Today is the Memorial of Pope Saint Sixtus II and his companions. Sixtus (or Xystus) was Bishop of Rome during the time of the emperor Valerian, who waged an all-out persecution against the Christian faithful. On August 6, A.D. 258, Sixtus was celebrating Mass at the catacombs of Saint Calixtus with four of his seven deacons, when the emperor’s soldiers entered and killed them. Another of his deacons, Lawrence, would be killed a few days later following a stunning act of defiance (he is the only deacon to be honored with a Feast).
We know of their fate primarily from a letter written by Saint Cyprian, who would himself be killed not long thereafter, to a fellow bishop named Successus. I am including my meager translation of that letter below. I would ask that, as you read it, you please think of those Christians suffering religious persecution today, and recognize the mindset that accompanies it on both sides. I don’t mean the simple humiliation that Christians in the West endure at the hands of secular humanist relativism (not to mention each other); I’m thinking of those at odds with the government in Sudan and Syria, those being wiped out or forced to flee in Iraq by the radical Islamic caliphate, and those trapped in Gaza and unable to evacuate. I pray such extreme persecution never develops here, but rather ends everywhere. Continue reading