Saint Anicetus

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Saint Anicetus

Pope, Martyr
(† 161)

Saint Anicetus, the eleventh successor of Saint Peter, succeeded to Saint Pius I and reigned for eleven years. During that time he had to combat in particular the dangerous errors of gnosticism, Christ’s ancient enemy, already rampant in the days when Saint John the Apostle wrote his letters to the churches of Asia. Saint Anicetus was visited in Rome by Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who desired to consult with him, and whom he in turn asked to celebrate the feast of Easter in the Church of Rome, as Saint Ireneus, Polycarp’s disciple, relates. They had not been able to find a solution to the question of a difference in the date of Easter in the Orient and the Occident, which Pope Saint Victor would later settle, but remained close friends. Saint Anicetus’ vigilance protected his flock from the wiles of the false preachers Valentine and Marcion, who were attempting to corrupt the faith in the capital of the empire.

Saint Anicetus established the tonsure for the clergy as a practice of ecclesiastical discipline; a letter to this purpose, which he wrote to the bishops of the churches of Gaul, is still extant.

The Roman Breviary tells us that he received the palm of martyrdom for the Christian faith, one month after the death of the Emperor Antoninus the Pious. Of the first fifty-four bishops of Rome, as they are seen portrayed in the Basilica of Saint Paul in Rome, fifty-three are honored among the Saints; and of two hundred and forty-eight popes, from Saint Peter to Clement XII (†1740), seventy-eight are named in the Roman martyrology. In the primitive ages the spirit of fervor and perfect sanctity was conspicuous in most of the faithful, and especially in their pastors. The whole tenor of their lives breathed it, in such wise as to render them living miracles, angels on earth, breathing copies of their Divine Redeemer, the odor of whose virtues and holy law and religion they spread on every side.

Reflection. We find an example of true friendship in the fashion Saint Anicet honored Saint Polycarp, in the absence of a complete understanding. Let us judge by this rule whether our love and our friendship for God is sovereign. Does inconstancy, manifested in our words or acts, never betray the insincerity of our heart? If, after making protestations of inviolable friendship and affection for a fellow-creature, we ceased to honor him when our reason and his did not perfectly concur, would not the whole world justly call our pretended friendship a mockery?

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 4; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).


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(Wednesday in Holy Week)

The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people, are met today, in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon Him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers, who have received a favourable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days back? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in His defence? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over, before apprehending Jesus.

But these blood-thirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees,–which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world’s salvation,–have fixed this very year’s Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, tomorrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus’ Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God, because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner, by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one. Continue reading


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The Church’s Year
By Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine

LESSON (Isai. LXII, II., to LXIII. 1-7.) Thus said the Lord God: Tell the daughter of Sion: Behold thy Saviour cometh: behold his reward is with him. Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra, this beautiful one in his robe, walking in the greatness of his strength. I, that speak justice, and am a defender to save. Why then is thy apparel red, and thy garments like theirs that tread in the wine-press? I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me: I have trampled on them in my indignation, and have trodden them down in my wrath, and their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance is in my heart, the year of my redemption is come. I looked about and there was none to help: I sought, and there was none to give aid: and my own arm hath saved from me, and my indignation itself hath helped me. And I have trodden down the people in my wrath, and have made them drunk in my indignation, and have brought down their strength to the earth. I will remember the tender mercies of the Lord, the praise of the Lord for all the things that the Lord hath bestowed on us.

EXPLANATION Once more the prophet’s words point to the Saviour, and describe His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, where He went to accomplish the work of redemption, which He had always in His heart and before His eyes; he refers to His victories over all His enemies, the world, and the devil, whom He had trampled on and destroyed as the wine-presser does the grapes. The day of Christ’s death was also the day of vengeance on His enemies, whom He overcame on the cross. The prophet who foresaw all this, thanks God in the last words of this lesson, and we also are called upon to thank Christ for our Redemption. Continue reading