January 31, 2004
vol 15, no. 31

Sainted Popes: The REAL Thing!

Following the Apostles the three immediate successors of Peter are mentioned along with two other great Popes of the early Church forever invoked in the Canon of the Holy Mass. Sadly they have been totally forgotten in the New Order by the modern Church. Why?

    "Today, Catholics are forced to ask questions that no one dreamed of asking a hundred years ago, let alone in the time of the holy Popes mentioned in the Communicantes. Is there a difference between the Papacy and a pope? Isn't the Chair of Peter much more than whatever a particular pope wants it to be? Is it possible for a pope to divorce himself from the living traditions of the Church and step out into the abyss of novelty thereby separating himself from the lifeblood of the Faith? Unsettling questions that demand an answer as the ashes of a fruitless springtime settle to the ground."

   There is little doubt that modern Catholics have been seduced into forgetting and ignoring their past in just about every area including knowledge of great popes. Instead of looking to the examples of great men of the past who trod difficult roads, persevering against the greatest odds in order to protect and defend the Faith, today's Catholics are mesmerized by the celebrity of the current pontiff whose heroes remain none other than his immediate predecessors who embraced the agenda of Vatican II. Pre-Vatican II popes are rarely if ever mentioned, but are profusely apologized for and relegated to the useless realm of the old, prehistoric days of the Church.


Here, at the beginning of the Canon of the Mass prior to the Consecration, the Priest prays the Communicantes in celebrating the Church Triumphant with the Invocation of the Saints.

Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes in primis gloriosae semper Virginis Mariae, Genitricis Dei et Domini nostri Iesu Christi: sed et beatorum Apostolorum ac Martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreae, Iacobi, Ioannis, Thomae, Iacobi, Philippi, Bartholomaei, Matthaei, Simonis, et Thaddei: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Ioannis et Pauli, Cosmae et Damianis: et omnium Sanctorum tuorum; quorum meritis, precibusque concedas, ut in omnibus protentionis tuae muniamur auxilio. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Communicating with, and honoring in the first place the memory of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ: as also of the blessed Apostles and Martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Thaddeus; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all Thy Saints, through whose merits and prayers, grant that we may in all things be defended by the help of Thy protection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Popes of the Canon

   The Canon of the Traditional Roman Rite of the Mass above keeps before our eyes some unforgettable popes dating back to the beginnings of the Church. We have heard their names so many times, and yet they remain strangers to most of us. Who are they and why are there names forever inscribed in the Canon? The lives of men given such a high honor are worthy of our consideration, and it is certain that they have something to teach us even today. Be prepared! Their pontificates are not renowned for lengthy duration, miles traveled, or number of saints canonized.


  • Pope Saint Linus was the immediate successor of St. Peter, according to ancient records that have been handed down. His term of office lasted about 12 years beginning from any time, according to historians from 56 A.D. up to 67 A.D. Though the dates are uncertain, the fact that he ruled for a dozen years would favor the latter date since he died in 79 A.D. It is also believed that he is the Linus mentioned by St. Paul in the Epistle, II Timothy, 4:21.

       Linus was born in Volterra. He was the one who consecrated the first fifteen bishops of the Church. Interesting also, that with all the rhetoric around the Novus Ordoers' argument that change was necessary in order to go back to the way it was in the 'early Church' so they could justify a table and Communion in the hand, that an even earlier tradition - still honored in Traditional Catholic circles but abandoned by the newChurch - was one adapted and decreed by this second Pope: He forbade women to enter any church with their heads uncovered. When was the last time you saw any of the fair sex in a NO church with a mantilla?

       It was also during the pontificate of Linus, that the Evangelists Luke and Mark were martyred. Linus is buried near St. Peter's crypt. Little else is known about him, although it is certain, since he is mentioned with the martyrs in the Canon, that he indeed also suffered martyrdom. His feast is September 23.


  • The second successor of St. Peter, Pope Saint Cletus (also known as Anacletus), governed the Church from about 76 A.D. to 88 A.D. According to some records, he was a Roman by birth. He formulated the rules for the consecration of bishops - the successors of the Apostles. He also drew up the rules for governing ecclesiastical garb, though it is not certain if he introduced the Roman collar. It is certain however that he ordained twenty-five priests and was martyred. His body was buried "in Vaticano, near the body of St. Peter" where he built an oratory dedicated to the martyrs. His feast day is April 26.


