Monday, August 7, 2006
Commemoration of St. Sixtus II & Companions

Commemoration (1954 Calendar): August 6

Just days before the great feast of St. Lawrence on August 10, the Church commemorates today Pope Sixtus II (also spelled Xystus II) and Felicissimus and Agapitus, his deacons. They were martyred at Rome on the same day, in the year 258. Pope Sixtus' archdeacon St. Lawrence met his death three days later, as he had prophesied to the younger man.

While today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, these three holy martyrs are commemorated in the Traditional Liturgy today. And we should not forget their powerful example of fidelity to the True Faith.

St. Sixtus II, reigned as the Vicar of Christ from August 30, 257 - August 6, 258 AD, following Pope Stephen I. Even though his reign was short, he restored relations with the African and Eastern churches following strained relations under Pope Stephen I. The issue that caused the dispute was the re-baptism of heretics. Pope St. Sixtus II believed that anyone who was baptised with a desire to be a Christian, even if the Baptism was performed by a heretic, was truly baptised into the faith; the validity of his faith was based on his own desire and actions, not the errors of the person who performed the sacrament. This view has become the dogmatic teachings of the Church. Thankfully, St. Sixtus II restored relations with the churches that disagreed with Rome. Remember, at this time all churches still remained in union with Rome - the Holy Catholic Church.

Yet, not one year after his elevation to the papacy, he was beheaded by order of Emperor Valerian I in 258. Emperor Valerian I had issued a decree shortly before the pontificate of Sixtus II forbidding Christians to gather in cemeteries and demanding them to worship pagan gods. In early August 258, Emperor Valerian ordered the execution of priests, bishops, and deacons. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of the persecutions of Emperor Valerian I. Four deacons, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, and Stephanus, were apprehended at the same cemetery as Pope Sixtus II. Pope Sixtus II was beheaded in his chair, which was later enshrined behind his tomb. Two other deacons, Felicissimus and Agapitus, were martyred the same day as the four aforementioned deacons.

Before Pope St. Sixtus II was martyred, his deacon St. Lawrence, came to him. St. Lawrence said: "Father, where are you going without your son? Where are you hastening, O priest, without your deacon? Never before did you offer the holy Sacrifice without assistants. In what way have I displeased you? In what way have you found me unfaithful in my office? Oh, try me again and prove to yourself whether you have chosen an unworthy minister for the service of the Church. So far you have been trusting me with distributing the Blood of the Lord." 

To this Pope Sixtus II replied, "I am not forsaking you, my son; a severer trial is awaiting you for your faith in Christ. The Lord is considerate toward me because I am a weak old man. But for you a most glorious triumph is in store. Cease to weep, for already after three days you will follow me"


O God, who has granted us the grace to celebrate the birthday of Your blessed martyrs Sixtus II, Felicissimus, and Agapitus, grant that we may also share their eternal happiness in heaven. Through our Lord . . .

4 comment(s):

del_button August 7, 2006 at 4:40 PM
Saint Peter's helpers said...

I didn't realize he was martyred in his chair!

del_button August 8, 2006 at 8:04 AM
tlwest said...

It is amazing... the amount of martyrs :(

del_button August 10, 2006 at 8:04 PM
Matthew said...

There were so many martyrs, but there suffering is over. Now they rejoice in Heaven forever!

del_button October 6, 2010 at 4:56 PM
Anonymous said...

totally didn't know he was beheaded in his chair

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