A native of Rome, St. Zephyrinus reigned as Pope from 199 to 217 AD. During part of his rule, the Church endured the bloody persecution of Emperor Septimus Severus. Pope Zephyrinus rejoiced in the triumphs of the martyrs, but he had much to suffer from current heresies and apostasies. It was his glory that the heretics called this holy Pope the principle defender of Christ's divinity.
St. Zephyrinus is remembered especially for his combat against the adoptionist heresies of the followers of Theodotus the Byzantium who were ruled by Theodotus, the Money Changer and Asclepiodotus. Although not physically martyred, St. Zephyrinus is called a martyr for the suffering he endured.
Thus we see in the first 15 Popes of the Catholic Church covered so far in this series the presence of great afflictions imposed by the enemy, yet these men remained steadfast in serving Christ and furthering the Faith against heresies, schisms, and paganism. May they continue to pray for the Church Suffering and the Church Militant today.
The following is taken Lives of the Saints by Alban Butler
ZEPHYRINUS, a native of Rome, succeeded Victor in the pontificate, in the year 202, in which Severus raised the fifth most bloody persecution against the Church, which continued not for two years only, but until the death of that emperor in 211. Under this furious storm this holy pastor was the support and comfort of the distressed flock of Christ, and he suffered by charity and compassion what every confessor underwent.
The triumphs of the martyrs were indeed his joy, but his heart received many deep wounds from the fall of apostates and heretics. Neither did this latter affliction cease when peace was restored to the Church. Our Saint had also the affliction to see the fall of Tertullian, which seems to have been owing partly to his pride. Eusebius tells us that this holy Pope exerted his zeal so strenuously against the blasphemies of the heretics that they treated him in the most contumelious manner; but it was his glory that they called him the principal defender of Christ's divinity.
St. Zephyrinus filled the pontifical chair seventeen years, dying in 219. He was buried in his own cemetery, on the 26th of August. He is, in some Martyrologies, styled a martyr, which title he might deserve by what he suffered in the persecution, though he perhaps did not die by the executioner.
Reflection: God has always raised up holy pastors zealous to maintain inviolable the faith of His Church, and to watch over the purity of its morals and the sanctity of its discipline. We enjoy the greatest advantages of divine grace through their labors, and owe to God a tribute of perpetual thanksgiving and immortal praise for all the mercies He has accorded His Church.Collect from his feastday on August 26th:
O Eternal Shepherd, who appointed blessed Zephyrinus shepherd of the whole Church, let the prayers of this martyr and supreme pontiff move You to look with favor upon Your flock and to keep it under Your continual protection. Through our Lord . . .