ST. MARCELLUS I, POPE AND MARTYR
By Abbot Dom Guéranger, O.S.B.
The name of Marcellus is brought before us by the Calendar today he was a successor of the glorious Hyginus in the papacy, and in martyrdom, and their Feasts fall in the same season of the year. Each Christmastide shows us these two Pontiffs offering their Keys in homage to our Jesus, the invisible Head of the Church they governed. In a few days hence, we shall find our Christmas list of Saints giving us the name of a third Pope and Martyr Fabian. These three valiant Vicars of Christ are like the three generous Magi they offered their richest presents to the Emmanuel, their blood and their lives.
Marcellus governed the Church at the close of the last general Persecution. A few months after his death, the tyrant Maxentius was vanquished by Constantine, and the Cross of Christ glittered in triumph on the Labarum of the Roman Legions. The time for Martyrdom was, therefore, very short but Marcellus was in time; he shed his blood for Christ, and won the honour of standing in Stephen’s company over the Crib of the Divine Infant, waving his palm-branch in his venerable hand. He withstood the tyrant Emperor, who bade him abdicate the majesty of the supreme Pontificate, and this in the very City of Rome; for Rome was to be the capital of another King—of Christ—who, in the person of his Vicar, would take possession of it, and her old Masters, the Caesars, were to make Byzantium their Rome. It is three hundred years since the decree of Caesar Augustus ordered the census of the world to be taken, which brought Mary to Bethlehem, and where she gave birth to a humble Babe; and now, the Empire of that Babe has out-grown the Empire of the Caesars, and its victory is upon the point of being proclaimed. After Marcellus, we shall have Eusebius; after Eusebius, Melchiades; and Melchiades will see the triumph of the Church.
The Acts of Marcellus are thus given in the Lessons of his Feast.
Marcellus was a Roman, and governed the Church from the reign of Constantius and Galerius to that of Maxentius. It was by his counsel that a Roman Matron, named Lucina, made the Church of God the heir of all her property. He established in the City, five and twenty Titles, as so many districts, for the administration of baptism and penance to Pagans converted to the Christian religion, and for the providing burial to the Martyrs. All this irritated Maxentius, and he threatened Marcellus with severe punishment, unless he laid down his Pontificate, and offered sacrifice to the idols.
Marcellus heeded not the senseless words of man, and was, therefore, sent to the stables, there to take care of the beasts, which were kept at the public expense. In this place Marcellus spent nine months, fasting and praying without ceasing, and visiting by his letters the Churches he could not visit in person. He was thence delivered by some of his clergy, and was harboured by the blessed Lucina, in whose house he dedicated a Church, which is now called the Church of St Marcellus. Here did the Christians assemble for prayer, and the blessed Marcellus preach.
Maxentdus, coming to hear these things, ordered that Church to be turned into the stable for the beasts, and Marcellus to be made its keeper. Sickened by the foul atmosphere, and worn out by his many cares, he slept in the Lord. The blessed Lucina had his body buried in the Priscilla cemetery, on the Salarian Way, the seventeenth of the Calends of February (January 16.) He sat five years, one month, and twenty-five days. He wrote a letter to the Bishops of the Antioch province, concerning the Primacy of the Church of Rome, which he proves ought to be called “the Head of the Churches.” In the same letter there occurs this passage, that no Council may be rightly celebrated, without the authority of the Roman Pontiff. He ordained at Rome, in the month of December, twenty-five Priests, two Deacons, and twenty-one Bishops for various places.
What must have been thy thoughts, O glorious Marcellus, when imprisoned in a stable, with poor dumb brutes for thy companions! Thou didst think upon Jesus, thy Divine Master, how he was born in a stable, and laid in a manger between two senseless animals. Thou didst appreciate the humiliations of Bethlehem, and joyfully acknowledge that the Disciple is not above his, Master. But, from that stable wherein the tyranny of an Emperor had thrust it, the majesty of the Apostolic See was soon to be set free, and its glory made manifest to the whole earth. Christian Rome, insulted in thy person, was soon to receive an additional consecration by thy martyrdom, and God was on the point of making over to thy successors the palaces of that proud City, which then knew not the glorious destiny that awaited her. O Marcellus! thou didst triumph, like the Babe of Bethlehem, by thy humiliations. Like Him, too, thou hadst thy cross, and gavest thy life for thy sheep. Forget not the Church of thy unceasing love: bless that Rome, which venerates so profoundly the spot, where thou didst suffer and die. Bless all the Faithful children of Christ, who keep thy Feast during this holy Season, praying thee to obtain for them the grace of profiting by the mystery of Bethlehem. Pray for them, that they may imitate Jesus, conquer pride, love the Cross, and be faithful in all their trials.
St. Marcellus I, Pope and Martyr
Semi-double Red vestments
Missa ‘Si Diligis Me’
INTROIT – John 21: 15-17
Si diligis me, Simon Petre, pasce agnos meos, pasce oves meas. Ps. Exaltábo te, Dómine, quóniam suscepísti me, nec delectásti inimícos meos super me. Gloria Patri.
If thou lovest Me, Simon Peter, feed My lambs; feed My sheep. Ps. I will extol Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast upheld me: and hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me. Glory be to the Father.
Mercifully hear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the prayers of Thy people; that we who rejoice in the martyrdom of blessed Marcellus, Thy Martyr and Bishop, may be helped by his merits. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE I – Peter 5: 1-4, 10-11
Dearly beloved: the ancients therefore that are among you, I beseech, who am myself also an ancient, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ: as also a partaker of that glory which is to be revealed in time to come: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God: not for filthy lucre’s sake, but voluntarily: neither as lording it over the clergy, but being made a pattern of the flock from the heart. And when the prince of pastors shall appear, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory. But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. To Him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.
GRADUAL – Psalm 106: 30-31
Let them exalt him in the church of the people: and praise him in the chair of the ancients. Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him: and his wonderful works to the children of men.
ALLELUIA – Matthew 16: 18
Alleluia, alleluia. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church. Alleluia.
GOSPEL – Matthew 16: 13-19
At that time, Jesus came into the quarters of Cæsarea Philippi, and He asked His disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some, John the Baptist, and other some, Elias, and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father Who is in Heaven: and I say to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven.
OFFERTORY – Jeremiah 1: 9-10
Behold I have given My words in thy mouth: lo, I have set thee this day over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to waste and to destroy, and to build and to plant.
In Thy loving kindness, we beseech Thee, O Lord, be moved by the offering of our gifts and enlighten Thy Church: that Thy flock may prosper everywhere and the shepherds, under Thy guidance, may be rendered acceptable to Thee. Through our Lord.
PREFACE OF THE APOSTLES
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, to entreat Thee humbly, O Lord, that Thou wouldst not desert Thy flock, O everlasting Shepherd; but through Thy blessed Apostles, wouldst keep it under Thy constant protection; that it may be governed by those same rulers, whom as vicars of Thy work, Thou didst set over it to be its pastors. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dóminus, Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus, qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
COMMUNION – Matthew 16: 18
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.
Since Thy Church has been nourished by the sacred repast, govern her in Thy clemency, we beseech Thee, O Lord, so that under the guidance of Thy mighty rule she may enjoy greater freedom and abiding integrity of religion. Through our Lord.