SAINT CELESTINE I
CELESTINE I, a Roman, cardinal-deacon, created by Innocent I, was the son of Priscus, and a very near relation of the Emperor Valentinian. This pontiff was elected in the year 422.
In 431 the Holy Father caused to be celebrated at Ephesus, formerly a city, and at present a village of Turkey in Asia, the third general council, with the presence of two hundred bishops and of three of his legates. This council maintained, in opposition to Nestorius, nephew of Paul of Samosata, at first a monk, then a priest at Antioch, and, at the time referred to, Bishop of Constantinople, that there was in Jesus Christ but one person and two natures, and that the Most Holy Virgin was to be called Mother of God. Nestorius was of a contrary opinion, and obstinately defended his false and erroneous opinion: he maintained that there were two persons in Christ, one divine and the other human. He said that the Most Holy Virgin ought not to be called Mother of God, but only Mother of Christ, because, according to him, it was the man and not the God to whom she gave birth. The definitive decree of the council, having been sent to Rome, was received there on Christmas day with so much joy and acclamation that to the angelic salutation were added the words: "Sancta Maria, Mater Die, ora pro nobis" : "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us".
In the history of the Church from its establishment to the pontificate of Gregory XVI, by M. the Abbé Receveur, there is the following passage :
"On the very day of the arrival of the legates of Pope Celestine, the council held its second session in the episcopal house. The letter of the pope was read, first in Latin, then in Greek; and after numerous acclamations of the bishops, in honor of Celestine and Cyril (Patriarch of Alexandria), the legates, remarking that the papal letter prescribed the execution of the judgment already pronounced by the Holy See, called the acts of the preceding session, that it might be certain that the council had proceeded regularly, and to confirm its decisions by the authority of the Holy See, if those decisions should be found conformable to what Pope Celestine had himself already decided. Firmus of Caesarea, and Theodotus of Ancyra, replied, in the name of the council, that in all things they had followed and executed the judgment pronounced by the pope, as would be proved to the leg ates by the reading of the acts".
On the following day a third session was held, in which were publicly read the acts which had already been privately read by the legates, after which the priest Philip, one of the legates, said : "All know that Saint Peter, chief of the apostles, and founder of the Catholic Church, received from Jesus Christ the keys of the celestial kingdom, with power to bind and loose, and that he, by his successors, still exerts his power. Our holy pope, Bishop Celestine, who now holds Saint Peter's place, having sent us to supply his place in the council, we, by his authority, confirm the sentence of deposition and excommunication passed against Nestorius".
Celestine expelled from Italy the Pelagians, who continued the propagation of their errors. Celestius, their head, having retired to Great Britain, Celestine sent thither two missionaries who, in two years, brought him back to the orthodox faith. The Novatians still kept many churches open in Rome. The pope, if we are to credit Cassiodorus on that point, confined their last bishop to a distant quarter, and forbade that heresiarch to reassemble his partisans.
Learning that some bishops of France were afflicted by new progress of the sect called Semi-Pelagians, who had recently passed from Africa to Marseilles to oppose the doctrine of Saint Augustine on predestination and grace, Celestine wrote to those French bishops a letter replete with wisdom and prudence. Finally he sent into Ireland Palladius, the Greek, first bishop of that country, and Saint Patrick, now the beloved apostle of the Irish.
In three ordinations Celestine created forty-six, or, as others say, sixty-two bishops, thirty-two priests, and twelve deacons. He governed the Church nearly ten years. He ordered that his synodal decrees and those of his predecessors should in no wise be revoked or subjected to any new examination, when once ordered and decided. He was interred in the cemetery of Priscilla, on the Via Salaria, and subsequently his body was removed into the Church of Saint Praxedes.
The Holy See was vacant nineteen days. Under this reign died Saint Augustine. That celebrated father confounded the dangerous heretics of the time, among others Celestius and Pelagius; and he enlightened the Church by his admirable writings. The same father, seconded by Saint Romain, his disciple, silenced the Semi-Pelagians, who attributed the commencement of justification and faith to free will alone. Saint Augustine has left in his Confessions great details of his own life. Of all his works this throws the most interest on the Bishop of Hippo. Science, virtue, and the courage of the saints are objects of eternal veneration. The piety of Saint Augustine was characterized by that impassioned love of God which in all ages has invariably delighted and attracted the faithful. The accounts that he has given of the errors and faults of his turbulent youth, the progressive effects of religious sentiments in his soul, which still remained weak long after he had been convinced, render him far less a stranger to us than most of the other Fathers of the Church. The confessions of Saint Augustine are a continual prayer; he unceasingly addresses himself to God with a sort of familiarity of adoration which is at once singular and affecting; he supplicates God to give him the enlightenment necessary to the discovery of the faults that he had committed at the various stages of his life, and he forcibly breathes out his sentiments of shame and repentance. The most complete of his works is The City of God.
When, in 410, Rome was taken by Alaric, and the loveliest part of the civilized world was a prey to the barbarians, clamors arose against Christianity. The rest of the pagans and philosophers remarked that from the establishment of religion the world had become more and more subjected to frightful calamities. Saint Augustine then undertook to show that idolatry, even if enlightened by the purest philosophy, must still be powerless to secure even temporal happiness to mankind. Then he explained what is the city of God, that is to say, the Church of God, which subsists in all his glory, and of which some fragments are scattered about our terrestrial city. It is the continual opposition of the love of the things of this world with the love of divine things; their combat commenced with the fall of the angels. Almost the
Saint Augustine has been surnamed the Doctor of Grace, and the painters have given him a flaming heart for symbol. Among his numerous works, the single book, On the Christian Doctrine, contains, in the opinion of Bossuet, more aid to the understanding of the Holy Scriptures than can be found in all the other doctors. His sermons, too, and his let ters should be read. All travellers who have visited the temple of Saint Peter will remember and confirm that passage in Fea's description of Rome which says : "At the tribune called Della Catedra, in the midst there is a great altar above which is placed the monument of the chair, that is to say, a seat of wood adorned with ivory, with openwork in gold. It is the very seat which Saint Peter and his successors had used in great ceremonies. That chair is inclosed in another great seat in bronze, crowned by two angels bearing the tiara and the keys. This magnificent seat is supported by four doctors, namely, Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose, doctors of the Latin Church, and Saint Chrysostom and Saint Athanasius, doctors of the Greek Church".
Rome, where the intellectual, the learned, and the men of profound meditation succeed each other to infinity, needs no teachings as to propriety, and it often happens that a duty she is accused of having forgotten is a duty she has solemnly fulfilled..