name was Florinus. He began to teach questionable doctrine and eventually Gnostic heresy. Ireneas wrote two treatises against Forinus' preaching then notified Victor of the man's work. Florinus lost his place in the Church.
Another man, Theodotus, came to Rome from Asia, and preached that Jesus was just a normal man until he was baptized and was endowed with the Spirit. As much as Victor tried to excommunicate him, Theodotus continued his preaching. He and his followers developed a schismatic group which continued for a while.
In addition to these two, the Montanists were still troubling the churches of Asia with their odd prophecies, indicating that marriage was as much a sin as adultery, and on and on. At first, from a distance, Victor thought them to be just zealously pious. But when some came to speak to him, he realized his mistake and ordered excommunication.
In addition to Victor's writings about the paschal question, he was known to have written a treatise against dice throwers, or gamblers.
Considering the attitudes of the government at the time, Victor probably did not die a martyr, but is held up as a confessor of the Church.
St. Victor, pray for us!
Pope St Innocent I
Saint Innocent's date of birth unknown. He was a native of Albano, Italy, His father was called Innocentius. He grew up among the Roman clergy. Before his elevation to the Chair of Peter, very little is known concerning his life. After the death of Anastasius (Dec., 401) he was unanimously chosen Bishop of Rome by the clergy and people. Saint Innocent I, reigned from 401 to 417.
The siege and capture of Rome by the Goths under Alaric (408-10) occurred in his pontificate. When, at the time of the first siege, the barbarian leader had declared that he would withdraw only on condition that the Romans should arrange a peace favourable to him. An embassy of the Romans went to Honorius, at Ravenna, to try, to make peace between him and the Goths. Pope Innocent also joined this embassy. But all his endeavours to bring about peace failed. The Goths then recommenced the siege of Rome, so that the pope and the envoys were not able to return to the city. Alaric proceeded to sack Rome in 410. From the beginning of his pontificate, Innocent often acted as head of the whole Church, both East and West. He took the responsibility of rebuilding the Rome and showed great charity in helping it's victims.
His decrees became law in Spain, Gaul and Italy. He demanded that the Eastern Bishops re-install St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, who had been unjustly deposed. He censured the Bishop of Jerusalem for his negligence. He ratified the condemnation of the Pelagian Bishops of Africa who denied the need of grace for salvation.
In the Origenist and Pelagian controversies, the pope's authority was invoked. St. Jerome and the nuns of Bethlehem were attacked in their convents by brutal followers of Pelagius. A deacon was killed, and a part of the buildings was set on fire. John, Bishop of Jerusalem, who was on bad terms with Jerome, owing to the Origenist controversy, did nothing to prevent these outrages. Through Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, Innocent sent St. Jerome a letter of condolence, in which he informed him that he would employ the influence of the Holy See to repress such crimes. Jerome only needed to give the names of the guilty ones, and then Pope Innocent would proceed further in the matter. The pope at once wrote an earnest letter of exhortation to the Bishop of Jerusalem, and reproached him with negligence of his pastoral duty.
The pope was also compelled to take part in the Pelagian controversy. In 415, on the proposal of Orosius, the Synod of Jerusalem brought the matter of the orthodoxy of Pelagius before the Holy See. The synod of Eastern bishops was held at Diospolis (Dec., 415), had been deceived by Pelagius with regard to his actual teaching and had acquitted him, approached Innocent on behalf of the heretic. On the report of Orosius concerning the proceedings at Diospolis, the African bishops assembled in synod at Carthage, in 416. They confirmed the condemnation which had been pronounced in 411 against Cælestius, who shared the views of Pelagius. The bishops of Numidia did likewise in the same year in the Synod of Mileve.
Both synods reported their transactions to the pope and asked him to confirm their decisions. Soon after this, five African bishops, among them St. Augustine, wrote a personal letter to Innocent regarding their own position in the matter of Pelagianism. Innocent in his reply praised the African bishops, because, mindful of the authority of the Apostolic See, they had appealed to the Chair of Peter. Innocent rejected the teachings of Pelagius and confirmed the decisions drawn up by the African Synods (Epp. xxvii-xxxiii). The decisions of the Synod of Diospolis were rejected by the pope. Pelagius now sent a confession of faith to Innocent, which, however, was only delivered to his successor, for Innocent died before the document reached the Holy See. He died 12 March, 417. He was buried in a basilica above the catacomb of Pontianus, and was venerated as a saint. He was a very energetic and active man, and a highly gifted ruler, who fulfilled admirably the duties of his office.
Within Our Grasp:
My message here is this: An obedient, faithful, and joyful life is within the grasp of any parent who wants it, no matter what their background or religious pedigree.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
We cannot and must not stop on the path of divine love.
The Sins of all the Damned
If I had the sins of all the damned weighing on my conscience, I would not have doubted God's mercy but, with a heart crushed to dust, I would have thrown myself into the abyss of Your mercy. I believe, O Jesus, that You would not reject me, but would absolve me through the hand of Your representative. - (Diary No. 1318)