Posted by: Fr Chris | August 13, 2018

Two saints who give us an example we need today!

Image result for st pontian and hippolytus tomb

SS Pontian and Hippolytus together 

An anti-pope is a man elected in opposition to the reigning pope, and the first one, oddly enough, is a canonized saint. The short biography below of Pope Saint Pontian and his one-time opponent, Saint Hippolytus, gives the background and how they were reunited, in the fearsome Roman mines of Sardinia, where thousands died. Hippolytus, by the way, was the leading theologian in Italy in the third century.

Image result for st pontian  tomb

From Michael Heinlein:

Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus
— Aug. 13 —

The joint celebration of these saints since 1969 is a lesson in forgiveness and an example of how enemies can become friends. Not only did the Church face threats from the hostile Roman Empire in the third century, but also the internal unity of the Church was threatened by heresy. The theologian St. Hippolytus took things to an extreme when he believed that the bishops of Rome were not strong enough in their defense of the Faith against various heresies. Elected as an alternative bishop of Rome, he became the first antipope, attacking his rivals, popes Urban I and Pontian. When Pope St. Pontian was arrested and sent to a slave camp, St. Hippolytus soon followed the same fate. Before their martyrdom they reconciled, and Pope Fabian brought their relics together in Rome on Aug. 13, 236.

To resume my post: here we have an example of a divided Church. The diocese of Rome was split over which bishop to follow, and each man had their advocates. Hippolytus was convinced he was right, Pontian was convinced he was right, and each was convinced the other was wrong. Hippolytus felt that Pontian was too soft in how he restored sinners and lapsed Christians to the Church, and that a previous pope was not vigorous enough in defeating heresy. He was so convinced that he was right, that he was willing to rupture the Body of Christ rather than accept the popes’ acts, because after all, “I’m right.”

But in their common circumstance of suffering for Christ our Lord, they were able to set aside their differences, and truly reconcile. Survivors testified to their authentic forgiveness of each other, and that Hippolytus was restored to the communion of the Church. Thus, Pope Fabian enshrined their relics together in the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus circa 237 AD. Since 1969 their feast day has been celebrated jointly.

In these days of harsh words and condemnations of the “other” as being wrong, these two give a great example of how we should set aside our differences and be able to talk to each other! They not only talked to each other, they embraced and shared Holy Communion together. Would that Democrats, Republicans, and everybody else who is given over to divisive language would follow their example and be able to sit down and break bread with one another respectfully!

Holy martyrs Pontian and Hippolytus, pray for us!


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