St. Stephen, Pope and Martyr
See the Pontificals, and the works of St. Cyprian, &c.; also Tillemont, t. 11; Orsi, t. 3, b. 7.
ST. STEPHEN was by birth a Roman, and being promoted to holy orders, was made archdeacon of that church under the holy popes and martyrs St. Cornelius and St. Lucius. The latter going to martyrdom recommended him to his clergy for his successor. He was accordingly chosen pope on the 3d of May, 253, and sat four years, two months, and twenty-one days. Soon after his election, he was called to put a stop to the havoc which certain wolves, under the name and habit of pastors, threatened to make in the churches of Gaul and Spain. Marcian, bishop of Arles (in which see he seems to have succeeded St. Regulus, immediate successor of St. Trophimus), embraced the error of Novatian, and, upon the inhuman maxim of that murderer of souls, refused the communion, that is, absolution, to many penitents even in the article of death. Faustinus, bishop of Lyons, and other Gaulish prelates, sent informations and complaints against him to St. Stephen and St. Cyprian: to the first, on account of the superior authority and jurisdiction of his see; to the other, on account of the great reputation of his sanctity, eloquence, and remarkable zeal against the Novatians. St. Cyprian having no jurisdiction over Arles, could do no more than join the Gaulish Catholics in stirring up the zeal of St. Stephen to exert his authority, and not suffer an obstinate heretic to disturb the peace of those churches to the destruction of souls. This he did by a letter to St. Stephen, in which he says, 1 “It is necessary that you despatch away ample letters to our fellow-bishops in Gaul, that they no longer suffer the obstinate Marcian to insult our college. Write to that province, and to the people of Arles, that Marcian being excommunicated, a successor may be provided for his see. Acquaint us, if you please, who is made bishop of Arles in the room of Marcian, that we may know to whom we are to send letters of communion, and to direct our brethren.” Though the letters of St. Stephen on this head have not reached us, we cannot doubt but by his order every thing here mentioned was carried into execution; for, in the ancient list of the bishops of Arles published by Mabillon, the name of Marcian does not occur. 1 Continue reading