ABOUT ST. CALLISTUS
God is with Us, God Loves Us. We Share in His Power.
Feast Day: October 14th
Paintron Saint of Cemetery Workers
Pope St. Callixtus I was the sixteenth pope of the Catholic Church during a difficult time in Church history in terms of Roman rule, doctrinal controversies, and persecution. Pope St. Callixtus had to state the mysteries of the faith in a way that preserved the mercy of Christ while also upholding, amidst great debate, the ideal of conversion and self-discipline. Before becoming Pope, he was a slave in Rome as well as the overseer of a Christian burial ground. It is believed that he was martyred in 223 AD.
Callistus was a slave, born in late second-century Rome. Callistus' Christian master put him in charge of a bank that held money for the local community. Callistus irresponsibly lost the money, either through dishonest investment or careless stewardship, and fled the wrath of his master.
When pursuers closed in, he jumped into the sea, but was caught and sentenced to work in a mill. The people who had lost money from his bad investments wanted Callistus returned so that he could recover their funds. Facing mounting pressure to return the lost money, Callistus tried to collect from other debtors, who promptly initiated a brawl. After this misdemeanor, Callistus was sentenced to work in the mines with other Christian prisoners.
Mercifully, Emperor Commodus granted amnesty to many imprisoned Christians in the mines, and Callistus was released. He made his way back to Rome and re-established himself in the community. Pope Victor, I gave him a pension, and Callistus' health, taxed from years of hard labor, began to recover.
When St. Zephyrinus was elected pope in 199, he put Callistus in charge of a public cemetery for Christians. This was one of the first pieces of property in Rome that the Church owned, and unlike his earlier experience with stewarding money, Callistus managed the cemetery wisely. This cemetery eventually became known as the Catacombs of Saint Callistus on the Via Appia Antica. There are at least nine popes now buried there. After Callistus' excellent stewardship of this cemetery, Zephyrinus asked Callistus to serve as one of his counselors, and he ordained him a deacon. The two became close friends.
When Zephyrinus died, Callistus was elected pope in 217 by most of the Christians in Rome, according to the custom of the time. He was merciful in dealing with sinners, reversing excommunications and working to preserve orthodox Christianity against various schisms and heresies. He has also been credited with the official implementation of the Ember Day fasts.