Today we celebrate the memorial of Pope Saint Sixtus II. It’s one of those “optional memorials”, and odds are, most parishes will not observe it, which I think is a shame. Too often, we in the modern world lose sight of the struggle of those who went before us to build the Church.
Sixtus, a philosopher and convert to Christianity, ascended to the Papacy on August 30 in the year 257 as the 24th Pope. “He believed that anyone who was baptized with a desire to be a Christian, even if the baptism was performed by a heretic, was truly baptized into the faith, and that the validity of his faith was based on his own desire and actions, not the errors of the person who performed the sacrament.” (source) Hmmmm…sounds to me like the beginnings of the teaching ex opere operato.
We know little more about this early Pope other than his martyrdom and the martyrdom of his six deacon companions during the persecutions of Valerian. In late 257, Emperor Valerian ordered bishops, priests, and deacons simply put to death. Sixtus was one of the first to fall under this edict. Arrested while celebrating Mass , he was beheaded and buried near to the tomb of Saint Callistus very close to where he had been arrested.
Today, let us pray in thanksgiving for those who gave their lives and continue to give their lives for the Church. Let us pray, too, for our Holy Father, for all bishops, priests and deacons, that, without fear or hesitation, they will have the courage to lead the Church in Truth in these uncertain times.
Pope Saint Sixtus, pray for us! Anne