Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Saint Calixtus

In Rome, around the year 190, a man named Carpophorus set up a bank for fellow Christians, in particular, poor widows. He placed in administration a slave named Calixtus who had experience managing money. It was the worst choice he could have possibly made.

Calixtus made terrible investment decisions, and worst of all habitually helped himself to the bank funds. The money was gone in no time at all, and the widows found themselves with no money at all. To escape punishment, Calixtus took the first ship out of port. However, Carpophorus chased after the slave and caught up with him in Portus, captured him and sent him back to Rome and hard labor chained to a gristmill and sentenced to work until he died.

Strangely, after hearing of his fate, the destitute patrons of the bank asked Carpophorus to release Calixtus and ask him to recover some of the money he had lost. No sooner was Calixtus out of his chains when he got into more trouble. The following Saturday, he stormed into Rome's Synagogue, disrupting the sabbath service, and demanded money from the Jewish congregation. A brawl ensued and Calixtus was dragged to court and charged with desecrating a holy place and disturbing the peace, in addition to being a Christian. He was sentanced quickly and given a scourgeing then sent off to the Mines of Sardinia, a virtual death sentance. Life expectancy in the mines for a healthy man in his prime was less than a year.

Calixtus was in the mines only a short time when fate gave him yet another chance. Marcia, the mistress of the Emperor Commodus, was a christian, and decided to excersize her power on behalf of the christians who were sentanced in the mines. She asked pope Victor to prepare a list of the "living martyrs" so she could arrange for thier release. The pope named every christian he knew of in Sardina, but purposely left out Calixtus. Marcia sent her old eunuch to Sardinia to release the prisoners. As he was leaving, Calixtus ran up to him weeping, and begged for his help. The old man knew of Calixtus's repuation but couldn't leave him in the mines to die, so Calixtus returned to Rome once again.

Predictably, Carpophorus and Pope Victor were horrified that Calixtus had returned, and he was set up outside the city walls with a small allowance and a home, in the hopes that he would stay out of trouble. He was placed in the service of a priest who managed the priests and deacons of Rome. After Pope Victor died, his successor, Pope Zephyrinus, elevated Calixtus to the position of Deacon and put him in charge of a cemetery. By the time Pope Zephyrinus died, Calixtus had become so respected among the church and Christians of Rome, he was elected Pope.

He ruled for 5 years and was acclaimed as a virtuous and merciful man. His reign was noted for his forgiveness. He decreed that Christians who had committed adultery, fornication, or even heresy, could be restored to full communion with the church if they confessed their sins and did penance.

In 222 an anti-christian mob murdered Calixtus and threw his body down a well. His remains
were recovered and are now enshrined in Rome.

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