26 Oct Saint Evaristus, Pope and Martyr
Today is the feast day of Saint Evaristus. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Evaristus's date of birth unknown. The “Liber Pontificalis” says that Evaristus came of a Hellenic family, and was the son of a Bethlehem Jew. Saint Evaristus is fourth successor of Saint Peter. In papal catalogues of the second century used by Saint Irenaeus and Hippolytus, he appears as the fourth successor of St. Peter, immediately after St. Clement.
While little is known about this fifth pope, we do know that Saint Evaristus governed the Church for nine years, during which time he laid the groundwork for future Church policy. Saint Evaristus was profoundly committed to the expansion of vocations in the Church. The institution of cardinal priests is ascribed to him, as he is the pope who first divided Rome into several titles or parishes, assigning a priest to each. He also appointed seven deacons to attend the bishop and conferred holy orders three times in the month of December which was quite unusual, given that these ceremonies were generally reserved for seasons of fasting and prayer.
During the leadership of Pope Saint Evaristus, the clergy were solidified and the congregations of believers grew at an astounding rate—largely due to his love and zeal for the truth of Christ. However, as were most popes at that time of Church formation, Evaristus was eventually arrested during the reign of Emperor Domitian, and sentenced to death for being a Christian.
It was at the same time as Saint Ignatius, the illustrious bishop of Antioch, that Pope Saint Evaristus gave his life by martyrdom. As he was taken to prison, his jailers were amazed to see the joy on his face, as he thought himself privileged to have been found worthy to suffer and die for Jesus. He was martyred by decapitation, and his remains were buried in the Vatican near the tomb of Saint Peter.
Pope Saint Evaristus is often represented with a sword because he was decapitated, or with a crib, because it is believed that he was born in Bethlehem, from which his father migrated.
Image: This illustration is from The Lives and Times of the Popes by Chevalier Artaud de Montor, New York: The Catholic Publication Society of America, 1911. It was originally published in 1842. (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff