Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

Cornelius was a pope forced to die as a martyr in exile in the third century. Cyprian, a bishop contemporaneous with Cornelius, offered that pope the support of the bishops in northern Africa when rivals made claims to the papacy after Cornelius was elected. St. Cyprian lived through the Decian persecution of the early third century, but in a later persecution suffered martyrdom. After the Decian persecution ended, some demanded that those who denied their Christianity during the persecution should not be allowed to be reconciled with the Church. Others began simply welcoming such Christians back in. Cyprian adopted a middle ground and taught that such Christians should be reconciled, but after a time of penance. Such reconciliation was determined by the Church to be the right policy for all Christians and those who continued to argue for a strict barring of those who had denied Christ from readmission to the household of God were deemed heretical.

The Church comes from God who is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tm 3:15), so She rightly focuses on the faithful proclamation of the truth even in times of persecution. And since She comes from God who is supremely merciful, the Church also is interested in manifesting the reconciling mercy of God. Let us also pray for the grace that, like St. Cyprian, we may faithfully live out God’s call of  fidelity to truth and mercy. It may be that some like the Pharisees will call us too strict (as they called John the Baptist) or too lenient (as they called our Lord), but we may hope that by following Jesus we too may show that “Wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” (Lk 7:35)

September 16th, 2015