April 26, 2022: POPES SS. CLETUS AND MARCELLINUS
April 26, 2022: SS. CLETUS AND MARCELLINUS, POPES AND MARTYRS
Thy Saints, O Lord, shall flourish like the lily, Alleluia; and they shall be in thy sight like the sweet perfume of the balsam. Alleluia.
Grant, O Lord, that the glorious confession of the blessed Martyrs and Bishops, Cletus and Marcellinus, may strengthen us, and their pious intercession continually defend us. 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.
Two bright stars appear this day on the Ecclesiastical Cycle, proclaiming the glory of our Jesus, the Conqueror of death. Again, they are two Pontiffs, and Martyr-Pontiffs. Cletus leads us to the very commencement of the Church, for he was a disciple of Peter, and his second Successor in the See of Rome. Marcellinus was a witness of the great Persecution under Dioclesian; he governed the Church on the eve of her triumph. Let us honour these two fathers of Christendom, who laid down their lives in its defence; and let us offer their merits to Jesus, who supported them by his grace, and cheered them with the hope, that, one day, they would share in his Resurrection.
In the short notice on the life of St. Marcellinus, the reader will meet with a circumstance, which, by some learned historians, is rejected as utterly untrue, whilst, by others equally learned, it is considered as authentic. The holy Pontiff is said to have flinched before his persecutors, and to have gone so far as to offer incense to the idols; but the statement adds, that he repaired his fault by a second and courageous profession of his faith, which secured for him the crown of Martyrdom. The plan of our work does not admit critical disquisitions; we shall therefore not attempt to clear up this difficulty of history; it is enough for us to know that all are agreed upon the Martyrdom of this holy Pope. At the time when the Lesson, which is now in the Breviary, was drawn up, —the fall of Marcellinus was believed as a fact; later on, it was called in question, and the arguments used against it are by no means to be despised; the Church, however, has not thought well to change the Lesson as it first stood, the more so as questions of this nature do not touch upon Faith. We scarcely need to remind the reader, that the fall of Marcellinus, supposing it to be a fact, would be no argument against the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. The Pope cannot teach error, when he addresses himself to the Church; but he is not impeccable in his personal conduct.
The following is the account given on St Cletus by the Liturgy.
Cletus, the son of Emilianus, was a Roman, of the fifth Region, and of the Patrician street. He governed the Church during the reigns of the emperors Vespasian and Titus. Agreeably to the order given him by the Prince of the Apostles, he established five and twenty priests in the City. He was the first, who, in his letters, used those words: “Health and Apostolic benediction.” Having put the Church into admirable order, and having governed it twelve years, seven months, and two days, he was crowned with martyrdom under the emperor Domitian, in the second Persecution following that of Nero, and was buried in the Vatican, near the body of St. Peter.
The Life of St. Marcellinus is thus given in the Breviary.
Marcellinus, a Roman by birth, was overcome by fear in the terrible persecution under the emperor Dioclesian, and offered incense to the idols of the gods. But such was his sorrow for his fall, that he immediately repaired to Sinuessa, where a council of several Bishops was being held, and, entering in, covered with sackcloth, and shedding floods of tears, he publicly confessed his sin. No one, however, dared to condemn him, but all, with one voice, exclaimed: “Judge thyself by thine own lips, not by our judgment; for the first See is judged by no one.” They added, that Peter, too, sinned through the same weakness, and by the like tears, obtained pardon from God.
Having returned to Rome, Marcellinus went to the emperor, and severely reproached him for having driven him to so great a crime. Whereupon, the emperor ordered him to be beheaded, together with three other Christians, Claudius, Cyrinus, and Antoninus. Their bodies, by the emperor's order, were left six and thirty days without burial, after which, the blessed Marcellus, (in consequence of his receiving, whilst asleep, an admonition from St. Peter,) had them buried in the Cemetery of Priscilla, on the Salarian Road: at which burial were present many Priests and Deacons, who, with torches in their hands, sang hymns, in honour of the Martyrs. Marcellinus governed the Church seven years, eleven months, and twenty-three days. During this period, he gave two Ordinations in December, at which four were made Priests, and five Bishops for divers places.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year – The Paschal Time, Vol. II, Dublin, Edition 1871; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
Ss. Cletus and Marcellinus, pray for us.