Saint Brigid Religious Education
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Pope St. Clement I
Feast day: November 23
St. Clement, according to tradition, was ordained by Peter himself. Some
early writers, indeed, thought that Clement was Peter's immediate
successor, but modern scholars agree that he is Peter's third successor.
St. Clement has been identified with the Clement mentioned by St.
Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians; but that Clement seems to have
been a Philippian. For a time there were some who identified St. Clement
with T. Flavius Clemens, a cousin of the Emperors Titus and Domitian.
This is especially appealing because it is highly probable that the
noble Roman was a martyr in the persecution of his cousin Domitian.
Against this romantic theory is the prosaic fact that the early writers
make no mention at all of this. Surely if the fourth pope had been a
cousin of the Emperor, it would have been widely heralded. Modern
scholars think that St. Clement was a freedman or the son of a freedman
of the imperial household. It is doubtful whether he was of Jewish or
Gentile origin. Some would argue for Jewish descent because his famous
epistle is so steeped in the Old Testament.
St. Clement was a Roman; he was martyred at some place away from
Rome. This is about all that is known for certain of Clement's death.
The Greek "Acts of the Martyrs" (written in the fourth century) gives
many and interesting details. St. Clement was exiled by the Emperor
Trajan to the Chersonese, modern Crimea. There the holy Pope worked with
such zeal among the prisoners laboring in the mines that he was
condemned to death. He was thrown into the sea with an anchor tied
around his neck. This is probable enough, but the story goes on to say
that the sea flowed back a mile or so to reveal the body of the saint
resting in a beautiful marble shrine.
In the ninth century, St. Cyril, the Apostle of the Slavs, discovered
some bones and an anchor in a Crimean mound. He translated these bones
to Rome, where Pope Hadrian II placed them in the altar of St. Clement's
Whether or not these bones are authentic, St. Clement left us a real
relic of the highest value in his famous letter to the Corinthians. This
epistle, which modern scholars agree is authentic, rebukes the
Corinthians for a schism which had broken out in their church. Written
while one of the apostles was still alive, this letter of Clement is the
first great non- inspired Christian document. It is interesting indeed
that it shows the fourth pope interfering to put another apostolic
church in order.