Saint of the Day – 25 August – St Pope Zephyrinus (died 217) was Bishop of Rome or Pope from 199 to his death in 217. He was born in Rome. His predecessor was Pope Victor I. Upon his death on 20 December 217, he was succeeded by his principal advisor, Pope Callixtus I. He is known for combatting heresies and defending the divinity of Christ.
Saint Zephyrinus, a native of Rome, succeeded Victor I in the pontificate in the year 198. In 202 Septimus Severus, a military despot, raised the fifth and most bloody persecution against the Church, which continued for nine years until the death of the emperor in 211. Until this furious storm ended, the holy pastor remained concealed for the sake of his flock, supporting and comforting the distressed disciples of Christ. He suffered by charity and compassion, what every confessor underwent. The triumphs of the martyrs were indeed his joy but his heart received many deep wounds from the fall of apostates and heretics. Nor did this latter affliction cease, when peace was restored to the Church.
The holy Pope had the affliction of witnessing the fall of Tertullian. He saw to his joy, however, the conversion of Natalis, who had become a heretical bishop when he lapsed into the Theodotian heresy. God, wishing to bring him back to the Church, sent him a solid correction which opened his eyes and he came to kneel at the feet of the Vicar of Christ, wearing a hair shirt and humbly asking pardon for his revolt.
Eusebius tells us that this holy Pope exerted his zeal so strenuously against the blasphemies of the heretics, that they treated him with the utmost contempt. To his glory, however, they also called him the principal defender of Christ’s divinity.
St Zephyrinus filled the pontifical chair nineteen years, dying in 217 . He was buried in his own cemetery, on the 26th of August. He is, in some Martyrologies, styled a martyr, which title he might deserve by what he suffered in the persecution, though he perhaps did not die by the executioner.