Wednesday, September 16, 1998
First Reading: 1 Corinthians 12: 31; 13: 1-13
Psalms: Psalm 33: 1-5, 12, 22
Gospel Reading: Luke 7: 31-35
Feast of Saint Cornelius, Pope, and Saint Cyprian, Bishop, - Martyrs
This feast recognizes two martyrs of the Church in the 3rd Century - Pope Saint Cornelius and Saint Cyprian. The former was the 21st in the line of Peter, being elevated to the papacy in March 251 during the height of the Roman persecutions under the wicked Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus, better known as the terrible terror - Roman Emperor Valerian. Though his rule lasted only two years, he is remembered for defending the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance) against the heretic Novatian who bitterly opposed Cornelius, claiming opposite poles in respect to how public sinners and apostates should be reconciled with Holy Mother Church. In 253 Valerian exiled Cornelius to Civitavecchia, which was then the port of Rome, and where he died for his faith in June of the same year.
St. Cyprian was a rhetorician and lawyer prior to his conversion at the age of 25. In 249 he was appointed bishop by Pope Saint Fabian, Cornelius' predecessor who had been martyred by the Roman Emperor Decius. Decius was murdered by Valerian shortly after killing Fabian. Cyprian had been placed in charge of about 150 other bishops as the Metropolitan of Northern Africa by Cornelius and joined with the Pope in his stance that baptism performed by heretics was invalid. After Cornelius' martyrdom Cyprian continued to uphold this viewpoint through the time of two more pontiffs Pope Saint Lucius I and Saint Stephen I; the latter ruling against the thinking of Cornelius and Cyprian. Because Cyprian was so influential with the Christians from his position as Metropolitan Bishop, Valerian targeted him for execution, first exiling him and then ordering that the saint be beheaded on September 14, 258. Rather than discouraging Christians everywhere by this action, it backfired on Valerian for indeed the blood of the martyrs replenished a flourishing Church. Cornelius and Cyprian are listed together in the Roman Canon of the Mass.