Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Saint Sixtus II and Companions, Martyrs

Saint Lawrence Receiving the Treasures of the Church from Pope Sixtus II
Fra Angelico c. 1450s
Chapel of Nicholas V, Vatican Palace

Today is the feast of Sts. Sixtus II and his companions, Felicissimus and Agapitus. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of the persecution under the Emperor Valerian.

St. Sixtus II was a Greek philosopher and an adult convert to Christianity who became a deacon in Rome. He was elected pope in 257 to succeed Stephen and served in that capacity for less than a year.

During that time, he dealt with the controversy concerning Baptism by heretics. He believed that anyone who was baptised with a desire to be a Christian, even if the Baptism was performed by a heretic, was truly baptised into the faith, and that the validity of his faith was based on his own desire and actions, not the errors of the person who performed the sacrament.

Twelve months after his election, Sixtus was arrested while addressing a gathering of Christians in a cemetery outside Rome.

Sixtus and his companions were put to death by the sword on August 6, 258 during Emperor Valerian's persecution of Christians. Four deacons, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, and Stephanus, were apprehended with Sixtus and beheaded with him. Two other deacons, Felicissimus and Agapitus, suffered martyrdom on the same day. St. Sixtus was one of the most venerated martyrs of the early Roman Church.

Symbols: Cross; sword. Often Portrayed As: Giving Saint Lawrence a bag of money to give to the poor; with Saint Lawrence; with Saint Lawrence and Saint John the Baptist.

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