On January 16th, after we have concluded the Octave of the Epiphany but still within the Christmas season (which lasts up until February 2nd), we celebrate the feast of the Pope St. Marcellus I.
Nothing is known of the life of Pope St. Marcellus I prior to his ascent to the papacy in the early summer of 308 AD. He led the Church as the Supreme Pontiff during the end of the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian - which led to countless martyrs and great disruption in the Church. Pope St. Marcellus faced great stuggles as he sought to reconstitute the clergy who had been dispersed and hidden from practicing the Faith openly during the demonic onslaught brought on by Diocletian.
Pope St. Marcellus I also served in immitation of our Lord, the Good Shepherd, as he sought to welcome back and absolve from sin those who had denied the Faith for fear of being murdered. However, when a group of the apostacized, known as the Lapsi, refused to do penance, St. Marcellus refused to allow their return to the Church. This group had some political pull, and some caused such civil disruption that Emperor Maxentius exiled the Pope in order to settle the matter.
Legend says that Marcellus was forced to work as a stable slave as punishment. The Church considers Pope St. Marcellus I as a martyr, since he died of the terrible conditions he suffered in exile. He died only one year after his ascension to the papacy in 309 AD. He was initially buried in the cemetery of Saint Priscilla in Rome, Italy, but his relics were later translated to beneath the altar of San Marcello al Corso church in Rome where they remain today.
Each year during the Stational Churches devotion in Lent, Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent observes the Stational Church at the Church of St. Marcellus. A reflection from that day via the Canon Regular of St. John Cantius website states:
A patient sufferer, condemned by his enemies to work in a horse-stable, the good shepherd, Pope Marcellus, is our leader today to the King of Martyrs, Christ, our Good Shepherd.Pope St. Marcellus I, pray for us and for the Church Militant!
Why must a human being suffer, physically, spiritually, or both? This has always been and ever will be, the great problem—indeed a problem and a riddle for the worldly individual, but not for the follower of Christ, who finds the answer at the foot of the Cross.
For the Christ-loving soul, there is no suffering for suffering sake, there is suffering only for Easter sake, with its peace and strength and never fading victory.
The mystery of the Cross is the great answer, a solution, which the carnal-minded man will never find. St. Marcellus found it, and having found it, suffered gladly as a true athlete of Christ. "I will extol Thee, O Lord, for Thou has upheld me and has not made my enemies to rejoice over me."
O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people. may the merits of the martyred pope Marcellus help us, just as his sufferings have given us cause for spiritual joy. Through Our Lord . . .
Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal