January 16, 2021: POPE ST. MARCELLUS I
January 16, 2021: ST. MARCELLUS I, POPE AND MARTYR
Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, O Lord. And hast placed him over the works of thy hands.
Mercifully hear, O Lord, we beseech thee, the prayers of thy people that we may be assisted by the merits of blessed Marcellus, thy Martyr and Bishop, the feast of whose sufferings we celebrate with joy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
The name of Marcellus is brought before us by the Calendar to-day—he was a successor of the glorious Hyginus in the papacy, and in martyrdom, and their Feasts fall in the same season of the year. Each Christmastide shows us these two Pontiffs offering their Keys in homage to our Jesus, the invisible Head of the Church they governed. In a few days hence, we shall find our Christmas list of Saints giving us the name of a third Pope and Martyr—Fabian. These three valiant Vicars of Christ are like the three generous Magi—they offered their richest presents to the Emmanuel, their blood and their lives.
Marcellus governed the Church at the close of the last general Persecution. A few months after his death, the tyrant Maxentius was vanquished by Constantine, and the Cross of Christ glittered in triumph on the Labarum of the Roman Legions. The time for Martyrdom was, therefore, very short; but Marcellus was in time; he shed his blood for Christ, and won the honour of standing in Stephen's company over the Crib of the Divine Infant, waving his palm-branch in his venerable hand. He withstood the tyrant Emperor, who bade him abdicate the majesty of the supreme Pontificate, and this in the very City of Rome; for Rome was to be the capital of another King—of Christ—who, in the person of his Vicar, would take possession of it, and her old Masters, the Cӕsars, were to make Byzantium their Rome. It is three hundred years since the decree of Cӕsar-Augustus ordered the census of the world to be taken, which brought Mary to Bethlehem, and where she gave birth to an humble Babe; and now, the Empire of that Babe has out-grown the Empire of the Cӕsars, and its victory is upon the point of being proclaimed. After Marcellus, we shall have Eusebius; after Eusebius, Melchiades; and Melchiades will see the triumph of the Church.
The Acts of Marcellus are thus given in the Lessons of his Feast.
Marcellus was a Roman, and governed the Church from the reign of Constantius and Galerius to that of Maxentius. It was by his counsel that a Roman Matron, named Lucina, made the Church of God the heir of all her property. He established in the City, five and twenty Titles, as so many districts, for the administration of baptism and penance to Pagans converted to the Christian religion, and for the providing burial to the Martyrs. All this irritated Maxentius, and he threatened Marcellus with severe punishment, unless he laid down his Pontificate, and offered sacrifice to the idols.
Marcellus heeded not the senseless words of man, and was, therefore, sent to the stables, there to take care of the beasts, which were kept at the public expense. In this place Marcellus spent nine months, fasting and praying without ceasing, and visiting by his letters the Churches he could not visit in person. He was thence delivered by some of his clergy, and was harboured by the blessed Lucina, in whose house he dedicated a Church, which is now called the Church of St. Marcellus. Here did the Christians assemble for prayer, and the blessed Marcellus preach.
Maxentius, coming to hear these things, ordered that Church to be turned into the stable for the beasts, and Marcellus to be made its keeper. Sickened by the foul atmosphere, and worn out by his many cares, he slept in the Lord. The blessed Lucina had his body buried in the Priscilla cemetery, on the Salarian Way, the seventeenth of the Calends of February (January 16). He sat five years, one month, and twenty-five days. He wrote a letter to the Bishops of the Antioch province, concerning the Primacy of the Church of Rome, which he proves ought to be called “the Head of the Churches.” In the same letter there occurs this passage, that no Council maybe rightly celebrated, without the authority of the Roman Pontiff. He ordained at Rome, in the month of December, twenty-five Priests, two Deacons, and twenty-one Bishops for various places.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – Christmas, Vol. II, Edition 1868; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
Pope St. Marcellus I, pray for us.