+ What little information we have about Pope Callistus I comes to us from his political rival, the antipope Saint Hippolytus.
+ Callistus was born into slavery but after obtaining freedom, was ordained a deacon by Pope Zephyrinus and supervisory power over the clergy of Rome. Because of Zephyrinus’ own intellectual and administrative limitations, Callistus exerted enormous influence and was elected to succeed him in the year 217.
+ The five years of Callistus’s papacy were largely defined by his constant battles with Hippolytus and his followers who accused the pope of doctrinal deviations.
+ Unlike Hippolytus, Callistus believed that saints and sinners grew up together in the Church. It was the Church’s duty to offer reconciliation to anyone seeking forgiveness of sins committed after baptism.
+ Honored as a martyr, Callistus died in the year 222. Although his tomb was lost for centuries, it was discovered in 1960 in the remains of a 4th century oratory.
+ Because a famous catacomb is named for Saint Callistus, he is often honored as the patron of cemetery workers.
Saint Hippolytus, the rival of Pope Saint Callistus, was a highly regarded priest of Rome. He became involved in a number of the theological debates of that age, and advocated for a strict form of Christianity. He became head of a schismatic group of Christians that claimed he was the true bishop of Rome (making him one of the first “anti-popes”). Exiled with Pope Saint Pontian during the persecution of the Emperor Maximinus Thrax, Hippolytus was reconciled to the Church and suffered martyred around the year 236. Honored as a martyr, he and Saint Pontian are honored with a common commemoration on August 13.
“Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing it not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”—1 Peter 5:2-4
O God, who raised up Pope Saint Callistus the First
to serve the Church
and attend devoutly to Christ’s faithful departed,
strengthen us, we pray, by his witness to the faith,
so that, rescued from the slavery of corruption,
we may merit an incorruptible inheritance.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.