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Home » Saint of the Day

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian

Submitted by on Friday, 16 September 2011No Comment


Today is the memorial of Pope St. Cornelius and Cyprian, friends, and shepherds of a Church under persecution.

On Pope Cornelius

Reluctant 21st pope, elected after a year-and-a-half period during which the persecutions were so bad that papal ascension was a quick death sentence.

Worked to maintain unity in a time of schism and apostasy. Fought Novatianism and called a synod of bishops to confirm him as rightful pontiff, as opposed to the anti-pope Novatian. Had the support of Saint Cyprian of Carthage and Saint Dionysius. He welcomed back those who had apostacized during the persecutions of Decius; the documents that settled this matter prove the final authority of the Pope. Exiled to Centemcellae in 252 by Roman authorities to punish Christians in general, who were said to have provoked the gods to send plague against Rome. Martyr.

A document from Cornelius shows the size of the Church in Rome in his papacy: 46 priests, 7 deacons, 7 subdeacons, approximately 50,000 Christians. Read more: SQPN Pope St. Cornelius

On St. Cyprian of Carthage

Bishop and martyr. Of the date of the saint’s birth and of his early life nothing is known. At the time of his conversion to Christianity he had, perhaps, passed middle life. He was famous as an orator and pleader, had considerable wealth, and held, no doubt, a great position in the metropolis of Africa. We learn from his deacon, St. Pontius, whose life of the saint is preserved, that his mien was dignified without severity, and cheerful without effusiveness. His gift of eloquence is evident in his writings. He was not a thinker, a philosopher, a theologian, but eminently a man of the world and an administrator, of vast energies, and of forcible and striking character. His conversion was due to an aged priest named Caecilianus, with whom he seems to have gone to live. Caecilianus in dying commended to Cyprian the care of his wife and family. While yet a catechumen the saint decided to observe chastity, and he gave most of his revenues to the poor. He sold his property, including his gardens at Carthage. These were restored to him (Dei indulgentiĆ¢ restituti, says Pontius), being apparently bought back for him by his friends; but he would have sold them again, had the persecution made this imprudent. His baptism probably took place c. 246, presumably on Easter eve, 18 April.

Cyprian’s first Christian writing is "Ad Donatum", a monologue spoken to a friend, sitting under a vine-clad pergola. He tells how, until the grace of God illuminated and strengthened the convert, it had seemed impossible to conquer vice; the decay of Roman society is pictured, the gladiatorial shows, the theatre, the unjust law-courts, the hollowness of political success; the only refuge is the temperate, studious, and prayerful life of the Christian. At the beginning should probably be placed the few words of Donatus to Cyprian which are printed by Hartel as a spurious letter. The style of this pamphlet is affected and reminds us of the bombastic unintelligibilty of Pontius. It is not like Tertullian, brilliant, barbarous, uncouth, but it reflects the preciosity which Apuleius made fashionable in Africa. In his other works Cyprian addresses a Christian audience; his own fervour is allowed full play, his style becomes simpler, though forcible, and sometimes poetical, not to say flowery. Without being classical, it is correct for its date, and the cadences of the sentences are in strict rhythm in all his more careful writings. On the whole his beauty of style has rarely ben equalled among the Latin Fathers, and never surpassed except by the matchless energy and wit of St. Jerome.

Read more: Phoenician Punic St. Cyprian of Carthage

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