October 14 Saints of the Day – Nazarius, Celsius, Gervasius, & Protasius, and Callixtus

On this day in 1908, the Chicago Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers to clinch the World Series, their last one to date, making the Curse of the Bambino seem like a First World problem.

Nazarius and Celsius and Gervase and ProtasiusNazarius, Celsius, Gervasius & Protasius (I cent.) were martyred under Nero. Nazarius was born in Rome to a Christian mother and a Jewish father, and was baptized by St. Linus (but not Santa Lucia) (get it?). He dedicated his life to helping wayward (physically, not spiritually) Christians. Whilst encouraging Christian prisoners in Milan (as who wouldn’t this time of year?), he encouraged the twins Gervasius and Protasius (aka Protase) (patron saint of amino acids). For this he was beaten and driven out of town. He headed for Gaul, where he (inexplicably) was given a 9-year-old lad, Celsius (patron saint of thermal energy), to raise in the faith, which he (explicably) did.

Sometime later N & C were nabbed by the pagans and tortured. Their tormenters threw them to wild beasts (what wild beasts inhabited France at that time — Huguenots? wrong century), but they (explicably) refused to eat our heroes. They (the saints not the beasts) were then tossed into the sea, but they either (a) walked on water, or (b) were hauled back on board when a freak storm came up. The soldiers were so impressed they converted to Christianity on the watery spot. N & C then went back to Milan, where G & P were (inexplicably) still in prison. All four were all beheaded, and their relics buried by a pious Milanian, and forgotten. Years later Bishop Ambrose (yes, that Bishop Ambrose) had a vision which led him to the saints’ relics, which he subsequently dug up and had reinterred with honor in the cathedral.

Pope CallixtusCallixtus (d. 222) was, depending upon whom you ask, either an embezzler (Tertullian and Hippolytus) or unjustly accused of embezzling (Julius Africanus). He was definitely the slave of a certain Carpophorus (“hauler of carp”) and entrusted by same with a bank he had set up for his fellow Christians. Callixtus was a miserable investor, and between that and (maybe) stealing from the till, the bank was soon –rupt. Seeing this, Callixtus headed for the harbor and caught the first ship heading out, irregardless — sorry, regardless — of where it was heading. Carporphorus was one step behind and running (sailing) faster. Seeing Carpy rowing out to his ship, Callixtus jumped into the sea to make a swim for it. “Grab him!” Carporphorus hollered, and the sailors rowed out to the fugitive, hauled him aboard, and handed him over.

Carporphorus was going to work Callixtus to death on a gristmill, but the creditors of the bank insisted he be set free so he could repay their money (they thought he might have buried some of it somewhere). Once free, Callixtus burst into the nearest Synogogue on the Sabbath and demanded they give him money. (He claimed he was confronting financiers who had defrauded him. Yeah.) They had him brought before the magistrate, and he was sentenced to work in the famous sardine mines of Sardinia (okay, tin mines). He was set free through the intercessions of the emperor’s secretly-Christian mistress, Marcia (now there’s a story!).

After all that, Callixtus cleaned up his act, and was appointed deacon and chief undertaker at a Christian cemetery. He became so well-respected that the next time they needed a pope, he was chosen. As pope he became an advocate of forgiveness of sinners (go figure), for which (as well as alleged irregularities in his Trinitarianism) he was tried for heresy by a kangaroo court that included — surprise! — Hippolytus (who believed any Christian who committed mortal sin be permanently excommunicated). Hippo denied the validity of Callixtus’ election, and had himself proclaimed pope, becoming the first anti-pope.

The schism continued after Callixtus’ death (he was thrown down a well by a pagan mob on an anti-Christian bender). Hippolytus continued to insist he was pope despite the elections of Urban I and Pontian. Pontian and Hippolytus both were arrested and sent to the sardine mines, where Hippolytus repented, Pontian forgave him (ask Alanis Morissette if that’s ironic), and both died.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

October 14 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Nazarius of Milan (OCA) – Main source
Nazarius and Celsus (Wikipedia)
Gervasius and Protasius (Wikipedia)
Protease (Wikipedia)
Painting of Nazarius & Celsius (1522) by Titian from Wikimedia (public domain)
Illumination of Gervasius and Protasius (XIVe siècle) from Wikimedia (Public domain according to this rule).
Thomas Craughwell, Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints (Book on Paper) – Main source
Pope Callixtus I (Wikipedia)
Pope Saint Callistus I (SQPN)
Illumination of Callixtus (also XIVe siècle) from Wikimedia (Public domain according to this rule).


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

3 comments on “October 14 Saints of the Day – Nazarius, Celsius, Gervasius, & Protasius, and Callixtus

  1. Hi! I love your synaxarion version 🙂
    just one remark : there was _no_ pope, nor patriarch, before the 5th century. These titles are part of the evolution of organisation of the Church. See subscriptions to Ecumenical Counciles, it’s very enlightening – thought not very sexy for those who imagine saint Paul kissing icons painted by saint Luke as a truth told by God, of course.
    pax tecum
    Jean-Michel, from Belgium

    • Probably so, but I mostly just go with the titles my sources use. My modus operandi is to tell the stories and not try to correct history (I don’t have the time, for one thing! These things take 1 to 2 hours each to research and write as it is, and I have other obligations!). I leave that to the Bollandists, God love ’em. Indeed when I find that the easy sources (SQPN, Wikipedia, Catholic Encyclopedia, etc.) say “there are legends but nobody believes them so we’re not going to tell you,” I dig around to find the legends (Gotta get me a copy of the Golden Legend but $ is tight). I think the church has preserved these stories for more than just recording factual history. The stories of the saints teach us things about ourselves and about God, even when they’re not historical in a strict, 21st-century sense. (Plus, they’re fun!)

      Thanks for your note!

  2. Maybe what I need is a good push.

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