Pope Zephyrinus, pope

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,
concede propitius,
ut eius intercessione,
in loco pascuae tuae perpetuo collocari mereamur.

O God, who deigned to provide for Your Church
an example of the good shepherd in the person of blessed Zephyrinus,
propitiously grant
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… 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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One Comment

  1. Catholic Lady says:

    I have been following a series on Rome on the History Channel. This documentary special chronicles the spectacular and sordid history of the Roman Empire from the rise of Julius Caesar in 55 BC to its eventual fall around 537 AD. It mentions Christianity only in passing but it must have been hard times not only for Christians but for many of the citizens. The cruelty and debauchery of the royalty, the lust for power and self-worship, makes one wonder if we are not heading in that direction again. What must it have been like to be Pope in those times? Given the politics of the times, where emporers changed as quickly as the weather, it is no wonder some of that mind set came into play in the election of Popes. Listening to the will of God through the Holy Spirit in that process may not have been “honed” yet.

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