Saint Sixtus II and Companions, Martyrs
Saint Lawrence Receiving the Treasures of the Church from Pope Sixtus II
August 7 is the optional memorial of Saint Sixtus II and his companions, Felicissimus and Agapitus, deacons. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of the persecution under the Emperor Valerian.
Saint Sixtus II was a Greek philosopher and an adult convert to Christianity who became a deacon in Rome. He later became a “good and peaceable priest” who was elected pope in 257 to succeed Stephen. He served in that capacity for less than a year.
During that time, he dealt with the controversy concerning baptism by heretics. He believed that anyone who was baptised with a desire to be a Christian, even if the baptism was performed by a heretic, was truly baptised into the faith, and that the validity of his faith was based on his own desire and actions, not the errors of the person who performed the sacrament.
Twelve months after his election, Sixtus was arrested while addressing a gathering of Christians in a cemetery outside Rome.
Saint Sixtus and his companions were put to death by the sword on August 6, 258 during Emperor Valerian’s persecution of Christians. Four deacons, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, and Stephanus, were apprehended with Sixtus and beheaded with him. Two other deacons, Felicissimus and Agapitus, suffered martyrdom on the same day. Saint Sixtus was one of the most venerated martyrs of the early Roman Church.
The symbols of Saint Sixtus include a cross and a sword. He is often portrayed in art as: giving Saint Lawrence a bag of money to distribute to the poor, with Saint Lawrence, and with Saint Lawrence and Saint John the Baptist.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray, almighty God, make us docile in believing the faith and courageous in confessing it, just as you granted Saint Sixtus and his companions that they might lay down their lives for the sake of your word and in witness to Jesus. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.