St Martin I

Pope and Martyr (entered heaven around 656)

Dear Marty,

If you really love Jesus Christ, there is something you must do for him every day without fail: pray for his Vicar on earth, the Pope.  How casually we modern Catholics view the papacy! Christ’s promise that the papacy will continue to preserve the true faith and surely guide the Church does not mean that the Popes all have an easy time of things.  Take the last Pope who was martyred, for instance, today’s saint, Martin I. The poor man successfully marshaled all the bishops of his day to root out the insidious heresy of monotheism (which wrongly claimed that Christ did not have a human will).  Unfortunately, this stoked the Emperor’s ire. (The Emperor, Constans II, who lived in Constantinople, still had imperial powers back in those days, and used them extravagantly.) Constans was a Monothelite and resented the Pope’s opposition to his pet heresy.  He sent his henchmen to kidnap the Pope, who had fallen terribly ill and had to take refuge in the Lateran Basilica in Rome, where they laid him in his sickbed at the foot of the altar. The imperial abductors still succeeded in stealing him (bed and all) and bringing him to the Emperor’s court by way of a long and uncomfortable sea voyage, during which the Pope contracted dysentery (an intestinal disease – it’s like diarrhea raised to the power of 10), which plagued him until his death years later.  Upon arrival in Constantinople he was thrown in jail, eventually tried and convicted of treason, publicly humiliated, and sent into exile in the famine-stricken Crimea (southern Ukraine). Through it all, his one worry remained the integrity of the Catholic faith and the salvation of those who had abandoned it. As he wrote from prison: “I have not been allowed to wash… for forty-seven days. I am wasted away and frozen through, and have had no respite from dysentery… I hope that God, who knows all things, will bring my persecutors to repentance after he will have taken me out of this world…I am surprised at the indifference of all those who, though they once knew me, have now so entirely forgotten me… However, I pray God, by the intercession of St Peter, to preserve them steadfast and immovable in the orthodox [Catholic] faith.  As to this wretched body, God will have care of it…” No, my dear nephew, it isn’t easy being Pope. Maybe today the Pope’s enemies have different tactics, but I know for certain that they hurt just as much, so keep him in your prayers – every day. Pax. Uncle Eddy


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