Sometimes you have to scratch your head and then just accept things. Such is the case of the interesting St. Pope Zephyrinus (c. 199-217), Roman born, who lived, as the Chinese put it, "in interesting times". First, here is the Collect for this Pope to be used today in the Vatican Basilica.
Deus, qui Ecclesiae tuae in beato Zephyrino
boni pastoris exemplum providere dignatus es,
ut eius intercessione,
in loco pascuae tuae perpetuo collocari mereamur.
VERY LITERAL VERSION:
O God, who deigned to provide for Your Church
an example of the good shepherd in the person of blessed Zephyrinus,
that by his intercession,
we may merit to be settled in the eternal place of Your pasture.
Why was I inclined to scratch my head? The pious Collect for Zephyrinus used in the Vatican Basilica is hard to square with the reign of of Zephyrinus. In A.D. 203 Emperor Septimius Severus observed his 10th anniversary of rule with great celebrations… which were boycotted by the Christians. Predicatably, Septimius Severus marked his anniversary also with a brief persecution of Christians. Ever wonder if Catholics should be involved in the public square? Furthermore, during Zephyrinus’s time, the heresy of Patripassionism was on the upswing. These folks believed that God the Father became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and suffered on the Cross. It was a fairly popular heresy and Zephyrinus, while denouncing it, on the advice of his archdeacon (future Pope) Callixtus, did little to put an end to it. As a result of his inaction, the fiery priest Hippolytus took Zephyrinus to task, criticizing him and Callixtus fiercely. When Zephyrinus died, Callixtus was elected to succeed him… but so was Hippolytus by another group. Thus, Zephyrinus was succeeded by the first division in the Roman Church with an anti-Pope, Hippolytus.
His dictis, Pope Zephyrinus had a very difficult set of circumstances to face and, despite everything, the Church in Rome pulled through. When I review that period, I am somewhat reminded of our own times.
Oddly, this Pope has no entry in the Martyrologium Romanum today, but is found on 20 December! Hmmm…