Saturday, January 16, 2016
Feast of St. Marcellus I

Semidouble (1954 Calendar): January 16

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 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 Emperor Diocletian - which led to countless martyrs and a great disruption in the Church.  Pope St. Marcellus faced great struggles 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 imitation 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 apostatized, 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.  

Traditional Matins Reading:

Marcellus was a Roman, and governed the Church from the reign of Constantius and Galerius to that of Maxentius. It was by his counsel that a Roman Matron, named Lucina, made the Church of God the heir of all her property. He established in the City five and twenty Titles, as so many districts for the administration of baptism and penance to Pagans converted to the Christian religion, and for providing burial to the Martyrs. All this irritated Maxentius, and he threatened Marcellus with severe punishment unless he laid down his Pontificate, and offered sacrifice to the idols.

Marcellus heeded not the senseless words of man, and was therefore sent to the stables, there to take care of the beasts which were kept at the public expense. In this place Marcellus spent nine months, fasting and praying without ceasing, and visiting by his letters the Churches he could not visit in person. He was thence delivered by some of his clergy, and was harboured by the blessed Lucina, in whose house he dedicated a Church, which is now called the Church of St Marcellus. Here did the Christians assemble for prayer, and the blessed Marcellus preach.

Maxentius, coming to hear these things, ordered that Church to be turned into the stable for the beasts, and Marcellus to be made its keeper. Sickened by the foul atmosphere, and worn out by his many cares, he slept in the Lord. The blessed Lucina had his body buried in the Priscilla cemetery, on the Salarian Way, the seventeenth of the Calends of February (January 16). He sat five years, one month, and twenty-five days. He wrote a letter to the Bishops of the Antioch province, concerning the Primacy of the Church of Rome, which he proves ought to be called 'the Head of the Churches.' In the same letter there occurs this passage, that no Council may be rightly celebrated without the authority of the Roman Pontiff. He ordained at Rome, in the month of December, twenty-five Priests, two Deacons, and twenty-one Bishops for various places.

Pope St. Marcellus I, pray for us and for the Church Militant!


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

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