Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Saints Soter and Caius, Popes and Martyrs

The palms of two martyred Popes are intertwined and grace this day of the Calendar. Soter suffered for Christ in the second, and Caius in the third century; a hundred years separate them; and yet we have the same energy of faith, the same jealous fidelity to keep intact the depositum left by Christ to his Church. What human society ever existed that produced heroes for century after century? The Society, however, which was founded by Christ—in other words, the Church—is based on that traditional devotedness which consists in laying down one’s life for the faith. And if so, we may be sure that the spirit of martyrdom would show itself in them that were the Heads and Fathers of this Society. The first thirty successors of St. Peter paid dearly for the honor of the Supreme Pontificate; they were martyrs. How grand the throne of our Risen Jesus, surrounded as it is by all these Kings clad in their triumphant scarlet robes!

Soter was the immediate successor of Anicetus, whose feast we kept on the 17th of this month. Time has effaced the details of his life. Eusebius, however, gives us a fragment of a letter written by St. Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, wherein thanks are expressed to the Pontiff for the alms he sent to the faithful of that Church during a famine. An Apostolic Letter was sent with these alms; and St. Dionysius tells us that it was read in the assemblies of the faithful, together with the one addressed to the same Church in the preceding century by St. Clement. The Roman Pontiffs have ever united charity to their fidelity in preserving pure the deposit of our faith. With regard to Caius, he suffered death in the terrible persecution under Diocletian: and little more than a mere mention of his name is given in the annals of Christian Rome. We cannot, therefore, be surprised at the brevity wherewith the Liturgy speaks of these two martyred Popes. We subjoin the Lessons given in the Breviary.

Soter, Fundis in Campania natus, sancivit ne sacræ virgines vasa sacra et pallas attingerent, neve thuris ministerio in Ecclesia uterentur. Idem statuit ut Christi corpus in Cœna Domini sumeretur ab omnibus, iis exceptis, qui propter grave peccatum id facere prohiberentur. Sedit in Pontificatu annos tres, menses undecim, dies decem et octo: martyrio coronatur sub Marco Aurelio imperatore, et in cœmeterio, quod postea Callisti dictum est, sepelitur, more majorum, mense decembri, creatis presbyteris decem et octo, diaconis novem, episcopis per diversa loca undecim.

Soter was born at Fondi, in Campania. He passed a decree, forbidding virgins consecrated to God to touch the sacred vessels and palls, or to exercise the office of thurifer in the Church. He also decreed, that on Maundy Thursday the Body of Christ should be received by all, excepting those who were forbidden to do so by reason of some grievous sin. His pontificate lasted three years, eleven months, and eighteen days. He was crowned with martyrdom under the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and was buried in the cemetery which was afterwards called the Cemetery of Callixtus. In the month of December, according to the custom observed by his precedessors, he ordained eighteen priests, nine deacons, and eleven bishops for divers places.

Caius Dalmata, et genere Diocletiani imperatoris, constituit ut his Ordinum et honorum gradibus in Ecclesia ad episcopatum ascenderetur: ostiarii, lectoris, exorcistæ, acolythi, subdiaconi, diaconi, presbyteri. Hic Diocletiani crudelitatem in Christianos fugiens, aliquendiu in spelunca delituit: verum octo post annis una cum Gabino fratre martyrii coronam consecutus est, cum sedisset annos duodecim, menses quatuor, dies quinque, creatis mense decembri presbyteris viginti quinque, diaconis octo, episcopis quinque. Sepultus est in cœmeterio Callisti, decimo Kalendas maii. Ejus memoriam Urbanus Octavus in Urbe renovavit, dirutam ecclesiam restituit, Titulo, Statione et ipsius reliquiis decoravit.

Caius was a native of Dalmatia, and a relation of the Emperor Diocletian. He decreed that the following ecclesiastical Orders or honors should precede the ordination of a bishop: door-keeper, lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, priest. He concealed himself for some time in a cave, in order to escape the cruelty exercised against the Christians by Diocletian: but after eight years, he, together with his brother Gabinus, received the crown of martyrdom. He governed the Church twelve years, four months and five days. He ordained in the month of December twenty-five priests, eight deacons, and five bishops. He was buried in the Cemetery of Callixtus, on the 10th of the Kalends of May (April 22). Urban the Eighth revived his memory in Rome, restored his Church, which was in ruins, and honored it with a Title, a Station, and the relics of the Saint himself.

O holy Pontiffs! you are of the number of those who went through the great tribulation, and passed through fire and water, to the eternal shores of heaven. The thought of Jesus’ victory over death gave you courage: you remembered how his Passion was followed by a glorious Resurrection. By imitating him in laying down your lives for your sheep, you have taught us how we also should think no sacrifice too great to be made for our faith. Obtain for us this heroic courage. Baptism has numbered us among the soldiers of Christ; confirmation has given us the spirit of fortitude; we must then be ready for battle. It may be that, even in our own times, a persecution may rage against the Church; at all events, we have to fight against ourselves, the spirit of the world, and Satan; support us by your prayers. You were once the Fathers of the Christian people; you are still animated with the pastoral charity which then filled your hearts. Protect us, and make us loyal to the God whose cause was so dear to you when here on earth.

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