Saint of the Day – 20 December – Saint Pope Zephyrinus (Died 217) Bishop of Rome, Confessor, Defender of the Faith especially of the Doctrine of the Trinity. He is known for combatting heresies and defending the divinity of Christ. Although he was not physically martyred for the faith, his suffering – both mental and spiritual – during his Pontificate have earned him the title of martyr, a title that was repealed 132 years after his death. Born in Rome and died on 20 December 217 also in Rome.
Saint Zephyrinus, a native of Rome, succeeded Victor I in the Pontificate in the year 199.
Immediately after his elevation to the Roman See, Zephyrinus called to Rome the confessor Callistus, who lived at Antium and who had received a monthly pension from Pope Victor and entrusted him with the oversight of the coemeterium. It is evident that shortly before this, the Roman Christian community had, under Victor, become the owner of a common place of burial on the Via Appia and Zephyrinus now, placed Callistus over this cemetery, which was given the name of Callistus. Undoubtedly Callistus was also made a Deacon of the Roman Church by Zephyrinus. He was the confidential counsellor of the Pope, whom he succeeded.
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 Father 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.
Saint Zephyrinus governed the Church for eighteen years, dying in 217.
He was buried in his own cemetery on the 26th of August, which date was celebrated as his feast day until 1969 when it was changed to today which is the actual day of his birthday into heaven.