Ordinary Time: August 13th
Optional Memorial of Saints Pontian, pope and martyr and Hippolytus, priest and martyr
Other Commemorations: St. Cassian, Martyr (RM); St. Radegunde, Queen (RM); St. John Berchmans, Religious (RM)
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St. Pontian (Pontianus) was a victim of the persecution of Alexander Severus, who directed his attention particularly against the leaders of the Church. St. Pontian governed the Church from 230 to 235. He was exiled to the mines of Sardinia and died in exile. St. Hippoytus, a priest and a person of some importance in the Church in Rome at the beginning of the third century, provoked a schism which lasted for some years. He was exiled to Sardinia with St. Pontian, where he was reconciled with the Church and died for the faith in 235.
Before the reform of the General Roman Calendar today was also the feast of St. Cassian of Immola, a martyr of the neighborhood of Bologna. According to his biography he was a schoolmaster and was delivered with his hands tied behind his back to his young pupils, who stabbed him to death. In the bishop's chapel at Ravenna there is a mosaic of St. Cassian that dates from the fifth century.
Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus
As kind as Severus might have been to the Christians, his successor Maximus Thrax persecuted them. Although Maximus was not a religious man himself, he despised Severus and intended to reverse any attitude to which Severus might have been disposed. He therefore decreed that leaders of the Church be singled out and banished to the labor mines of Sardinia, the famous "Island of Death."
Pontian, a Roman and son of Calpurnius, had enjoyed a peaceful reign over the Roman Church during Severus' time, but soon found himself among the first victims of this new emperor. Rounded up with the antipope Hippolytus, Pontian was deported to the labor mines. Since deportation was a life sentence which few survived, Pontian felt obligated to abdicate so that a successor might quickly preside over the Holy See. He is the first pope known to have abdicated.
While imprisoned, Hippolytus reconciled his differences with Pontian and even ordered his followers to bring themselves back to the Church. Before he succumbed to the harsh treatment of the mines, Hippolytus became a true confessor of Christ.
Pontian, in the mines only two months, was brutally beaten to death by his jailers. His body, with that of Hippolytus, was returned to Rome approximately a year later, during the pontificate of Fabian. He was buried in the cemetery of Calixtus and was rightfully honored by the Church as a martyr.
—Excerpted from The Popes: A Papal History, J.V. Bartlett
Patronage: Hippolytus: Horses; prison guards; prison officers; prison workers.
Symbols and Representation: Hippolytus: Armor; bunch of large keys; spear; tails of wild horses; lance; iron hook; horses.
Highlights and Things To Do:
- Adopt A Spire of St. Pontian on the Duomo de Milano.
- See info regarding St. Hippolytus' Statue and St. Pontian's Statue of St. Peter's Colonnade.
- For children, read Saints Pontian and Hypolytus at Loyola Press.
- From this site: Pope St. Pontian was the first pope to resign his office instead of vacating it with his death, making him the first of 11 popes to freely abdicate the Chair of Peter in the nearly 2,000-year history of the Church.
- For more information, see Catholic Ireland.
St. Cassian was a schoolmaster at Imola in northeast Italy. He died a martyr during the Roman persecutions under Diocletian, probably in the third century.
Cassian had apparently been a schoolteacher for some time. Then a widespread persecution of Christians commenced. Roman officials arrested him because he was known, or at least suspected, to be a Christian. He was taken before the governor, and the governor demanded, as usual, that he offer sacrifice to the gods. Naturally, Cassian refused to perform this act of apostasy, so he was condemned to death.
Now, the Romans had many set types of execution to choose from, but sometimes they invented others. Knowing that Cassian was a schoolmaster, the governor decided that it would be a clever novelty to have him stabbed to death by his own pupils!
The schoolmaster was therefore stretched out on the ground and fixed down securely. Then Cassian's former students were brought in. They had not particularly liked their teacher because he had been strict with them. Given the signal, therefore, they set about with a fiendish joy to torment him. They broke their wooden writing tablets over his head, carved their initials carefully on his flesh, and finally stabbed him all over with their pens. Cassian meanwhile accepted their blows with much patience and no malice. He died bloodied with a thousand little wounds.
—Excerpted from Father Robert F. McNamara, Saints Alive
Highlights and Things To Do:
- Visit online the church in Upper Montclair, NJ dedicated to St. Cassian.
- Cassian's martyrdom is considered one of the six horrible deaths of early Christian martyrs.
- Cassian may be considered a patron saint of teachers by James V. Schall.
