Wednesday after the Third Sunday of Lent brings us to San Sisto. This Church was built to mark the spot where on his way to martyrdom Pope Saint Sixtus II (257-258) met St. Lawrence. St. Sixtus’s courageous witness has earned him a place in the Roman Canon, Eucharistic prayer one.
Early records from 595 mention this church existing. In 1219 Pope Honorius III entrusted this church to the newly formed Dominican order, and St. Dominic himself lived here before he died in 1221.
Our reflection today focuses on the early Christian martyrs. One of emperor Nero’s favorite hobbies was to find new ways to torture Christians in Rome. One way was to set them on fire, making torches out of them to light the streets of Rome at night. What Nero did not realize is that the light from these torches would shine through the millennia, pierce through the centuries, and become a beacon for Christians throughout history. The reason we celebrate the early martyrs is because they had the faith Christ calls us to in the Gospel today. In the violent storm of their lives, they trusted in the Lord and publically proclaimed that their primary allegiance was to Christ over any earthly power. They trusted that not even death could separate them from the love of Christ. We pray that St. Sixtus will intercede for us so that God would grant us the same profound faith that he and the martyrs had. May the light that early martyrs produced continue to illuminate our path to sanctity.
Written by Fr. Charles M. Gallagher
Photos by Fr. Justin Huber