Born in Sardinia, Symmachus was baptized at Rome and became archdeacon of the Roman Church under Pope Anastasius II. At the latter’s death, Symmachus was elected Pope in 498.
A splinter group at Rome, in league with Emperor Anastasius of Constantinople, elected a rival Pope, Lawrence, at the same time. Both claimants to the Holy See appealed to the Gothic King Theodoric at Ravenna.
Theodoric chose Symmachus as the rightful Pontiff because he had been elected first and by the great number of votes. Most important of all, the King characterized Symmachus as one who was good, prudent, kindly, gracious, and a lover of the clergy and the poor.
Nevertheless, the Saint had many troubles because of the Schismatics during the first half of his pontificate. When he learned that the Arian King Thrasimund had exiled many African Bishops to Sardinia, he was quick to send them a letter to comfort them as well as clothes, money, and relics of Martyrs for them and their flocks.
Among other good works, St. Symmachus built three hospices for the poor, came to the aid of those who underwent raids by the Barbarians in northern Italy, and redeemed a multitude of captives.
The Pope also restored several churches in Rome and built three new basilicas—to St. Andrew, St. Pancras, and St. Agnes. He died on July 19, 514, and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
PRAYER: Almighty and eternal God, You willed to set St. Symmachus over Your entire people and to go before them in word and example. By his intercession keep the pastors of Your Church together with their flocks and guide them in the way of eternal salvation. Amen.