Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

A Saint for Our Financial Times

Pope St. Callistus I (14 October)

The Catholic Church has a saint for everything, even banking disasters. Don't believe me? Check out St. Callistus. Born a slave probably in the last quarter of the 2nd century, he showed a great deal of aptitude so that his master, Carporphorus, placed him in charge of one of the master's properties - a bank. This situation wasn't entirely rare - very wealthy men owned slaves, and they would pay for the training of their more intelligent slaves in a variety of fields. Callistus' master was a Christian, and most of the bank's clients and investors were also Christians - that was a bit more rare, and occured during a lull in persecution that lasted for a generation or so.

Anyway, Callistus blew it. In fact, he blew it so big that he split, got out of Dodge, took a road leading away from Rome. Carporphorus set off with guards in pursuit of him and when he apprehended Callistus on a ship in the Mediterranean, Callistus jumped overboard to escape. He was captured, brought back to Rome, tried, and sentenced to hard labor. Carporphorus eventually took pity on Callistus, who pled for an opportunity to gain new money from investors. So Carporphorus used his connections to secure Callistus' release from the labor camp. Callistus received an even more severe punishment, though, when in desperation he busted up a synagogue shouting at the assembled Jews and demanding money from them. Packed off to the mines, Callistus seems to have had the opportunity for prayer and reflection that he needed for a more sincere, deeper conversion. This conversion was perhaps inspired as he came into contact with Christians much worse off socially and economically who were being jailed and sent to the mines because of their religious beliefs. Whatever inspired it, his conversion seems to have been profound.

Providence had it that Callistus' name was inadvertently added to a list of Christians jailed for their faith, who were scheduled to be released as a result of secret negotiations between the Pope and the Emperor. When Callistus' release was made known to the kind-hearted Pope, he could not find it in himself to correct the mistake and have Callistus reincarcerated. Callistus was ordained a deacon and placed in charge of a large Christian cemetery outside of the city, a duty that he carried out very well.

After about a decade, a new pope, St. Zephyrinus, recalled him to Rome and gave him duties that kept him very close to the pope. St. Zephyrinus was a very loving man, but not very astute theologically. St. Callistus, on the other hand, was able to show his mettle by helping the pope weigh in about important controversies of the day. St. Callistus, the beneficiary of clemency on several occasions, helped the pope to articulate and defend the Church's already ancient belief that even the worst sins could be forgiven - even sins like adultery, murder, and apostasy. As an emancipated slave, and much to the irritation of many wealthy pagan and Christians in Rome, St. Callistus also successfully appealed to the pope to uphold the validity of marriage between slaves and freemen. This decision was important because it defended the equal worth of every human being and the sanctity of marriage as a divine institution rather than a mere social convention. Over the course of several years, the pope and the deacon became close personal friends as well.

When Pope St. Zephyrinus died in AD 219, Callistus was elected by the clergy of Rome to take his place. He was ordained a priest and then bishop, and installed as the new pope. A wealthy Roman priest, Hippolytus, rejected Callistus' election because he thought him too "soft" on sinners. Hippolytus got some dissenting priests to elect him instead, thus creating the first antipope. (Don't worry, Hippolytus would eventually repent and reconcile with one of Callistus' successors, receive forgiveness himself, and die in the good graces of God and the Church, and even be canonized a saint!)

St. Callistus was a bad investor and a troublemaker, and certainly seemed nothing but trouble and a bad investment to his master. Yet an influx of grace brought him from ruins and despair to new hope and a new life in Christ. In our own times troubled by economic structures founded on fundamentally sinful practices, doubt about the worth and meaning of every human life, and social mores contrary to Christian marriage, St. Callistus seems to be the perfect patron and intercessor!

St. Callistus, pray for us!

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