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St. Callistus I

St. Callistus I

Feast date: Oct 14

Pope Callistus I is celebrated in churches throughout the world as a saint and martyr on October 14. The saint caused a major controversy, including a schism that lasted almost two decades, by choosing to emphasize God's mercy in his ministry. However, the early Pope's model of leadership has endured, and his martyrdom in the year 222 confirmed his example of holiness.

Because no completely trustworthy biography of Pope Callistus I exists, historians have been forced to rely on an account by his contemporary Hippolytus of Rome. Although Hippolytus himself was eventually reconciled to the Church and canonized as a martyr, he vocally opposed the pontificate of Callistus and three of his successors, to the point of usurping papal prerogatives for himself (as the first “antipope”). Nevertheless, his account of Callistus' life and papacy provides important details.

According to Hippolytus' account, Callistus – whose year of birth is not known - began his career as a highly-placed domestic servant, eventually taking responsibility for his master's banking business. When the bank failed, Callistus received the blame, and attempted to flee from his master. Being discovered, he was demoted to serve as a manual laborer in Rome. Thus, under inauspicious circumstances, Callistus came as a slave to the city where he would later serve as Pope.

Matters went from bad to worse when he was sent to work in the mines, possibly for causing a public disturbance, if Hippolytus' account is to be trusted. However, Callistus may also simply have been sentenced due to a persecution of Christians, as he was among the many believers eventually freed on the initiative of Pope St. Victor I.

During the subsequent reign of Pope Zephyrinus, Callistus became a deacon and the caretaker of a major Roman Christian cemetery (which still bears his name as the “Cemetery of St. Callistus”), in addition to advising the Pope on theological controversies of the day. He was a natural candidate to follow Zephyrinus, when the latter died in 219.

Hippolytus, an erudite Roman theologian, accused Pope Callistus of sympathizing with heretics, and resented the new Pope's clarification that even the most serious sins could be absolved after sincere confession. The Pope's assertion of divine mercy also scandalized the North African Christian polemicist Tertullian, already in schism from the Church in Carthage, who also erroneously held that certain sins were too serious to be forgiven through confession.

Considered in light of this error, Hippolytus' catalogue of sins allegedly “permitted” by Callistus – including extramarital sex and early forms of contraception - may in fact represent offenses which the Pope never allowed, but which he was willing to absolve in the case of penitents seeking reconciliation with the Church.

Even so, Callistus could not persuade Hippolytus' followers of his rightful authority as Pope during his own lifetime. The Catholic Church, however, has always acknowledged the orthodoxy and holiness of Pope St. Callistus I, particularly since the time of his martyrdom – traditionally ascribed to an anti-Christian mob - in 222. 

St. Callistus' own intercession after death may also have made possible the historic reconciliation between his opponent Hippolytus, and the later Pope Pontian. The Pope and former antipope were martyred together in 236, and both subsequently canonized.

Blessed Carlo Acutis

Blessed Carlo Acutis | Image: Courtesy of Associazione Amica di Carlo Acutis
Image Courtesy of Associazione Amica di Carlo Acutis

Saint of the Day for October 14

(May 3, 1991 - October 12, 2006)
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Blessed Carlo Acutis' Story

Born in London and raised in Milan, Carlo’s wealthy parents were not particularly religious. Upon receiving his first communion at age seven, Carlo became a frequent communicant, making a point of praying before the tabernacle before or after every Mass. In addition to Francis of Assisi, Carlo took several of the younger saints as his models, including Bernadette Soubirous, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and Dominic Savio.

At school Carlo tried to comfort friends whose parents were undergoing divorce, as well as stepping in to defend disabled students from bullies. After school hours he volunteered his time with the city's homeless and destitute. Considered a computer geek by some, Carlo spent four years creating a website dedicated to cataloguing every reported Eucharistic miracle around the world. He also enjoyed films, comics, soccer, and playing popular video games.

Diagnosed with leukemia, Carlo offered his sufferings to God for the intentions of the sitting popeBenedict XVIand the entire Church. His longtime desire to visit as many sites of Eucharistic miracles as possible was cut short by his illness. Carlo died in 2006 and was beatified in 2020. As he had wished, Carlo was buried in Assisi at St. Mary Major’s “Chapel of the Stripping”, where Francis had returned his clothes to his father and began a more radical following of the Gospel.

Among the thousands present for Carlo’s beatification at Assisi’s Basilica of St. Francis were many of his childhood friends. Presiding at the beatification service, Cardinal Agostino Vallini praised Carlo as an example of how young people can use technology to spread the Gospel “to reach as many people as possible and help them know the beauty of friendship with the Lord.” His liturgical feast is celebrated on October 12.


Reflection

Carlo Acutis did not strive to become famous but rather to cooperate as generously as possible with God’s grace. That journey brought him many experiences, but they were all united by a burning desire to serve God and others as generously as possible.


