SS. Cletus and Marcellinus, Popes and Martyrs
ST. CLETUS was the third bishop of Rome, and succeeded St. Linus, which circumstance alone shows his eminent virtue among the first disciples of St. Peter in the West. He sat twelve years, from 76 to 89. The canon of the Roman mass, (which Bossuet 1 and all others agree to be of primitive antiquity,) Bede, and other Martyrologists, style him a martyr. He was buried near St. Linus, on the Vatican, and his relics still remain in that church. 2 1
St. Marcellinus succeeded St. Caius in the bishopric of Rome, in 296, about the time that Dioclesian set himself up for a deity, and impiously claimed divine honours. Theodoret says, 3 that in those stormy times of persecution, Marcellinus acquired great glory. He sat in St. Peter’s chair eight years, three months, and twenty-five days, dying in 304, a year after the cruel persecution broke out, in which he gained much honour. He has been styled a martyr, though his blood was not shed in the cause of religion, as appears from the Liberian Calendar, which places him among those popes that were not put to death for the faith. 4 2
It is a fundamental maxim of the Christian morality, and a truth which Christ has established in the clearest terms, and in innumerable passages of the gospel, 5 that the cross, or sufferings and mortification, are the road to eternal bliss. They, therefore, who lead not here a crucified and mortified life, are unworthy ever to possess the unspeakable joys of his kingdom. Our Lord himself, our model and our head, walked in this path, and his great apostle puts us in mind 6 that he entered into bliss only by his blood and by the cross. Nevertheless, this is a truth which the world can never understand, how clearly soever it be preached by Christ, and recommended by his powerful example, and that of his martyrs and of all the saints. Christians still pretend, by the joys and pleasures of this world, to attain to the bliss of heaven, and shudder at the very mention of mortification, penance, or sufferings. So prevalent is this fatal error, which self-love and the example and false maxims of the world strongly fortify in the minds of many, that those who have given themselves to God with the greatest fervour, are bound always to stand upon their guard against it, and daily to renew their fervour in the love and practice of penance, and to arm themselves with patience against sufferings, lest the weight of the corruption of our nature, the pleasures of sense, and flattering blandishments of the world, draw them aside, and make them leave the path of mortification, or lose courage under its labours, and under the afflictions with which God is pleased to purify them, and afford them means of sanctifying themselves. 3
Note 1. Espos. de la Messe.
Note 2. Certain French critics think Cletus and Anacletus to have been one and the same person; but Orsi (t. 1, l. 2, n. 29, p. 282,) shows them to have been distinct popes. Eusebius, indeed, confounds them, as he did Novatus and Novatian, and the popes Marcellus and Marcellinus; mistakes to which, from the likeness of names, the Greeks were the most liable, as they wrote at so great a distance. But the Latins who had authentic records by them, could not be mistaken; especially the author of the first part of the Liberian Calendar, which appears, in most particulars, to be copied from the public registers of the Roman church: which authorities make it appear that Cletus sat the third, and Anacletus the fifth bishop of Rome. The church sometimes honours the same saint on several days; but the most authentic monuments distinguish these saints. On St. Cletus, and that he is not the same person with St. Anacletus, called by some Anencletus, see A. Sandini, in Dissert. 4, ad Hist. Pontif. Berti. Chron. Hist. Eccl. primi. sæc. t. 1, Orsi, &c. Some modern pontificals tell us that he divided the city of Rome into twenty-five parishes, and first built St. Peter’s church. The faithful celebrated the divine mysteries in the catacombs, or vault, where the remains of the apostles were deposited, and over their tomb St. Cletus might add some embellishments, or enlarge this sacred place. See Bianchini, Notes on Anastasius’s Pontifical, t. 2, p. 61.
Note 3. Theodoret, b. 2, c. 2.
Note 4. Petilian, the Donatist bishop, objected to the Catholics, that Marcellinus had sacrificed to idols, and had delivered up the holy scriptures to the persecutors; also that his priests, Melchiades, Marcellus, and Sylvester, were guilty of the same apostacy; but St. Austin entirely denied the charge, (l. de unico bapt. contra Petilian. c. 16, t. 9, p. 541,) which was a mere calumny of the Donatists. Yet upon this slander some others built another fictitious history of his repentance in a pretended council of Sinuessa. The author discovers himself to have been a barbarous half-Latin Goth, says Coutant. (Append. ad ep. decretales, p. 27.) His forgery contradicts the histories, customs, and language of that age. See Pagi ad an. 303. Natalis Alexander, Tillemont, t. 5; Orsi, t. 3, &c.
Note 5. Matt. v. 5, 10, xvi. 24, x. 38, xi. 12; Luke vi. 25, ix. 23, &c.
Note 6. Hebr. ix. 12.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. April 26.