Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Feast day: April 26
The next pope was to see the end of the long period of peace and the
start of a most violent persecution, the persecution of Diocletian.
St. Marcellinus was a Roman, the son of Projectus. When he first became
pope, Diocletian was already on the throne, but he had not yet drawn the
sword against the Christians. Indeed, at first under the influence of
his wife, Prisca, and his daughter, Valeria, the despot left the
Christians fairly free. The peace, however, had caused Christianity to
grow and grow. This provoked a fierce reaction among the pagans, and
they had a leader in no less a dignitary than the Caesar Galerius.
According to Lactantius, the historian of the persecution, Diocletian
was first angered by the Christians when the augurs or soothsayers told
him that they could not prophesy because Christians made the sign of the
cross. The Emperor promptly ordered all Christians to apostatize or get
out of the army. This was in 302. The next year at a conference in
Nicomedia, Galerius urged the Emperor to extend himself against the
Christians. Diocletian asked the opinion of the oracle of Apollo at
Miletus. Naturally, the oracle saw eye to eye with Galerius. But
Diocletian started easily. At first he ordered the confiscation of
Church property and the destruction of Christian books. When a rash
Christian actually tore down the imperial edict right under the imperial
nose at Nicomedia and two very convenient fires broke out in the
imperial palace, Diocletian, enraged, took off the gloves. It was
apostatize or die, and soon blood was streaming.
The persecution hit Rome with disastrous results for the historians. The
papal archives were seized and destroyed. The famous Cemetery of
Calixtus was saved by the Christians, who blocked up the entrance.
Pope St. Marcellinus was accused by Donatist heretics of having handed
over the sacred books. Some went so far as to accuse him of having
sacrificed to idols. The Liber Pontificalis repeats this but adds that
St. Marcellinus repented and died a martyr. Actually it is not certain
either that St. Marcellinus weakened or that he was a martyr. St.
Augustine denies openly that the Pope had weakened, and there is no
conclusive evidence of his having been killed.
At any rate, St. Marcellinus did die a confessor of Christ in 304.
According to the Liber Pontificalis, after his head was cut off, his
body, along with those of other martyrs, was left lying on the street
for twenty- six days to terrify the Christians. Then a priest buried the
Pope in the Cemetery of Priscilla. His feast is kept on April 26.