St. Anterus was elected Bishop of Rome on November 21st 235 and he passed away on January 3rd 236….sooooo he was Pope for a little over a month. In his very brief tenure he tried to compile records of all the Christian martyrs. Traditionally we think of a martyr as somehow who dies for their faith,and while that is true,the actual meaning is someone who has also given over their living life to their faith,so St. Anterus,while not murdered for his faith,gave his life over to Jesus and would be considered a martyr in the true sense of the word. He was the first Pope to be buried in the Papal crypts of the Catacombs of Callixtus(his predecessor’s body had not made it back to Rome yet),and his tomb was discovered in 1854. His feast day is celebrated on the day of his death,January 3rd.
Pope Pontian made great strides in reconciling with the Anti-Pope Hippolytus and healing the first great schism of the Church,unfortunately(there’s always a “unfortunately” with early Christianity. Unfortunately.),a new Emperor named Maximinus Thrax(even his name is scary)came to power in the year 235 and his hatred of all things Christian led to the arrest of every Church leader the empire could get their hands on. Pontian and Hippolytus were captured and sentenced to slave labor in the mines of the island Sardinia. Before he was exiled though,Pontian resigned as Bishop of Rome so the Church wouldn’t be left in a lurch(poet didn’t know it). He was the first Pope to step down voluntarily. Life in the mines of Sardinia was a guaranteed death sentence,especially to the older Pontian,and soon after his body was brought back to Rome to be laid to rest in the Papal crypts of the Catacombs of Callixtus. The lid to his crypt was discovered in 1909 and on it was inscribed “Pontianos,Episk. Martur”,which translates to “Pontian,Bishop. Martyr.”
Roman born Bishop Urban’s time in office was initially a peaceful one,but it would not last. Following the murder of Roman Emperor Elagabalus,the next Emperor was Alexander Severus,and he was fairly open minded to Christianity(his mom liked Christians…..awwww).The Catholic Church saw much growth during this time of relative freedom and Urban was a strong leader that converted hundreds of Romans. During his papacy,Urban issued a Papal decree concerning donations of the faithful during Mass,stating that donations “only be used for ecclesiastical purposes,for the common good of the Christian community,and for the poor”.
The Emperor didn’t mind the Christians,but they still had to fear the suspicious locals and evil politicians. A governor named Almachius arrested Urban and several of his priests and proceeded to beat and torture them demanding the treasury of the Church. Urban replied “I see now that covetousness moves you more to persecute the Christians than does the sacrifice of your Gods”. Almachius dragged Urban before a statue of a Roman idol and told him to engage in a pagan sacrifice. Urban spit at the idol(YES!),made the sign of the cross on his forehead and prayed to the one true God.Suddenly the statue toppled over and killed several pagan priests. Urban was then beheaded,but damn,what an incredible way to go out. I’m sure he held his head high before it was taken off. Urban was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus and his feast day is held on May 25th.
Oh this guy…..this guy got off to a rough start. A young slave belonging to a Christian named Carpophorus,young Callixtus was given the job of looking over the offerings and funds collected for Christian widows and orphans,which Callixtus then freely spent on God knows what for himself. Arrested and sentenced to the dreaded treadmill,Callixtus was later freed so he could repay his stolen debts. Showing that he learned nothing from prison,he promptly started a brawl in a Jewish synagogue(oy!),and was then shipped off to hard labor in the mines of Sardinia. Pardoned by Emperor Commodus,a humbled and now converted Christian Callixtus fell in with future Pope Zephyrinus and began his rise through the Church. Put in charge of the first Christian cemeteries(and the first land owned by Christians),Callixtus organized and created what is now called “The Catacombs of Callixtus”,and at its peak it would hold sixteen Popes and over fifty Christian martyrs.
The main brains behind the Papacy of Zephyrinus,Callixtus was easily elected to the position and this did not sit well with priest Hippolytus,who hated Zephyrinus(he thought he was a doofus),and he really hated Callixtus(he thought he was a brown noser). Hippolytus also had a problem with differences of doctrine with the new Pope. Callixtus,himself a reformed sinner,welcomed and forgave herectics and sinners of all kinds. Hippolytus was so digusted by all of this that he set himself up as a rival Bishop of Rome,becoming the first Anti-Pope in the process and creating the first known schism of the Church.
These bitter disputes and rival Popes would not last long. Roman Emperor Elagabalus was murdered and riots broke out all throughout the city. Poor Callixtus was caught in the middle of an angry mob and was apparently stuffed down a well. An indignant end to a potentially great Pope. Ironically he isn’t even buried in the cemetery he created.