by M. J. Joachim
“After the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul, St. Linus was appointed Bishop of Rome, and after eleven years, succeeded by St. Cletus. Upon his demise in 89, or rather in 91, St. Clement was placed in the apostolic chair.” (EWTN Library)
Studying Pope Clement I became a bit confusing, but then the Early Church was a far cry from the Catholic Church we know and love today. Political and Christian conflicts ruled the era of the times. Think back on your memories (whether they come from books, movies, the Internet or other sources) of overly –exulted Roman emperors and rulers, Spartans playing for their lives in the Coliseum, for sport of the citizens of Rome and average citizens, ever fearful of what their government could do to them.
Christianity wasn’t all that popular or understood, and yet faith in Christ was consistently spreading throughout the land.
Clement was a Roman. He met and befriended SS. Peter and Paul, earning the reputation of being an apostolic man. The Early Church at this time was more-or-less divided – not in disagreement, but by small groups (houses) of people who came to know, love and believe in the teachings of Jesus, which were taught by Peter, Paul and the apostles, including those like Clement who became apostles after the death of Christ.
It is only natural that some discord came into play, as well as a misplacement of power. Pope Clement I is probably best known for how he handled a specific conflict (considered schism) at Corinth. It seems authority was challenged there, and Pope Clement I reinstated order quickly, beneficially and to the satisfaction of those involved. Much of this was accomplished through an ancient writing of his, I Clement, “placed in rank next to the canonical books of the holy scriptures, and with them read in the Churches.” (EWTN Library)
Having observed and learned well from the hierarchy established in the Roman Empire, Pope Clement I is credited with laying the foundation of the hierarchy within the Catholic Church. “When some Catholic theologians and historians today suggest that the hierarchal structures of the Church, including the Papacy, owe more to the Roman Empire than to Jesus, they do not exaggerate.” (Lives of the Popes)
Thus, there is indication that Pope Clement I helped bring the Church together under one Vicar of Christ, as it were, as opposed to maintaining several small houses, as the Church grew in numbers and prosperity.
Some research leaves me cold, with a feeling that Pope Clement I ruled with an iron fist, much like the merciless Roman Emperors. His writings, however, quickly dispel such notions; they speak of love, humility and good will.
“We must hasten with all earnestness and readiness of mind, to perfect every good work, laboring with cheerfulness; for even the Creator and Lord of all things rejoices in His works.” (Pope Clement I)
Pope Clement I was a natural leader, a father figure who loved Jesus and the Holy Church Jesus established here on earth. His faith emanated from almost everything he said and did, undoubtedly one of the reasons he is listed among our beloved saints in the Holy Catholic Church.
That's all for now, kind followers.
Until next time, I wish you well,
Lives of the Popes, Richard P. McBrien
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
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