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St Cyprian of Carthage
Bishop and Martyr (entered heaven in 258)
Don’t rest on your laurels, as some say. In times of peace, prepare for war, as others say. I am glad to hear that the group there is flourishing, but remember what happened in the days of today’s saint, and watch out.
Cyprian was a model bishop in every way (he was converted and baptized after having been a successful public official in Carthage, an important metropolis of Northeast Africa in ancient times). He rose to leadership during a lull in official persecutions. Years before, Christians were being flushed out of every nook and cranny and tossed to the lions with gusto, but then came a relatively long period of peace. During those easy days, many Christians fell into routine, and many converts to the faith were embracing Christian camaraderie more than Christ. So when the horrible Decian persecution erupted, hundreds of believers collapsed under the threat of torture, banishment, and execution. They sometimes publicly renounced their faith (thus becoming apostates), and sometimes simply purchased forged certificates claiming that they had done so. So many of the faithful fell into this cowardice that when that wave of persecution ended the Church faced one of its gravest crises in the early centuries. It consisted in trying to figure out what to do with these hoards of “lapsi” (those who had “lapsed” under duress). Some said lapsing wasn’t a sin at all, while others claimed that it was an unforgivable sin. St Cyprian effectively dodged these extremes by following and supporting the position of Pope St Cornelius (whose feast is also celebrated today, by the way), which took a middle path. Thus the Church continued on course, while schismatics and heretics spun off in a blaze of fury and soon after fizzled out.
Perhaps you need to pray for some kind of persecution, so that your growing community of apostles can have some way of keeping in spiritual shape. Or perhaps you just need to wake up your love and look around you again; I’m sure you’ll see plenty of work that could be done to advance the Kingdom, and to fend off the self-satisfied indifference that seems to be lulling you all into a kind of apostolic slumber. In any case, count on my prayers.