Christian Heroism

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This past Friday, I gave a talk for a group of men at my previous parish for “Advent by Tail Light”, a tailgating celebration in preparation for Christmas.  I was looking for a topic particularly important to men, and what has been resting in my heart for the past few weeks has been the idea of heroism.  It’s something attractive, something powerful, something motivating – and something of which I believe our world and our Church is in such dire need.  Enjoy!

Pope St. Linus…and his blanket

220px-Pope_Linus_IllustrationJust kidding.  There’s no blanket.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve gone through the early apostles and learned a little about their lives and the greater traditions surrounding them. The apostles were genuinely fantastic figures, from all we’ve been able to learn from them! But our first Eucharistic Prayer is a unique gift in that it also throws out there a lot of names that we don’t usually hear about: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, and on. The theory is that these names were mentioned in the prayer because they meant so much to the faithful of the Church in Rome. Members of the Church there would have personally known these individuals and would have heard their preaching. The prayer comes from ancient times, so these names were their contemporaries.

So following the list, our first saint is St. Linus. No, he wasn’t famous for holding his security blanket and waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. Everybody knows that St. Peter was the first pope, but do you know the second? That’s right! Pope St. Linus! Many of the early Fathers of the Church attest to this as well, and he is even mentioned in St. Paul’s letter to Timothy. How appropriate, because he was an associate of St. Paul, and most likely ordained a bishop by the Great Apostle himself. St. Linus, therefore, might be considered one of the “Apostlolic Fathers,” that generation of saints who weren’t apostles themselves, but who knew and learned from the apostles and succeeded them in their ministry. We will continue to hear about the Apostolic Fathers in the near future.

Statue of St. Linus Portico Ceiling of St. Peter's Basilica, Rome
Statue of St. Linus
Portico Ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Typically, the Church celebrates St. Linus as a martyr, as we do most of the other first popes, but it’s unclear how true that is. Certainly St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in Rome under the Emperor Nero, and it might be possible that St. Linus was caught up in the aftermath of that, but after Nero, there were very few open persecutions until the Emperor Domitian, who reigned 13 years later. Still, St. Linus could have suffered what the Early Church called a “white martyrdom” in his sufferings for the faith. After his death on September 23, St. Linus was buried on the Vatican Hill in Rome, next to St. Peter. Today, his remains are believed to be in a tomb near the apostle under the great St. Peter’s Basilica.

Tune in next week for another pope!