Being Right Isn't All that Matters.
The Nineteenth Tuesday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of Ponitan, Pope, & Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Deuteronomy 31: 1-8.
• [Responsorial] Deuteronomy 32: 3-4, 7-9, 12.
• Matthew 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14.
If a Mass for the memorial is taken, lessons from the feria as above, or from the proper:
• I Peter 4: 12-19.
• Psalm 124: 2-5, 7-8.
• John 15: 18-21.
…or, any lessons from the common of Martyrs for Several Martyrs, or the common of Pastors for Several Pastors.
The Ninth Tuesday after Pentecost; and, the Commemoration of Saints Hippolytus & Cassian, Martyrs.*
Lessons from the dominica,** according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I Corinthians 10: 6-13.
• Psalm 8: 2.
• Luke 19: 41-47.
If a Mass for the commemoration is taken, lessons from the common "Salus autem…" of Many Martyrs:
• Hebrews 10: 32-38.
• Psalm 33: 18-19.
• Luke 12: 1-8.
9:27 AM 8/13/2019 — The two saints whose memorial we observe today could very much be referred to as “the odd couple.” Pontian was Pope for five years in the third century before he resigned, and in those five years he was the constant object of criticism from much of the Church for being lax in dealing with the heresies of his time. Chief among his most vicious critics was the man with whom he shares this feast, Hippolytus, who was one of his own priests in Rome. Hippolytus became so convinced that the pope was a heretic that he went into schism and had himself proclaimed pope as well, becoming the very first of what we would later refer to as an anti-pope.
At the same time all this infighting was going on, Emperor Maxinimus Thrax was prosecuting a vicious persecution of the Church, which saw Pope Pontian arrested and sentenced to what was called a “living death”: slavery in the salt mines of Sardinia. So that the Church of Rome could have a successor, Pope Pontian resigned the papal throne when he was arrested. But Maxinimus wasn’t satisfied with arresting just one pope, so he arrested the anti-pope Hippolytus as well, and sentenced him to the same “living death”; so, there on the island of Sardinia these two bitter adversaries met again, and were reconciled to one another, ultimately sharing the same agonizing death from heat, exhaustion and overwork, in the year 235.
Whether Pope Saint Pontian was, in fact, too lax in confronting the heresies of his day no one can say, being it was so long ago; but, what most historians do agree upon is that Hippolytus’ criticisms of him went far beyond the pale, as evidenced by the fact that his rigourism drove him, albeit temporarily, into schism. He was too smart for his own good, and even if he had been correct in his critique of Pontian, he was too infected with the sin of pride to express himself in a constructive way.
Growth in the interior life is not possible without some degree of self-knowledge, and self-knowledge requires humility. Even a hint of rationalization or excuse stifles it. I think this is what our Lord means when, in today’s Gospel lesson, He exhorts us to be like little children—not childish but childlike. A child sees things as they are and reports them truthfully because he hasn’t yet learned how to be clever, but he does so without malice and without prejudice because he hasn’t yet learned how to be vicious; hence, the cliché, “Out of the mouths of babes.”
Hippolytus may very well have been right when he charged his Pope for being undisciplined and not exercising enough control over things, but he became so obsessed with pursuing what he believed to be a better path, that he lost sight of the big picture, principally the fact that the Church was under persecution, and the real need was for everyone to stick together. That reality came crashing down on him when he got thrown into the salt mines right next to the very Pope he had so viciously criticized, and it was that Pope who reconciled him to the Church, and shared with him his own crown of matyrdom.
There’s a lot in the Church today that we can all criticize, and when we do so we may very well be right; but, depending on the circumstances, being right may not be all it’s cracked up to be, and sometimes it takes a childlike simplicity to recognize that something else may be just as important.
* The St. Hippolytus commemorated here in the extraordinary form is not the same as the saint of the same name commemorated in the ordinary form today.
This Hippolytus was the guardian of St. Laurence, and was converted and baptised by him. He was martyred by dismemberment by having his legs tied to wild horses, AD 260.
St. Cassian was a schoolmaster in Imola. Because of his faith, he was attacked by his pagan students and pierced to death by their styluses in AD 320. He is reguarded as the patron of stenographers.
** In the extraordinary form, on ferias outside privileged seasons, the lessons from the previous Sunday are repeated.