So we’ve had John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, and Ignatius, which brings us now to Alexander, or rather Pope St. Alexander I. The traditions around St. Alexander are a bit hazy – he wasn’t the most well-known or popular pope in the history of the Church – but apparently, he was important enough at the time to find his way into our prayers! He was the 5th pope in the succession from St. Peter the Apostle, and reigned from around 107 to 115, although that is somewhat disputed. He was Roman by birth, and became a priest of the diocese of Rome, until he became the Bishop of Rome under the Emperor Trajan.
St. Alexander is actually pretty important to the Church, as he is sneakily responsible for some of the practices that we use even today. One of these is the practice of using holy water fonts in the home. If you don’t have one of these, look it up at your local Catholic goods store. Blessing ourselves as we enter and leave our homes is a great way to keep our minds on Christ and protect our home and family against the influences of sin.
A related practice attributed to St. Alexander is the use of blessed salt in the home as well. This isn’t as common as holy water, but it is a traditional practice of the Church to remind us of Christ’s call to be the “salt of the earth” and to protect against the Evil One. Often times, the blessed salt is dissolved in the holy water fonts for double the blessings and protection! Let me know if you want some salt blessed…
St. Alexander is also credited with being the first to include the institution narrative (the Qui Pridie as it is called), which as you might recall, are the words commemorating and bringing about again the events of the Last Supper during Mass. This is the most important part of the Eucharistic Prayer, so this is quite a contribution to the Church from St. Alexander. Many scholars don’t really believe that he is responsible for this, but who cares, right? That’s what tradition says!
Tradition also tells us that St. Alexander (after bringing us holy water, blessed salt, and the Institution Narrative), suffered martyrdom alongside two of his priests, Eventius and Theodulus, on the Via Nomentana, northeast of Rome. The Roman Martyrology, which catalogs the martyrs for each day, says that he suffered “fetters, imprisonment, the rack (what is that?!?), and torture by hooks and fire” before he was slain with “sharp implements”, whatever that means. Needless to say, it wasn’t pleasant! In 1855, his body, along with Eventius and Theodulus, was discovered in a subterranean cemetery, supposedly on the site of his martyrdom. His relics were then translated to the ancient basilica St. Sabina on the Aventine Hill in Rome, where you can still see and venerate them today.