Lupercalia was an ancient pagan Roman festival that lasted from February 13th to the 15th and was basically three days of drunken orgies,bizarre public sexual whippings,and some kind of lottery where a man drew the name of a random woman who then became his…..ummm….companion during the festival or longer. Pope Gelasius got on the scene and was having none of these shenanigans….NONE OF IT! Gelasius tried to reason with the Roman leaders and festival goers that this was a nasty and sinful tradition,but when he couldn’t talk them out of it,he just banned it outright. Gelasius then changed the nature of the festival itself. The parties continued,and young men and women continued to woo each other,but clothes went back on,the whippings stopped,the orgies stopped and now the lottery had men and women draw the names of Saints that they could model themselves after throughout the year. Much better. Well,maybe not better if you were a pervert. The name of the festival changed as well,and since the feast day of a martyred priest happened to fall in the middle of the festival,it now became St.Valentine’s day. Hershey and Hallmark,please forward a portion of your money to the Vatican. Address it to Pope Francis.
Pope Gelasius was our last Pope from Africa and his own feast day is celebrated on November 21st.
Pope Felix III was born into Roman aristocracy and he was the great-great-grandfather of Pope Gregory the Great(590-604). The fall of the Roman empire caused eastern Bishop Acacius of Constantinople to assume that he should rule all of Christianity instead of the Bishop of Rome and he made a pact with various heretics to gain support for his move. Pope Felix would have none of it and started flinging excommunications left and right. One of his messengers actually interrupted Acacius while he was celebrating Mass to inform him that Felix had excommunicated him. The poor timing,on top of the bad news,enraged Acacius and he immediately cut off ties to Rome and began a schism that would last thirty years.
Pope Felix is said to have appeared as a ghost to his ailing great-granddaughter to help ease her passage into Heaven and he’s got a quote! These early Popes hardly ever have quotes!
“Not to oppose error is to approve it; and not to defend truth is to suppress it, and, indeed, to neglect to confound evil men—when we can do it—is no less a sin than to encourage them.”
The great Roman empire ended during the time of Pope Simplicius. The last Roman emperor,Romulus Augustulus,stepped down on the order of a Germanic warlord who then became King of Italy. Seeing that the Roman empire was no more,the Eastern Orthodox Bishops in Constantinople declared that they now had primacy over the Roman Church and they alone,rather than the Pope,would decide what was best for Christianity. To gain support for this move,the Eastern Church allied itself with those pesky followers of Monophysitism who believed that Jesus was only divine and not both human AND divine. All of this betrayal outraged Simplicius and he went to his grave fighting to keep primacy over all Christians and also to keep the faith pure and free of heresy. His successor Pope Felix III would continue the fight which will eventually lead to a schism between west and east for the next thirty years.
I can’t overstate how blessed we were to have such a man of strong faith and wisdom in charge during this time,because if the Pope gave ground and let the Eastern Church(with all of its heresies at the time),take over guidance of Christianity,it would have basically changed all of Western history from that point on. Our calendar would be different,our maps would be different,our lives would be different. These men that are our Popes are the guardians of the truth of Jesus and his teachings. Pope Simplicius is buried in Saint Peter’s Basilica and his feast day is March 10th.
The unfortunately named Hilarius was a trusted priest under Pope Leo the Great. He was given the task with going east and reading Leo’s letter to heretics telling them that they were in the wrong about Jesus’ divinity and that he had two natures,both human and divine,instead of just a divine nature like monophysitism claimed. Leo’s letter went over like a lead balloon and a violent riot ensued(way to take some criticism guys). Hilarius was chased through the streets until he found a hiding place in the tomb of St.John the apostle. Years later when Hilarius became Pope,he built a special chapel in the Archbasilica of St.John out of thanks to the apostle for saving his life during the riots.
Hilarius was also known for making changes to the Mass to make it easier to follow for new converts,probably leading to some of the earliest examples of hand wringing and complaining that the Church “isn’t what she used to be”.
There’s no record of his personality but I’d like to think that he was probably not the funniest guy to be around,just to make his name ironic for my own amusement.
He gets two feast days(bonus feast day!)on February 28th or November 17th,whichever it is the day you want to be hilarious,or joyful,in celebration of Hilarius.