A Lesson from Pontian and Hippolytus

Comparatively few people will be celebrating today’s feast of SS Pontian and Hippolytus with a great sense of their individual personalities. Hippolytus was an important Church writer of the third century although, as with many details of his life, there is disagreement about the exact scope and content of his work, despite many writings having his name attached to them. In The Apostolic Tradition he gave us the first account of the ordination ritual of the early Church which is significant in itself. He may, or may not have been, elected as an anti-pope. What we do know is that he had a furious dispute with the pope of the day about some of the latter’s decisions, accusing him of too much leniency towards sinners. Beginning to sound familiar and contemporary?

Pontian, the pope with whom he had the dispute, was imprisoned by imperial authority and sent to the quarries in Sardinia. Hippolytus was also sent there and somehow the experience led to a reconciliation. Their deaths are recorded as martyrdom, and their names are for ever united in the Church’s calendar. I ask their intercession for long-running and bitter disputes that seem impossible of resolution, for ‘nothing is impossible with God’— a lesson we need to learn again and again.


4 thoughts on “A Lesson from Pontian and Hippolytus”

  1. Disputes that carry on for generations are so destructive. We need to forgive the sins of the fathers and learn to live with one another. There is more that joins us than divides us.

  2. Thank you Sister for such a meaningful post. When I worked in a hospice we often witnessed patients who were at the end of life’s journey who were disturbed by what we termed ‘unfinished business’ – meaning reconciliation with a family member or friend with whom there had been a falling out, in some cases many years previously. Occasionally we were able to witness a reconciliation in a patient’s final days and see the sense of peace and contentment that came upon them.

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