Today is the feast day of Saint Soter, Saint Caius, and Saint Leonides. Orate pro nobis.
Saint Soter was raised to the papacy upon the death of Saint Anicetus in 161. By the sweetness of his discourses he comforted all afflicted persons with the tenderness of a father, and assisted the indigent with liberal alms, especially those who suffered for the Faith. He liberally extended his charities, according to the custom of his predecessors, to remote churches. He aided in particular that of Corinth, to which he addressed an excellent letter. Saint Dionysius of Corinth in his letter of thanks to Saint Soter, adds that the Pontifical letter together with the letter of Saint Clement, Pope, was read for the edification of the faithful on Sundays, during their assemblies to celebrate the divine mysteries.
One of Saint Soter’s ordinances required all Christians except those in public penance to receive Communion on Holy Thursday. Saint Soter vigorously opposed the heresy of Montanus, and governed the Church up to the year 175. He was martyred on April 22, 175, under the emperor Marcus Aurelius, and buried on the Appian Way in the cemetery of Callixtus. (1,4)
Pope Saint Caius, born in Dalmatia, was a relative of the emperor Diocletian. The cruel emperor did not for that reason spare him or his family during the bloody persecution of the years 283 to 296, during which the Christians of Rome were obliged to conceal themselves in caverns and cemeteries.
Saint Caius counseled a patrician named Chromatius to receive the tracked disciples of Christ in his country residence. He himself went to visit them on a Sunday, and said to the faithful assembled there that Our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the fragility of human nature, established two degrees in the practice of Christianity, confession and martyrdom. Our Saviour did so, he said, so that those who do not believe they could stand up under torment, may nonetheless conserve the grace of the faith by their confession. Our Lord had indeed specified, When you are persecuted in one city, flee to another… Then he said, Those who wish to stay in the house of Chromatius, remain with Tiburtius, while those who prefer to return with me to the city, come. Several followed him back to Rome; among them are the martyrs of the same persecution, the brothers Saints Marcus and Marcellinus, and Saint Sebastian.
Saint Caius himself received the crown of martyrdom in the final year of the persecution, 296, and was buried in the cemetery of Callixtus, where his body was found in 1622, with an inscription identifying him as Vicar of Christ. (1)
Leonides, father of the great Origen. He was a Christian philosopher and excellently versed both in the profane and sacred sciences. He had seven sons; the eldest was Origen, whom he brought up with very great care, returning thanks to God for having blessed him with a son of such an excellent disposition for learning, and so remarkable a piety. After his son was baptized, he would come to his bedside while he was asleep and, bending over the child, would kiss his breast respectfully, as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
When the persecution reached Alexandria in 202, under Laetus, governor of Egypt, Leonides was cast into prison. Origen, who was then only seventeen years of age, burned with a fervent desire for martyrdom, and sought every opportunity of facing it. His ardor redoubled at the sight of his father’s chains, and his mother was forced to lock up all his clothes to oblige him to stay at home. She conjured him not to forsake her; thus, unable to do more, he wrote a letter to his father in very moving terms, strongly exhorting him to look at the crown that was offered him with courage and joy. He added this exhortation: Take heed that for our sakes you do not change your mind! Leonides was indeed beheaded for the faith in 202. (4,5)
Image: The Martyrdom of Pope Caius (San Gaggio). By Lorenzo Monaco (Lorenzo di Giovanni), ca. 1394-5. Originally part of altarpiece of church of San Gaggio in Florence.
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff