April 22, 2021: POPES SS. SOTER AND CAIUS
April 22, 2021: SS. SOTER AND CAIUS, POPES AND MARTYRS
Thy saints, O Lord, shall bless thee: they shall declare the glory of thy kingdom, Alleluia, Alleluia.
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the solemnity of blessed Martyrs and Bishops, Soter and Caius, may be a protection to us, and their venerable prayers recommend us to thy mercy. 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 Palms of two martyred Popes are intertwined and grace this day of the Calendar. Soter suffered for Christ in the second, and Caius in the third century; a hundred years separate them, and yet we have the same energy of faith, the same jealous fidelity to keep intact the depositum left by Christ to his Church. What human society ever existed, that produced heroes for century after century? The Society, however, which was founded by Christ,—in other words, the Church,—is based on that traditional devotedness, which consists in laying down one's life for the Faith. And if so, we may be sure that the spirit of Martyrdom would show itself in them that were the Heads and Fathers of this Society. The first thirty Successors of St. Peter paid dearly for the honour of the Supreme Pontificate;—they were Martyrs. How grand the Throne of our Risen Jesus, surrounded as it is by all these Kings clad in their triumphant scarlet robes!
Soter was the immediate successor of Anicetus, whose feast we kept on the 17th of this month. Time has effaced the details of his life. Eusebius, however, gives us a fragment of a Letter written by St. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, wherein thanks are expressed to the Pontiff for the alms he sent to the Faithful of that Church, during a famine. An Apostolic Letter was sent with these alms; and St. Dionysius tells us, that it was read in the assemblies of the Faithful, together with the one addressed to the same Church, in the preceding century, by St. Clement. The Roman Pontiffs have ever united charity to their fidelity in preserving pure the Deposit of our Faith. With regard to Caius, he suffered death in the terrible Persecution under Dioclesian; and little more than a mere mention of his name is given in the annals of Christian Rome. We cannot, therefore, be surprised at the brevity wherewith the Liturgy speaks of these two martyred Popes. We subjoin the Lessons given in the Breviary.
Soter was born at Fondi, in Campania. He passed a decree, forbidding Virgins consecrated to God to touch the sacred Vessels and Palls, or to exercise the office of Thurifer in the Church. He also decreed, that, on Maundy Thursday, the Body of Christ should be received by all, excepting those who were forbidden to do so by reason of some grievous sin. His Pontificate lasted three years, eleven months, and eighteen days. He was crowned with Martyrdom under the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and was buried in the Cemetery, which was afterwards called the Cemetery of Callixtus. In the month of December, according to the custom observed by his predecessors, he ordained eighteen Priests, nine Deacons, and eleven Bishops for divers places.
Caius was a native of Dalmatia, and a relation of the Emperor Dioclesian. He decreed that the following ecclesiastic Orders or honours should precede the ordination of a Bishop: Door-keeper, Lector, Exorcist, Acolyte, Subdeacon, Deacon, Priest. He, for some time, concealed himself in a cave, in order to escape the cruelty exercised against the Christians by Dioclesian: but after eight years, he, together with his brother Gabinus, received the crown of Martyrdom. He governed the Church twelve years, four months, and five days. He ordained in the month of December, twenty-five Priests, eight Deacons, and five Bishops. He was buried in the Cemetery of Callixtus, on the 10th of the Kalends of May (April 22nd). Urban the Eighth revived his memory in Rome, restored his Church, which was in ruins, and honoured it with a Title, a Station, and the relics of the Saint.
SS. SOTER AND CAIUS, POPES, MARTYRS.
St. Soter was raised to the papacy upon the death of St. Anicetus… By the sweetness of his discourses, he comforted all persons with the tenderness of a father, and assisted the indigent with liberal alms, especially those who suffered for the faith. He liberally extended his charities, according to the custom of his predecessors, to remote churches, particularly to that of Corinth, to which he addressed an excellent letter, as St. Dionysius of Corinth testifies in his letter of thanks, who adds that his letter was found worthy to be read for their edification on Sundays at their assemblies to celebrate the divine mysteries, together with the letter of St. Clement, Pope. St. Soter vigorously opposed the heresy of Montanus... See Eusebius, from whose ecclesiastical history these few circumstances are gleaned. In the Martyrologies this pope is styled a martyr.
St. Caius succeeded St Eutychian in the apostolic see, in 283. The church then enjoyed a calm, but was soon afterwards disturbed by a tumultuous persecution for two years, on the death of Carinus. St. Caius encouraged St. Sebastian and the other martyrs and confessors. However, to preserve himself for his flock, he withdrew for a time to avoid the fury of the storm. The ancient pontificals say he was of Dalmatia, and related to the emperor Dioclesian. Having sat twelve years, four months, and seven days, he died on the 21st of April, 296, and was interred on the 22nd, on which day his name is honoured in the Liberian Calendar. His sufferings obtained him the title of martyr, as Orsi takes notice.
What had not these primitive saints to suffer not only from the persecutions of infidel princes and magistrates, but also from the ignorance, stupidity, jealousy, and malice of many whom they laboured daily to gain to Christ, and from the manifold trials and dangers of so many souls in their dear flock whom they bore in their hearts, and whose sufferings they felt much more severely than their own! We are not to be surprised. — These were so many special effects of a most tender love and mercy in Him by whose providence these trials were sent them: they were the steps by which their souls were raised to the summit of perfect virtue. We perhaps daily meet with domestic persecutions and contradictions, and look upon them as obstacles to our progress in the way of perfection, as thorns in our road. They may, indeed, be called thorns, but they produce and guard the sweetest and most beautiful flowers of virtue. It is owing to our sloth, cowardice, and impatience; it is our fault if they are hindrances of what they are designed by God to advance and perfect in our souls. Virtues exercised in prosperity, which are fair to the eye, and applauded by men, are usually false or superficial. A perpetual spring would produce only leaves and flowers, and bring no fruit to maturity. To understand the incomparable value and merit of the little crosses of which we are so apt to complain, we must not lose sight of the saints. Those Christian heroes, of whom the world was not worthy, all suffered, and were persecuted many ways. These crosses both purchased and ensured to them their greatest crowns.
Taken from: The Liturgical
Year – The Paschal Time, Vol. II, Dublin, Edition 1871;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I, 1903; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Ss. Soter and Caius, pray for us.