March 4, 2021: POPE ST. LUCIUS I
March 4, 2021: COMMEMORATION OF ST. LUCIUS I, POPE AND MARTYR
“Thou hast crowned him with glory and
honour: and hast set him over the works of thy hands.”
(Ps, viii. 6-7)
O God, who, by the yearly solemnity of blessed Lucius, thy Martyr and Bishop, rejoicest the hearts of thy faithful, mercifully grant that we, who celebrate his martyrdom, may enjoy his protection. 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.
St. Lucius was a Roman by birth, and one of the clergy of that church under SS. Fabian and Cornelius. This latter being crowned with martyrdom, in 252, St. Lucius succeeded him in the pontificate. The emperor Gallus having renewed the persecution of his predecessor Decius, at least in Rome, this holy pope was no sooner placed in the chair of St. Peter, but he was banished with several others, though to what place is uncertain. “Thus,” says St. Dionysius of Alexandria, “did Gallus deprive himself of the succor of heaven, by expelling those who every day prayed to God for his peace and prosperity.” St. Cyprian wrote to St. Lucius to congratulate him both on his promotion, and for the grace of suffering banishment for Christ. Our saint had been but a short time in exile, when he was recalled, with his companions, to the incredible joy of his people, who went out of Rome in crowds to meet him. St. Cyprian wrote him a second letter of congratulation on this occasion. He says, “He had not lost the dignity of martyrdom because he had the will, as the three children in the furnace, though preserved by God from death: this glory added a new dignity to his priesthood, that a bishop assisted at God's altar, who exhorted his flock to martyrdom by his own example as well as by his words. By giving such graces to his pastors, God showed where his true church was: for he denied the like glory of suffering to the Novatian heretics. The enemy of Christ only attacks the soldiers of Christ: heretics he knows to be already his own, and passes them by. He seeks to throw down those who stand against him.” He adds, in his own name and that of his colleagues: “We do not cease in our sacrifices and prayers (in sacrificiis et orationibus nostris) to God the Father, and to Christ his Son, our Lord, giving thanks and praying together, that he who perfects all may consummate in you the glorious crown of your confession, who perhaps has only recalled you that your glory might not be hidden; for the victim, which owes his brethren an example of virtue and faith, ought to be sacrificed in their presence.”
St. Cyprian, in his letter to pope Stephen, avails himself of the authority of St. Lucius against the Novatian heretics, as having decreed against them, that those who were fallen were not to be denied reconciliation and communion, but to be absolved when they had done penance for their sin. Eusebius says, he did not sit in the pontifical chair above eight months; and he seems, from the chronology of St. Cyprian's letters, to have sat only five or six, and to have died on the 4th of March, in 253, under Gallus, though we know not in what manner. The most ancient calendars mention him on the 5th of March, others, with the Roman, on the 4th, which seems to have been the day of his death, as the 5th that of his burial. His body was found in the Catacombs, and laid in the church of St. Cecily in Rome, where it is now exposed to public veneration by the order of [Pope] Clement VIII.
Life of Pope St. Lucius I, from the The Lives and the Times of the Popes.
It is probable that Saint Lucius I, a Roman priest, one of the companions in exile of Saint Cornelius, was elected at Civita Vecchia. He received the pontificate A.D. 252. He ordered that the ministers of the altars should never be chosen except from among men of the purest virtue, and that none of them should ever go unaccompanied into a house occupied by a woman, and that no priest should reside with a woman unless she should be of his nearest kindred. The penalty of the priest for breach of that regulation was deposition; for the woman, exclusion from the Church.
Lucius, who, like Saint Evaristus, was anxious for the greatness and dignity of the pontificate and the episcopacy, ordered that two priests and three deacons should constantly accompany the pontiff and the bishops as witnesses of their whole course of life. At the commencement of his pontificate, Lucius was sent into exile, but was soon afterwards recalled. This recall was caused, not by repentance, but merely by a caprice of cruelty, as the Eternal City was soon convinced. We are informed of this return by a letter of Saint Cyprian congratulating him. Lucius received that letter with a transport of joy. The motive of the congratulation was worthy of both saints. The African doubted not that God had granted the termination of an exile in an obscure place to bring back upon a more brilliant theatre one who was destined to perish before the people of Rome. Felicitations of this kind are to be found only in the epistles of Christians…
In two ordinations this pope created seven bishops, four priests, and four deacons. He governed the Church a little more than five months. He was interred in the cemetery of Saint Calixtus.
Taken from: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903;
The Lives and the Times of the Popes, Imprimatur 1911; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
Pope St. Lucius I, pray for us.