St. Radegunde, Queen
St. Radegunde's father was a king; when he was conquered by King Theodoric of Austrasia and King Clotaire I of Neustria, Radegunde was taken captive at the age of twelve by Clotaire, son of Clovis, the first Christian King of the Franks. She lived at Athies until she was 18, when Clotaire brought her to Vitry and married her. Clotaire was "a man of shocking character." As queen, Radegunde spent her time doing charitable work with the poor and the captives. She ministered to lepers and founded a hospital for them. Radegunde had been married to Clotaire for six years when he killed her brother. Unable to bear his cruelties any longer, she became a nun, with his permission. Radegunde had a double monastery built in Poitiers called Holy Cross. When Clotaire decided to bring her back to court, St. Germanus interceded on her behalf, and the repentant Clotaire sent Germanus back to Radegunde to ask her forgiveness and prayers. After her death, Radegunde's face shone "with a brightness surpassing the beauty of lilies and roses."
—Excerpted from 2009 Saints Calendar
Highlights and Things To Do:
- Read Queen St. Radegundes, Ora Pro Nobis.
- Read the interesting history of St. Radegunde's Abbey.
- The original hymn Crux Fidelis was composed by Venantius Fortunatus on the occasion a relic of the True Cross was presented to St. Radegunde.
St. John Berchmans
This young saint of the Society of Jesus was born in Flanders, the oldest of five children. He grew up in an atmosphere of political turmoil caused by a religious war between the Catholic and Protestant sections of the Netherlands. He studied at the Gymnasium at Diest and worked as a servant in the household of Canon John Froymont at Malines in order to continue his studies.
In 1615, the Jesuits opened a college at Malines, and St. John Berchmans was one of the first to enter. He was an energetic student and was a leader among the students. In 1616, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Malines and came under the influence of Father Antoine Sucquet. The young Berchmans developed a strong and deep spirituality based on the loving practice of fidelity. St. Aloysius of Gonzaga was his spiritual model, and he was influenced as well by the example of the Jesuit English martyrs.
It was his realistic appreciation for the value of ordinary things, a characteristic of the Flemish mystical tradition, which constituted his holiness. He was affable, kind, and endowed with an outgoing personality that endeared him to everyone. In 1618, he was sent to Rome to study philosophy and was an exceptional student. He requested after ordination to become a chaplain in the army, hoping to be martyred on the battlefield.
In the summer of 1619, the intense heat of Rome started to affect his health and he began progressively to get weaker. The doctors could not determine what was wrong, and for two years he was continually sick, requiring medical care, and as the summer of 1621 came, it was clear that he would not last long. He died peacefully on August 13, 1621, and numerous miracles were attributed to him at the time of his funeral.
He was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1865 and canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. His body lies in the church of St. Ignatius in Rome, where Aloysius of Gonzaga is also buried.
—Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens
Patronage: Altar boys; altar servers; Oblate novices; young people.
Symbols and Representation: Standing with hands clasped, holding his crucifix, his book of rules, and his rosary.
Highlights and Things to Do:
- Like St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John Berchmans was not noted for anything extraordinary. He made kindness and courtesy as well as constant fidelity an important part of his holiness. The path to holiness lies in the ordinary rather than the extraordinary. That is a lesson that some learn only late in life. Read more about St. John Berchmans' life and spirituality.
- Read more about St. John Berchmans here, read about his miracles.
- Here are some prayers to St. John Berchmans.
Bl. Michael McGivney
The eldest son of an immigrant Irish family in Connecticut, young Michael left school at 13 to work in a brass factory making spoons. At 16 he began studies for the priesthood in Quebec, but was obliged to leave to help support the family when his father died. Michael completed his education in Baltimore, Maryland, and was ordained for the diocese of Hartford in 1877.
Assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven, Fr. McGivney was very active in parish and civic affairs, serving as director of public plays and fairs. He volunteered to become the guardian of Alfred Downes, a minor whose father had died leaving a large family in poverty. This situation as well as his own family's circumstances and that of other immigrants impressed on Fr. McGivney the need for lay Catholic men to establish a mutual aid society to provide financial assistance for their families if the primary wage earner died. Protestant fraternal groups already provided this type of life insurance protection for their members.
In 1882, Fr. McGivney formed the Knights of Columbus among a small group of St. Mary's parishioners to promote charity, unity, and fraternity, assisting widows and orphans. Because of the Knights' emphasis on serving Church, community and family, the organization grew and did not remain strictly parish-based. Patriotism was added as a founding principle in 1900.
Father McGivney died from pneumonia in 1890 and was buried in Thomaston, Connecticut. Later his body was moved back to St. Mary’s in New Haven where it remains today. He was beatified in 2020.
—Excerpted from Franciscan Media
Highlights and Things to Do:
- Read more about Michael McGivney.
- Learn more about the Knights of Columbus.
- Read about the miracle for his beatification.
- There is a Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center in Connecticut.