  • Pope Saint Clement was the fourth pope, succeeding Cletus in the year 88. Like Cletus he too was of Roman birth. It is believed that he was ordained by St. Peter and is the Supreme Pontiff who restored the sacrament of confirmation as taught by the first Pope. It was Clement who introduced into the Holy Mass the use of "Amen" at the end of formulated prayers. Very little else is known about his life aside from the fact that around 96 A.D. he was banished to Pontius by the Roman Emperor Trajan who eventually ordered his centurions to have an anchor tied around Cletus' neck and thrown into the sea where he died in 97 A.D.

       Scholars agree that he was the author of a letter to the Corinthians, wherein he rebuked the church at Corinth for a schism that erupted there. The significance of the letter is both spiritual and historical, as it is evidence of the Bishop of Rome intervening in an authoritative manner as the "pre-eminent authority in the affairs of another apostolic church to settle a dispute as early as the first century." While calling for peace and unity, this holy Pope fearlessly proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord and Author of peace, pointing out that arrogance is absurd, "for man is nothing." His feast day is November 23.


  • While many assume the next Pope mentioned in the Canon of the Mass is Pope Sixtus I, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, it is not he but rather Pope Saint Sixtus II who is honored. Not truly knowing which, I will share a bit about each. The first Sixtus was a Roman who succeeded Pope Alexander I in 115/ He ordered that the corporal me made of linen and that all sacred vessels be handled or touched by consecrated hands only. Another tradition that has totally been abandoned by the modern church of Vatican II. His pontificate lasted eight years and he died a martyr in 123 and was buried in the acropolis of Alatri (Frosinone) in Rome.


  • The second Sixtus was elected as the 24th successor of Peter on August 30, 257, and was known for his firm position that heretical baptisms were invalid. Even though his pontificate was just under a year, it was he who settled the dispute and put down the uprising of the followers of the antipope that had arisen during the papacies of his immediate three predecessors Popes St. Corneluius, St. Lucius I and Stephen I. Sixtus II also completed the identification and moving of the bodies of Sts. Peter and Paul to their respective burial sites. He also is the first pope to have introduced the "Deo Gratias" exclamation into the Holy Mass. While saying Mass on August 6, 258, he was seized and beheaded along with six deacons during the persecutions of Emperor Valerian.

       While the natural succession of the Bishops of Rome in the Canon would portend to be the first Sixtus, there is strong argument that the Canon is indeed referring to the second Sixtus since the second has an established feast day in the Liturgical Calendar. His feast day, along with that of the six deacons, is August 7. The first Pope Sixtus has no assigned feast. And yet, why would Sixtus be mentioned before Cornelius who in actuality preceded Sixtus by six years?


  • Pope Saint Cornelius, elected Pope in 251, reigned two years, three months, and ten days. He withstood troublesome times when the first schism and anti-pope Novatian came on the scene, and the "whole Christian world was convulsed by the schism at Rome." The main issue of his pontificate was the treatment of those who had fallen away from the Faith during the persecutions of Emperor Decian. Cornelius voiced the fact that the Church had authority to forgive the repentant lapsed Christians, readmitting them to the Church and the sacraments after proper penance was performed and they had sworn off their schismatic ways. In 253 the persecutions once again erupted, and Cornelius was exiled to Civitavecchia where he died a martyr because he refused to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods of Rome. His feast day is September 16.

       It is certainly by the direction of the Holy Ghost that the names of these particular Popes are engraved in the Canon. They are to be kept before us always as reminders of the nobility and glorious courage that was once demanded of anyone who would be elected to the papal throne. What mere mortal could have guessed that the Church would be thrown into a dizzy spiral in centuries to come, with an emaciated papacy unable to protect and defend the sacred Deposit of Faith? Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus and Cornelius gave their lives for the Faith, each one knowing deep in his heart that by accepting the office of the papacy he was signing his own death sentence.

       No Popes in recent history have been mercilessly persecuted, seized and beheaded, but the wily Lucifer has not abandoned his insidious attack against the Rock. Unfortunately, modern churchmen have become complacent, turning their focus to celebrity status, power and the lures of the world, all the while thinking themselves safe. They seem unaware that the blood being demanded of them in modern times is not physical, but the very lifeblood of their souls. Oh that clever Lucifer! By convincing the world that he doesn't exist and that hell is empty, he has wielded his ax across the jugular vein. To the great sorrow of the Church, the current pontiff, with his celebrity status as most traveled pope, walks among us virtually beheaded. A desire for unity, love for youth, well intentioned appreciation for entertainment, and ambiguity in letter and action is not sufficient ammunition for the intense, unceasing warfare against the pope. At the heart of the battle is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, a reality which the Church can never abandon in favor of unity, or "peace," or "the dignity of man."

