St. Callistus and Julian Apostate

The Via Appia runs southeast of Rome. A number of ancient Christian cemeteries can be found on this road, including the catacombs of St. Callistus. They bear his name because he cared for and beautified this cemetery.

Pope St. Callistus was martyred during a persecution brought on by one of the Roman imperial lawyers. The martyred pope was buried 1,789 years ago today.

A century later, another emperor persecuted the Christians. He despised Christians as “atheists,” because they would not sacrifice to the Roman gods.

But Julian grudgingly acknowledged that Christianity had made enormous headway, owing to the three distinctive characteristics which Christians had:

1. Their kindness and charity to strangers.

2. The gravity of the way they carry themselves.

3. Their care for the burial of their dead.

Let me quote the emperor on this last point:

They bury their dead with modest religious respect, which is most movingly expressive of their firm hope in the resurrection, in which they regard the mortal remains of their dead as precious in the eyes of God, who watches over them, regarding them as the apple of his eye, to be raised one day in the brightest glory, and made shining lusters in the heavenly Jerusalem.