St. Lucius, Pope and Martyr
ST. LUCIUS was a Roman by birth, and one of the clergy of that church under SS. Fabian and Cornelius. This latter being crowned with martyrdom, in 252, St. Lucius succeeded him in the pontificate. The emperor Gallus having renewed the persecution of his predecessor Decius, at least in Rome, this holy pope was no sooner placed in the chair of St. Peter, but was banished with several others, though to what place is uncertain. “Thus,” says St. Dionysius of Alexandria, “did Gallus deprive himself of the succour of heaven, by expelling those who every day prayed to God for his peace and prosperity.” St. Cyprian wrote to St. Lucius to congratulate him both on his promotion, and for the grace of suffering banishment for Christ. Our saint had been but a short time in exile, when he was recalled with his companions to the incredible joy of the people, who went out of Rome in crowds to meet him. St. Cyprian wrote to him a second letter of congratulation on this occasion. 1 He says, “He had not lost the dignity of martyrdom because he had the will, as the three children in the furnace, though preserved by God from death: this glory added a new dignity to his priesthood, that a bishop assisted at God’s altar, who exhorted his flock to martyrdom by his own example as well as by his words.
By giving such graces to his pastors, God showed where his true church was: for he denied the like glory of suffering to the Novatian heretics. The enemy of Christ only attacks the soldiers of Christ: heretics he knows to be already his own, and passes them by. He seeks to throw down those who stand against him.” He adds in his own name and that of his colleagues: “We do not cease in our sacrifices and prayers (in sacrificiis et orationibus nostris) to God the Father, and to Christ his son, our Lord, giving thanks and praying together, that he who perfects all may consummate in you the glorious crown of your confession, who perhaps has only recalled you that your glory might not be hidden; for the victim, which owes his brethren an example of virtue and faith, ought to be sacrificed in their presence.” 2 1
St. Cyprian, in his letter to Pope Stephen, avails himself of the authority of St. Lucius against the Novatian heretics, as having decreed against them, that those who were fallen were not to be denied reconciliation and communion, but to be absolved when they had done penance for their sin. Eusebius says, he did not sit in the pontifical chair above eight months; and he seems, from the chronology of St. Cyprian’s letters, to have sat only five or six, and to have died on the 4th of March, in 253, under Gallus, though we know not in what manner. The most ancient calendars mention him on the 5th of March, others, with the Roman, on the 4th, which seems to have been the day of his death, as the 5th that of his burial. His body was found in the Catacombs, and laid in the church of St. Cecily in Rome, where it is now exposed to public veneration by the order of Clement VIII. 2
Note 1. Ep. 58. Pamelio.—61. Fello. p. 272.
Note 2. Ep. 67. Pamelio.—68. Fello. in Ed. Oxon.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. March 4.