Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Saint Callistus, from Criminal to Pope

St. Callistus was the criminal who became a Pope and today is his feast day.

Here is the link to the only known writing from him, the First Epistle of Pope Saint Callistus.

Here is an excerpt from the book, Saint of the Day (5th Revised Edition).

“The most reliable information about this saint comes from his enemy St. Hippolytus (August 13), 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…

“Some are of the opinion that, even from the little we know about him, Callistus may rank among the greatest popes.” (pp. 280-281)