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Christianity Is a Complete Way of Life

Christianity isn’t an abstract philosophy. It’s a complete way of life. Consequently, profession of belief in Christianity isn’t simply an intellectual nod of the head, but a commitment to live in such a way as to express concretely one’s convictions in the everyday world. Such engagement demands a sense of direction, a sense of individual mission and purpose. This is supplied by the particular vocation each of us is given. When we discover our own unique calling, regardless of what it may be, we find the spiritual true north by which to plot our course.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

God's Presence in Our Neighbors

The heart of Christianity is the great and incomprehensible truth that God’s true majesty, God’s authentic immensity, consists in God’s willingness to become lowly and forsaken, to pitch a tent among us and become one of us. God’s presence is sometimes revealed in lightning and thunder and smoke on Mount Sinai, but it’s much more likely to show up in the faces of our neighbors. And not just our respectable neighbors, either, but those whom we generally go out of our way to avoid: the poor, the ill, the imprisoned, the aged, the weak, and the despised. In their faces, if we but have eyes to see, we encounter God. In their lowliness and helplessness we discover the real majesty of a God of love and self-sacrifice.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

Our Physical Surroundings Are Holy

We who tend to think of nature as nothing more than a usable commodity can learn a great deal from Francis’s relationship with the environment. He teaches us the liberating truth that our physical surroundings are holy because they aren’t purely physical. Instead, they’re permeated through and through with the Spirit and beauty of God. In a mysterious way that the mind can’t fathom but the heart knows full well, we don’t just dwell in God’s world. In dwelling in God’s world, we also abide in God himself.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

Using Our Creativity for Others

A Christian celebration of humanity consists in lovingly midwifing our fellow humans into full being. One of our God-given endowments is creativity, the ability to cooperate with God in the inauguration of the kingdom. We’re called to use this creativity in nurturing our brothers and sisters as full members of that kingdom, and we do this by going out of our way to help them recognize and affirm themselves as images of God. In concrete terms, this means performing the acts of charity listed in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew: clothing the naked, tending the sick, visiting the imprisoned, giving food and drink to the hungry and thirsty. Celebrating the sheer existence of others often demands that we do the dirty work of easing the material burdens that inhibit them from arriving at a conscious appreciation of their own holiness.

—from the book Perfect Joy: 30 Days with Francis of Assisi  by Kerry Walters

Being in Love with God

Slavish imitation is not what holiness is about, but rather it’s about learning to love God in our own time and place with its own sensibilities and ways of following in the footsteps of Jesus with all our heart and mind and soul. It’s about doing and making choices commensurate with our own capacities, our own strength and/or weakness of mind and body. We don’t have to be nutty to be a saint, but being in love with God will sometimes move us to do things that others will consider nutty or unbalanced.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

Becoming a Portable Peacemaker

Mutual giving and receiving is, I believe, the bedrock of Franciscan peacemaking. By overcoming shame or fear, or whatever it is that is holding you back from reaching out to the poor and broken ones, you enter a startling world of sweetness of soul that is not just self-serving but that accomplishes a profound reconciliation of opposites that makes it possible to experience a new, unexpected bond with the other. And you want to stay there, not necessarily in that physical place but in that spiritual and psychological space where the lion and the lamb lie down together. Nor is the bond something static. It only endures if you continue to overcome new barriers, cross new and fearsome barriers so that you yourself become the place of reconciliation wherever you go. That kind of portable peacemaker was who St. Francis was.

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

Letting God Change Our Hearts

That is the Franciscan challenge in our own time: contemplative seeing, affective response, practical help, and sustained assistance as the way of restoring God’s house which is falling into ruins. It is Jesus’s own prescription for learning to love. In contemplative prayer we learn to love God who created all things and made them our brothers and sisters. And when we begin to see others for what they are in God’s eyes, we are moved to compassion. And when we then reach out to those of our brothers and sisters in distress, the love of God becomes the love of others, all of whom are beloved of God.

In responding, we ourselves become a story, not just an empty shell that hung around for a number of years and then disappeared, leaving behind no story of goodness worth telling because there was no significant act of the will to love our neighbor. So, repairing God’s house is not about stones and mortar as Francis once thought when he heard the voice of Christ. It’s about changing our hearts, or rather, letting God change our hearts, a process in which we become fruitful vessels of grace. For it is only repaired hearts that repair the house of God. It is only then that we can fruitfully “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis by Murray Bodo, OFM

 

Moved to Do God's Will

Absence was beginning to be replaced by presence, silence with voices. Or were the voices only in his head? Whatever. They moved him to act, to do positive things with his life, a pattern Francis would follow from then on. Once he knew God’s will, whether from some mystical voice or from listening to the scriptures, he would immediately try to live it out. He was filled with what theologians called, “devotion,” an alacrity in doing God’s will. And that is how Francis began to change. He knew now that Christ is to be found in unexpected places and people. He had experienced the abstract God in the person of Jesus Christ who was the incarnation of the God he thought had abandoned him. And he had experienced this Jesus in the most excluded and feared people of his time, the lepers who, instead of bad things, brought him the greatest good, Jesus Christ. And now he had heard the voice of this Christ. It came from his crucified image in an abandoned church. It was a voice that gave him his life’s task: “Go and repair my house, which, as you see, is falling into ruins.”

—from Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis