Monday, April 22, 2019

Saint of the Month: Pope St. Soter

Pope St. Soter

Feast Day: April 22.
Really Existed? Almost certainly.

Timeframe: Second century.
Place: Rome.

Credentials: The early Popes have a kind of automatic sainthood.
Martyrdom: Traditionally assumed to have been martyred, but there's no evidence of it.

Patron Saint of: no known patronage.
Symbolism: no known symbolism.

Pope Soter was the 12th Pope, with a pontificate stretching from December 166 to 175.  The Catholic Encyclopedia, after quoting by some length from a surviving letter that was sent to him by St. Dionysius of Corinth, comes right out and says it straight: "Nothing further is known of this pope."

Now, you might be thinking "hmm, if nothing is known about him, how do we know he was a model of sanctity?  Why is he a saint?"  Well, all the Popes are, if you go back far enough!  Starting with the well-known St. Peter, the first 35 popes are all saints by convention, even though the biographical sketches available tend to be more like that of Pope Soter than that of Pope Peter.  Popes #37 (Damasus I) through #49 (Gelasius I) are saints too.  Of the second fifty, about half are saints; it's only after that when you start to reliably get unsainted Popes.

I think it was once widely thought that the early Popes must have all been martyrs to Roman persecution, but Roman persecution, although horrifyingly real enough on occasion, was always pretty sporadic, and it wasn't really a thing during Pope Soter's time.

The Wiki article on Pope St. Soter lists two important things about him: he inaugurated the practice of Easter and declared that marriages needed to be blessed by a priest.  However, the reference cited is super-weak, and I have to think that if there was even the slightest likelihood that either of these things were true, the Catholic Encyclopedia would be all over it.

Happy Pope St. Soter's Day!


Morgan said...

What was wrong with the 36th Pope?

Michael5000 said...

I was wondering about that too. He must feel really singled out.