A Roman by birth, St. Callistus was a slave of a Christian master early in life. After inadvertently losing some of his master’s money, he panicked, fled, and was cast into a dungeon when captured. Later, his master freed him in the hope that this honest and intelligent slave would be able to make some money and give back what he had lost. In trying to obtain money from some who had cheated him, the Saint was accused as a Christian and condemned to the Sardinian mines.
Fortunately for Callistus, the kindly Marcia, a favorite of the Emperor, obtained his release, and he was taken into the service of Pope Victor who was impressed by the Saint’s constancy in misfortune and devotion to the Sardinian Martyrs. He became a deacon and later secretary to Pope Zephyrinus, who put him in charge of the Christian cemetery on the Appian Way that still bears his name. when Zephyrinus died in 217, Callistus was chosen to be Pope, and he governed the Church for five years and two months.
Throughout his brief reign, which coincided with the rather peaceful reign of Emperor Alexander Severus during which Christians began to build churches for the public exercise of their religion, this Pope displayed the qualities of a wise, firm, and compassionate shepherd. He instituted the fast on Ember Days, decreed that ordinations should be held during the Ember Weeks, and established the practice of absolution of all sins, including those that rigorists considered irremissible. He also founded the Church of St. Mary Beyond the Tiber and provided for the burial of Martyrs. He himself was martyred in 222, probably at the hands of a mob.
PRAYER: Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people. Let us be aided by the merits of Pope St. Callistus, at whose passion we rejoice. Amen.