Saint of the Day – 30 May – Saint Felix I (Died 274) Pope Martyr, the 26th Bishop of Rome from 5 January 269 to his death in 274. Born and was Martyred in Rome.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “At Rome on the Aurelian road, the birthday of St Felix, Pope and Martyr, who was crowned with Martyrdom under the Emperor Aurelian.”
A Roman by birth, Felix was chosen to be Pope on 5 January 269 in succession to Dionysius, who had died on 26 December 268.
Felix was the author of an important dogmatic letter on the unity of Christ’s Person. He received Emperor Aurelian’s aid in settling a theological dispute between the anti-Trinitarian, Paul of Samosata, who had been deprived of the Bishopric of Antioch, by a Council of Bishops, for heresy and the orthodox Domnus, Paul’s successor. Paul refused to give way and in 272 Aurelian was asked to decide between the rivals. He ordered the Church building to be given to the Bishop who was “recognised by the Bishops of Italy and of the City of Rome” (Felix). (See Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. vii. 30.)
The notice about Felix in the Liber Pontificalis ascribes to him, a Decree, that Masses should be celebrated on the tombs of Martyrs. . The author of this entry was evidently alluding to the custom of celebrating Mass privately, at the Altars near, or over the tombs of the Martyrs, in the crypts of the Catacombs (missa ad corpus). The solemn celebration always took place in the Basilicas built over the Catacombs. This practice, still in force at the end of the fourth century, dates apparently from the period when the great cemeterial Basilicas, were built in Rome and owes its origin to the solemn commemoration services of Martyrs, held at their tombs on the anniversary of their burial, as early as the third century. Felix probably issued no such decree but the compiler of the Liber Pontificalis attributed it to him because he made no departure from the custom in force in his time.
The Acts of the Council of Ephesus give Pope Felix as a Martyr; but this detail, which occurs again in the Biography of the Pope in the Liber Pontificalis, is unsupported by any authentic earlier evidence and is manifestly due to a confusion of names. According to the notice in the Liber Pontificalis, Felix erected a basilica on the Via Aurelian; the same source also adds, that he was buried there. The latter detail is evidently an error, for the fourth-century Roman calendar of feasts says that Pope Felix was interred in the Catacomb of Callixtus, on the Via Appia. The statement of the Liber Pontificalis concerning the Pope’s Martyrdom results obviously from a confusion with a Roman Martyr of the same name, buried on the Via Aurelian and over whose grave, a Church was built. In the Roman “Feriale” or calendar of feasts, referred to above, the name of Felix occurs in the list of Roman Bishops and not in that of the Martyrs.
All-in-all, we have little verified information of St Felix I. As so much confusion exists regarding St Felix I, the mention of Saint Felix I was reduced to a commemoration in the weekday Mass by decision of Pope Pius XII.
One thought on “Saint of the Day – 30 May – Saint Felix I (Died 274) Pope Martyr”