Pope Saint Caius
Knowing our own history makes us value it more. To know the history of the Church makes us value further. Even those people who are far into the depths of anonymity should be brought to the surface and looked at, however briefly.
Like too much of our history, Pope Caius' story is based on stories and conjecture. This man was born, son of another Caius, in Salona, Dalmatia. This is a place a few miles from the present city of Solin, Croatia. Salona was a provincial city of the Roman Empire. It was a prosperous city , so prosperous, indeed, that there was extensive building of Christian churches in the 300s and 400s. Unfortunately, invasions by the Avars and Slavs in the sixth and seventh centuries completely destroyed the beautiful city. Ruins are still seen today. It is said that Caius and his family were somehow related to the Emperor Diocletian, who held a large persecution of Christians during the end of Caius' reign and into the early 300s.
Caius reigned from 17 December 283 to 22 April 296, a time of peace within the Empire. Theologically speaking, Caius was faced with the challenge of the Novationists, who were insisting that Christians must hold their faith unto death and if not, only God could forgive them, not anyone on earth. He once met with Chromatius, a Roman official and counseled him to receive Christians into his country home. then Caius visited the home. He taught that Jesus knew human nature implicitly so he established two modes of living the Faith: confession of Faith and martyrdom. The Lord knew that some could only go so far. Caius pointed out that Jesus, Himself, said that when you are persecuted in one city, you should flee to another (Mt 10:23). Thus, Caius pointed out, those who wished to stay in the country, stay; and those who wished to go to Rome with him, could come. The story is that several future martyrs went to Rome with him.
As far as discipline and organization went, Caius divided the districts of Rome among the deacons, which probably had to be done every so often as the population shifted. He also decreed that one can only become a bishop if he has first been a porter, a lector, an exorcist, an acolyte, a subdeacon, a deacon and a priest.
Although anti-Christian feelings rose in Rome during his reign, new churches were added, mostly, in the form of donations of rooms in houses where people could gather. In addition, cemeteries, all outside the walls of Rome, as required by law, were expanded. Many of these cemeteries were in catacombs, which doubled as places to celebrate Mass on the anniversary of death of the saints.
As the antagonism began to gather steam, it is said that Caius had to spend more and more time in the catacombs to save himself for his flock. However, Caius died before the legal persecutions began. He was buried in the catacombs of Callixtus. In modern times, his signet ring was found there.
His most lasting legacy, to me, is his support for people who love the Faith, but can not bring themselves to martyrdom. He showed them that there was a place for everyone.