Monday, December 31, 2012
Feast of Pope St. Sylvester I

Image: St. Slyvester I baptizes Constantine the Great.
Double (1954 Calendar): December 31
Commemoration (1962 Calendar): December 31 
Optional Memorial (1969 Calendar): December 31

Saint Sylvester was born in Rome as the son of Rufinus. When he reached the age to dispose of his fortune, he took pleasure in giving hospitality to Christians passing through the city. He would take them with him, wash their feet, and serve them at table. He reigned as the Vicar of Christ from January 31, 314 to December 31, 335, succeeding Pope Miltiades.  During his pontificate were built the great churches founded in Rome by Constantine, (e.g. Basilica of St. John Lateran, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, St. Peter's Basilica) and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs. In 325, the Council of Nicea occurred, and although St. Slyvester did not attend, he sent two legates in his place.  St. Slyvester thereafter confirmed the decisions of the First Council in the history of the Church. 

The Feast of St. Sylvester was in previous times a Holy Day of Obligation. Yet in the 1962 Missal, it was reduced to a mere commemoration since the feria days in the Octave of Christmas were raised to the II class in 1960.
Numerous legends dramatize his life and work, e.g., how he freed Constantine from leprosy by baptism; how he killed a ferocious dragon that was contaminating the air with his poisonous breath. Such legends were meant to portray the effects of baptism and Christianity's triumph over idolatry. For a long time the feast of St. Sylvester was a holyday of obligation. The Divine Office notes: He called the weekdays feria, because for the Christian every day is a "free day" (the term is still in use; thus Monday is feria secunda). 
Compiled from Heavenly Friends, Rosalie Marie Levy and The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
While the most popular focus this day is on the New Years Eve, let us not forget that today is the seventh day of Christmas.  A plenary indulgence may be gained, under the usual conditions, by reciting the Te Deum in thanksgiving for the past year. 


Eternal Shepherd, do Thou look favorably upon Thy flock, which we beseech Thee to guard and keep for evermore through the blessed Sylvester, Thy Supreme Pontiff, whom Thou didst choose to be the chief shepherd of the whole Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son. Who liveth and reigneth with Thee. in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.  Amen.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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