Imagine that your biography was written by an enemy of yours. And that its information was all anyone would have not only for the rest of your life but for centuries to come. You would never be able to refute it -- and even if you could no one would believe you because your accuser was a saint.Today we celebrate St. Callistus, a saint who was merciful. For this he was castigated by someone who also became a saint. And his history is written by those who hated him.
That is the problem we face with Pope Callistus I who died about 222. The only story of his life we have is from someone who hated him and what he stood for, an author identified as Saint Hippolytus, a rival candidate for the chair of Peter. What had made Hippolytus so angry? Hippolytus was very strict and rigid in his adherence to rules and regulations. The early Church had been very rough on those who committed sins of adultery, murder, and fornication. Hippolytus was enraged by the mercy that Callistus showed to these repentant sinners, allowing them back into communion of the Church after they had performed public penance. Callistus' mercy was also matched by his desire for equality among Church members, manifested by his acceptance of marriages between free people and slaves. Hippolytus saw all of this as a degradation of the Church, a submission to lust and licentiousness that reflected not mercy and holiness in Callistus but perversion and fraud.
It strikes me that he is particularly suited to lend us his aid and wisdom in these days of finger pointing, castigation, and general wrath.
Read all of St. Callistus' story at Catholic Online.
St. Callistus, pray for us, pray for our country.