St. Anicetus, Pope and Martyr
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
St. Anicetus, the twelfth Pope after St. Peter, first saw the light of day in Syria, toward the end of the first century. He was carefully educated by his parents, and was gifted by God with great natural abilities, especially with a clear, penetrating mind. He made, by his untiring perseverance, such progress in all sciences that he was accounted among the best scholars of his time. In addition to this, the life he led was so blameless, that he was a model to every one of Christian perfection. The most shining of all his virtues was his truly apostolic zeal in protecting and disseminating the true faith. Therefore, when Pius I. had ended his life by a glorious martyrdom, Anicetus was unanimously elected his successor amid great rejoicing. And in truth, the Church needed at that period, a Pope as learned, zealous and holy as himself, as she was assailed and persecuted in all possible ways by divers heretics. Valentinus and Marcion, two Heresiarchs, had already commenced to sow the poison of their corruption in Rome, and even a wicked woman named Marcellina, who had adopted the teachings of Carpocrates, had already many followers. The saddest fact of all, however, was that the Catholics, themselves, became very indolent in the practice of their faith, and their conduct was not such as their religion required. This inspired the heretics with hope of being able to instill their spurious doctrines into their minds, as we know by experience that the surest road to apostasy from the true faith, is indifference and debased morals.
St. Anicetus, although he perceived all this with great pain, did not become disheartened. Calling on God for aid, he began earnestly to work. By daily sermons, by teaching and exhortation, he endeavored to move the Catholics to more fervency in their religion, as well as to a reformation of their lives. The example of his own holy life gave the greatest force to his words. He lived like a Saint, and all his thoughts were directed to lead his flock to salvation. He was an enemy to even the most innocent amusement, and found his only pleasure in prayer and in working for the honor of God and the salvation of souls. He employed the greater part of the night in devotional exercises, and during the day he was only found in Church, in the dwellings of the sick, or poor, or at home occupied in study or prayer. He chastised his body by fasting and other penances. To his enemies he was kind and charitable; to the poor, liberal; while in danger and persecution he was fearless and strong. This beautiful example of their shepherd was soon followed by the Catholics residing at Rome with such zeal, that, according to the testimony of Hegesippus, the historian, the whole city became a habitation of sanctity. This change in the morals of the people was the most efficacious means of preserving them in the true faith, as the best safeguard of faith is a pious and blameless life. As far as the heretics were concerned, who endeavored to implant in the hearts of the Romans the seeds of their false doctrines, the holy father had the greatest compassion on them on account of their lost souls. He left nothing untried to bring them to the knowledge of their error, but he thought it prudent to banish those who remained inflexible from the city. Polycarp, a disciple of St. John, came to Rome at the time of Anicetus, to discuss several points with him, which were to be settled for the welfare of the faithful. All was happily concluded and Polycarp paid the greatest honors to the holy Pope, everywhere praising his saintly conduct.
For eight years had Anicetus governed the Church with wonderful wisdom and power, when during the persecution of Marcus Aurelius he was seized, and being inflexible in the confession of his faith, he was decapitated.
St. Anicetus was an enemy of even innocent amusements. His entire occupation was prayer and working for the honor of God and the salvation of souls. The greater part of the night he employed in devotional exercises. During the day he was only to be found at Church, in the dwellings of the poor or sick, or at home occupied in study and prayer: hence only in places where the functions of his station called him. What have you to remark on all these points. Compare your life with the life of the Saint and blush with shame to find how little you resemble him in all these points. St. Anicetus refrained even from innocent amusements. Do you not frequently seek even such as are sinful? St. Anicetus occupied himself only with prayer and works for God and the salvation of souls. In what consists your occupation? How much time do you devote to prayer?
St. Anicetus spent the greater part of the night in prayer; you do not even pray during the day, much less do you do so at night? How have you passed many a night. Remember the time when the half, nay even the whole night was too short for your frivolous or perhaps sinful amusements. You did not find it hard then to cut short your hours of rest, but if you were told to employ one short hour during the night in prayer, you would think it impossible to overcome your sleep. Learn by this, how you not only deceived others but also yourself. St. Anicetus was only to be found at such places where the functions of his station called him. Where are you to be found during the day? Ah! very rarely at Church; seldom, if ever, where your station, your labors call you! where are you then? Ah! perhaps in a bar-room ; at the gaming table ; at a ball; in frivolous or dissolute company! Will you ever be able to justify your conduct before God? Most assuredly not. Hence examine your conscience and reform where you have done wrong.
No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
St. Anicetus had the deepest compassion for the heretics on account of their eternal destruction, therefore, he left nothing untried to bring them to the knowledge of their error. St. Justinus did the same by the heathens, and pitying their blindness, he endeavored to win them to the Christian faith. Both believed, what ought to be an article of faith with every true Catholic; namely, that there is no salvation out of the Catholic Church. There are, at the present time many who believe that there are three religions in which a man can be saved: yes even that every man can gain salvation through his own belief. They give the same hope to those who are not Catholics as they do to those who are.
These false doctrines are worked out in hell to the destruction of many thousands of souls. The word of God clearly contradicts them, for it bears emphatic testimony that there is but "one Lord, one faith " (Ephes. iv.). That means, only one true God, only one true faith ; hence only one true soul-saving Church. This only true faith is the Holy Roman Catholic Faith, for it alone was taught by Christ and the Apostles. This is proved not only by the blood of many thousand martyrs, but also by the verbal and written instructions of the holy Fathers and by many miracles of the Almighty. This faith is the first Christian faith and has no one but Christ for its founder. Out of the pale of this faith no Saint has risen during 1800 years. Thus, also, the Catholic is the only true Church, because Christ has built it with the assurance that: "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (St. Math. xvi.). Had she fallen into errors or superstition, as those pretend who live out of her pale, Christ would not have been true to His promise: He would have erred and would have deceived us. Only to think so would, however, be blasphemy.
Hence the Church founded by Christ, as she had been, as even her enemies say, at the beginning of her existence, the true Church, must still be the same, and so continue until time shall be no more. If, therefore, the Catholic faith is the only true faith, and the Catholic Church the only true Church ; it follows, undeniably, that there is no salvation possible out of the Catholic Church : hence, all those who do not die in the Catholic Church go to eternal perdition. "Without faith it is impossible to please God:"says St. Paul (Heb. ii.). He doubtless speaks of the true faith. Without it we cannot please God, hence we cannot be saved. It may please you or not; you may protest as much as you like; this remains true: Out of the Catholic Church, out of the Catholic faith, there is no salvation. Whoever, by his own free will dies out of the Catholic Church goes to eternal perdition. If you do not believe this infallible truth, you are no true Catholic; for you'have no faith in the teachings which God imparts through His Church. Should you remain in this unbelief until your end, you will go to everlasting punishment with those who are not Catholics, because you also do not die in the faith.
In conclusion, consider well the words of St. Fulgentius: "Be certain beyond all doubt, that not only all heathens, but also all Jews, heretics and schismatics, who end their earthly existence out of the Catholic Church, go into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his legions. Be certain, beyond any doubt that each heretic and schismatic, if he be not incorporated into the Catholic Church, cannot be saved, although he may give great alms, and even shed his blood for Christ's sake."