       It is true that there have been "bad" popes in the past and there will be bad popes in the future. However, in step with neo-Catholic thinking, the modern Vatican apparatus would have us believe that the papacy is way beyond such antiquated ideas. Vatican II popes are instant saints and it is no longer necessary to uphold the memory and example of some of the great early popes. It was fitting, the prelates told us, in this modern day to eliminate the names and honorable memory of Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus and Cornelius from the modern mass. And all the people said, "Okay!"

       Some will contend that eliminating these popes from the Canon is a minor point. However, I believe it underlies the very sickness that surrounds the modern church. If the papacy is weakened and ineffective, reducing the pope to nothing more than a celebrated figure head and world diplomat, then the rest of the Church is sure to follow headlong into mediocrity, meandering where it will.

       Today, Catholics are forced to ask questions that no one dreamed of asking a hundred years ago, let alone in the time of the holy Popes mentioned in the Communicantes. Is there a difference between the Papacy and a pope? Isn't the Chair of Peter much more than whatever a particular pope wants it to be? Is it possible for a pope to divorce himself from the living traditions of the Church and step out into the abyss of novelty thereby separating himself from the lifeblood of the Faith? Unsettling questions that demand an answer as the ashes of a fruitless springtime settle to the ground.

       There is a prayer in the Preces of the Divine Office prayed by the Church for centuries which alludes to the fragility of the position of the pope.

      Let us pray for our Holy Father Pope N.
      May the Lord preserve him and give him life and make him blessed on earth,
      and not deliver him up to the will of his enemies.

       How is it possible that the Church would pray such a prayer if the popes are immune to the effects of evil? Why would the Church pray such a prayer if a pope can never succumb to the will of his enemies? Only in our day, since Vatican II, is such a prayer for the pope deemed unnecessary by the modern church. Nobody actually believes in evil, or spiritual enemies, or any of that old-fashioned stuff!

       Pope Saint Clement understood the reality of evil and stood in the face of it. He embraced death rather than dialogue. Compare his forceful, focused and fearless epistle to the Corinthians (seen here in part), with any modern day pontifical plea for peace and unity. May the holy popes, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus and Cornelius pray for John Paul II, and may their legacy never be forgotten despite all modern attempts to the contrary.

      Let us forsake evil and approach God with purity, clinging to His blessing, which the Patriarchs so richly obtained, for the Lord will quickly come with His rewards, let us look to Jesus Christ our High-Priest, above the angels at the right hand of the Father (36). Discipline and subordination are necessary as in an army and in the human body, while arrogance is absurd for man is nothing. The Apostles foresaw feuds, and provided for a succession of bishops and deacons; such, therefore cannot be removed at pleasure. The just have always been persecuted. Read St. Paul's first epistle to you, how he condemns party spirit. It is shocking that a few should disgrace the Church of Corinth. Let us beg for pardon- nothing is more beautiful than charity; it was shown by Christ when He gave His Flesh for our flesh, His Soul-for our souls; by living in this love, we shall be in the number of the saved through Jesus Christ, by Whom is glory to God for ever and ever, Amen. Finally may the all-seeing God and Master of Spirits and Lord of all flesh, who chose the Lord Jesus Christ and us through Him for a peculiar people, grant unto every soul that is called after His excellent and holy Name faith, fear, peace, patience, long-suffering, temperance, chastity, and soberness, that they may be well-pleasing unto His Name through our High Priest and Guardian. Jesus Christ, through whom unto Him be glory and majesty, might and honour, both now and for ever and ever, Amen…. Now send ye back speedily unto us our messengers Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Bito, together with Fortunatus also, in peace and with joy, to the end that they may the more quickly report the peace and concord which is prayed for and earnestly desired by us, that we also may the more speedily rejoice over your good order. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and with all men in all places who have been called by God and through Him, through whom is glory and honour, power and greatness and eternal dominion, unto Him, from the ages past and for ever and ever. Amen."
        (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight)

    Catharine Lamb

    (Sources: Pocket Dictionary of Saints, John J. Delaney ©1983, Image Books and The Catholic Encyclopedia available online at and I Sommi Pontefic Romani.)

      For past columns by Catharine, see 2004lam.htm Archives
    • January 31, 2004
      vol 15, no. 31