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POPE SAINT CELESTINE

APRIL 6 is the traditional memorial of POPE ST. CELESTINE (+432).

Like many of the early Fathers, little is known about Celestine before he was elevated to the papacy. We do know tht he was a Roman and his father's name was Priscus. Pope St. Innocent I did mention him in a letter he wrote in 416, referring to him as Celestine the Deacon. He obviously had a position of some authority, because St. Augustine of Hippo wrote to him, in 418, in reverential terms.

St. Augustine and Celestine were, apparently close friends. The election was in either September or November, with no opposition. Augustine wrote a letter of acknowledgement that same year and immediately asked for help in handling Antonius, the bishop of Fessula, Africa.

The nine plus years of Celestine's reign were busy. Alaric, king of the Visigoths, had sacked Rome in the summer of 410, leaving parts of the city in ruins. This was done even thought the capital of the empire had been moved to Ravenna in 402. Celestine had to have repairs done to several buildings, including St. Mary in Travestere. The barbarians did not, however, just go away. They were attacking the periphery of the empire routinely.

Meanwhile, many heresies were cropping up all over the empire. Pelagius, in Britain, had begun a heresy that Christ had two personalities. Manichaeans taught that there were spirits of good and evil. The Donatists were rigorists, not accepting anyone who was relaxed in their acceptance of religion.

Celestine was a firm, gentle character who was successful in his dealings. He was insistent on upholding the rights of the Church and the dignity of his office. To that end, he sent missionaries to Britain to eliminate the Pelagian teaching, and representatives to the Council of Ephesus, thus, founding the papal diplomatic corps.

He was an ardent upholder of the ancient canons, writing to the ends of Christendom in support of them, requesting that the clergy all be educated in these canons.

However, his last act, done only a few days before his death, was his greatest achievement. He signed the authorization to send St. Patrick as a missionary to Ireland!

If we say that we have not sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John i. 8

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