Sts. SIXTUS II, POPE AND COMPANION MARTYRS.
Short bio, Divine Office 2nd reading, and prayer.
In the persecutions under Emperor Valerian I in 258, numerous bishops, priests, and deacons were put to death. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of this persecution. While he was celebrating the Eucharist, he was taken prisoner and beheaded on 6 August. He was martyred along with six deacons. His name is included in the Roman Canon.
St Cyprian’s letter to Successus
The soldiers of Christ have not been destroyed, but crowned
Dear brother, the reason why I could not write to you immediately was that all the clergy were embroiled in the heat of the conflict. They could not possibly leave, all of them having prepared themselves for divine and heavenly glory.
But now the messengers have come back, those whom I sent to the City to find out and report the truth of whatever decrees had been made about us – for people have been imagining all sorts of different possibilities. Here, then, is the truth:
Valerian sent a rescript to the Senate, saying that bishops, presbyters, and deacons should all receive immediate punishment; that senators, knights, and other men of importance should lose their rank and their property, and if they still persisted in being Christians, they should lose their heads; and that matrons should be deprived of their property and be sent into exile. Members of Caesar’s own household, whether they had confessed their faith before or were only confessing it now, should be deprived of their property, bound in chains, and sent as slaves to his estates.
To this command, Valerian attached a copy of the letters which he had sent to the governors of the various provinces about us; and we daily await the arrival of these letters, bracing ourselves, each according to the strength of his faith, for the suffering that is to be endured, and looking forward to the help and mercy of the Lord and the crown of eternal life.
You should know, however, that Sixtus was martyred in the cemetery on the sixth of August, and four deacons with him. Moreover, the prefects in the City are daily pushing forward this persecution, and anyone who is presented to them is martyred and all his property confiscated by the state.
I beg you to make these things known to the rest of our colleagues, so that through their encouragement the whole brotherhood may be strengthened and made ready for the spiritual conflict – so that each one of us may think less of death and more of immortality – so that everyone, dedicated to the Lord with full faith and total courage, may rejoice in this confession and not fear it, for they know that the soldiers of God and Christ are not destroyed, but crowned.
Dearest brother, always farewell in the Lord.
℟. While still alive, we are being surrendered into the hands of death for the sake of Jesus,* so that the life of Jesus also may be revealed in this mortal body of ours.
℣. We face death every moment for his sake, reckoned no better than sheep marked down for slaughter,* so that the life of Jesus also may be revealed in this mortal body of ours.
By the power of the Holy Spirit make us, we pray, Almighty God, docile in believing the faith and courageous in confessing it, just as you granted Saint Sixtus and his companions that they might lay down their lives for the sake of your word and in witness to Jesus. Who lives and reigns with you.