Archive | 2:27 am

The Original Pope John

17 May

St. John IPerhaps someday, probably decades or even centuries from now, Pope Francis will become a canonized saint. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but approximately 30% of all Popes eventually become “saints,” so it is a realistic possibility. And should it happen, I imagine that when someone says “St. Francis,” most will still think first of St. Francis of Assisi. Then, the speaker will say, “No, I meant St. Francis I, the 21st-century Pope” and proceed to tell us about the beloved Jesuit Pope from South America.

Something similar is at work tomorrow, as we celebrate the feast of St. John. No, not the beloved disciple and author of the Fourth Gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation. Rather, it’s the feast of St. John I, the first of 23 popes by that name, who lived in the sixth century.

Little is known about the life of St. John I, the 53rd pope. We do know that he was an archdeacon at the time his predecessor, Pope Hormisdas, died in 523. Pope John became the first Roman Pontiff to travel to Constantinople, where he was well received by Emperor Justice, the clergy, and the faithful. He even helped to reconcile the Western and Eastern Churches. However, Theodoric, the Arian King of the Ostrogoths and Italy, was suspicious of the Pope’s interaction with Constantinople. He had the Pope arrested and incarcerated during his return to Rome in 526, and Pope John I died a martyr’s death while in custody.

This day, may we turn to the original “Good Pope John” in our prayers:

God our Father,
rewarder of all who believe,
hear our prayers
as we celebrate the martyrdom of Pope John.
Help us to follow him in loyalty to the faith.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. +