Callistus, the first Pope to bear that name, was in youth a slave. His master was a Christian of the imperial household, and gave into his charge the funds which he had received on behalf of certain Christian and their widows. These funds were somehow lost, and for this Callistus was blamed by his master. Whereat he fled from punishment which he knew was coming, and went to Oporto, and there took ship. Wherefrom he jumped over-board when his pursuers caught up with him. But they apprehended him, and afterwards he was sentenced to hard labour as a disgraced slave. Howbeit, the Christians secured his release, that he might help recover the lost funds. In pursuance of which, he followed certain Jewish moneylenders to their synagogues where he importuned them, and was by them turned over to the judge as one who had made a disturbance during a religious service. This time he was sentenced hard labour in the mines of Sardinia. But he was afterwards returned to Italy, and Pope Saint Victor gave him a pension. When Saint Zephyrinus became Pope, he recalled Callistus to Rome, and made him superintendent of a catacomb on the Appian Way, which same he greatly improved, so that it came to be called after him, and is known even to this day as the Cemetery of Saint Callistus. * He thus grew well known and much beloved, and in 217, after the death of Zephyrinus, was elected by the clergy and people of Rome to be the next Bishop of Rome. His short pontificate was made notable by his condemnation of the Sabellian heresy, and by his fight against rigorism. He was strongly opposed by the anti-pope Hippolytus, and by Tertullian, whose writings against his are the chief source of our knowledge of his early life. Hippolytus complained that Callistus was unwilling to depose a bishop who had sinned mortally and done penance for the same, and that he had reconciled the excommunicate who expressed penitence. However, Callistus was a man who had done much penance, and had suffered greatly at the hands of rigorists, and it is in no small measure due to him that the Church for all time accepted the compassion of Christ as the guiding rule in dealing with penitents, Hippolytus (who is now venerated as a Saint) not withstanding. * Callistus is said to have sat as Pope for five years, one month, and twelve days ; and to have held five December Ordinations, wherein he ordained sixteen priests, four deacons, and eight bishops. Tradition also saith that, after being long starved, and repeatedly flogged, he was pitched headforemost down a well, and so was crowned with martyrdom under the emperor Alexander. His body was buried on the Aurelian Way, at the Third Milestone, upon October 14th, but was afterwards by Pope Saint Julius I taken to the Church of Saint Mary beyond the Tiber, where it lieth beneath the high altar, and is held in great reverence of all men.
O God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: we pray thee, that, by the examples of thy Saints, thou wouldest mercifully restore us to the perfect love of thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.