Monday, January 14, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Evaristus (Our 5th Pope)

Pope Evaristus reigned during a time of Christian persecution. The Church was in its earliest stages of formation; consequently, many Jews were challenging their faith and converting to Christianity. The Roman Empire was expanding through the rule of several Roman emperors – namely Domitian, Nerva and Trajan, during Pope Evaristus’s term as pope.

Christianity would spread its faith throughout the world, but not without facing many obstacles and trials along the way, throughout the first four centuries of ancient history. Many Christians were brutally martyred for their faith, often made an example of by Roman authorities. Pope Evaristus seemingly stayed off the radar for the most part, as was necessary for his work of building up the Church and furthering its cause.

Pope Evaristus, also known as Aristus, is thought to be born as a Bethlehem Jew. At some point, he converted to Christianity, became an apostle of Jesus, which eventually led to leadership in the faith and ultimately to his pontificate.

Ancient records indicated that Pope Evaristus was the head of the Church; however, he divided it into smaller (parishes) with one priest as pastor, along with several deacon assistants for each priest. Remember, this was a time of great persecution for Christians. In keeping parishes small and providing a (local) leader, Pope Evaristus safeguarded the faith, particularly since each pastor was under his direct guidance, thereby maximizing the potential for a consistent universal message to be shared with all the faithful.

As Christianity grew and spread throughout the world, individual parishes made it easier for the faithful to practice their faith, and for priests to perform their priestly duties which included offering Mass, preaching, caring for the sick and burying the dead with the rite of Christian burial, among other things.

Thus it can be said without hesitation that Pope Evaristus contributed wholly and richly to the Catholic faith and universal Church of Jesus Christ.

There are conflicting reports as to whether Pope Evaristus was a martyr. Many believe all of the earliest popes were martyred, and unproven records indicate this might be true, though no one really knows for sure. Pope Evaristus is listed among the holy saints of the Catholic Church; his feast day is October 26. It is believed that he is buried somewhere near St. Peter’s tomb.

That’s all for now, kind followers.
See you again soon,

M. J.

Lives of the Popes (McBrien)

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