Memorial of Saint Cornelius, pope and martyr, and St. Cyprian, bishop and martyr
(I Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 7:1-10)
Saints Cornelius and Cyprian lived in an age of martyrdom. Both also faced challenges to their offices as they traced middle ground in a controversy over apostasy. Cornelius was pope; the latter, the bishop of Carthage in the middle of the third century. An upstart priest named Novatus assumed Cyprian’s office during a persecution which sent Cyprian into exile. Novatus accepted back into the Church lapsed Catholics without any significant penance. They had given up the faith rather than be martyred. Cornelius supported Cyprian’s stand against easy return.
In Rome Cornelius was challenged by a priest named Novatian on the other side of the return issue. Novatian taught that no one who apostatized could be readmitted to the Church. He also declared himself pope. A synod of bishops eventually condemned and excommunicated him. Both Cornelius and Cyprian were martyred not long after their status controversies were settled.
The first reading today recommends that we should pray for everyone. We want all to be saved although we realize that salvation is beyond human capacity. It requires that we take up our cross to follow Jesus. This means doing what only what God can do; hence, the need for prayer.