Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Saints Pontian and Hippolytus: Signs of Contradiction

August 13, 2014


Today the Church celebrates the witness of the martyrs Saints Pontian and Hippolytus — theirs is not only a story of martyrdom, but of reconciliation, forgiveness and enemies becoming friends.

St. Pontian was the successor to the apostles Peter and Paul, the bishop of the Church of Rome. He was arrested during a persecution of the Church ordered by the Roman emperor Maximinus in the third century. He was sentenced to a “living death” — slavery in the salt mines of Sardinia.

St. Hippolytus might have been remembered as a heretic and a schismatic if not for the strange workings of God’s providence. He felt the bishop of Rome was not adequate enough in his defense of the apostolic faith, so he broke away from the Church’s communion and established himself as the Bishop of Rome. He was the first “anti-pope.”

This distinction did not save him from arrest for being a Christian. He too was sentenced to a “living death” in the mines of Sardinia.

It is in their captivity that Saints Pontian and Hippolytus reconciled with one another. Both died of torture and deprivation.

We have lived in an age when so many in the Church have divided themselves into factions, forsaking unity in Christ for the cause of ideology. Being a member of Christ’s Body has, sadly, become for so many a question of choosing sides. Saints Pontian and Hippolytus serve as a sign of contradiction to all this.

The substance of the apostolic faith is far greater than the pretenses of ideology that we would use to subvert the communion of the Church. Great suffering revealed this truth to Saints Pontian and Hippolytus — I wonder what it will take for us to reach this conclusion?

Let us pray that the tired ideologies of the present will quickly become a thing of the past and that we all will find the richness of the apostolic faith, the faith of the martyrs Pontian and Hippolytus, unity and peace.