Today’s Saint

Daily Journey with the Saints

January 16 | Politics and Character

Saint Marcellus

A.D. 255-309

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed, “Character is destiny.”

Character is the one thing you can control when the world around you seems to be going crazy. And it won’t just make you better. It will also make your community, your country, and the world a better place, no matter what the political or social situation is.

Born in Rome, Saint Marcellus grew up under the peaceful reign of Emperor Constantine, who had ended the persecution of Christians. However, this peace was not to last. After Constantine's death, a power struggle ensued, leading to a divided empire. It was during the reign of Emperor Maxentius, a ruler who himself had left the Church during the previous persecutions, that Marcellus was elected Pope.

Pope Marcellus had his own political battles to fight within the Church. Many former Christians were hoping to re-enter the Church after they had left during the Roman persecutions. The Church was divided over whether they should be allowed back in. Some said they should be punished for leaving the Church when it was most vulnerable. Marcellus took the balanced approach of mercy and accountability, welcoming them back into the fold while insisting they do public penance.

This was a monumental decision by Marcellus, and an example of governing with virtuous and unwavering character. Pope Marcellus did not have much more time to make monumental decisions, however, as he had drawn the anger of Emperor Maxentius for making a public showing of Christians fulfilling their penances.

Maxentius did not show Marcellus mercy. Marcellus was martyred around 309 AD, but his virtuous character in handling multiple political messes continued to influence future popes and left an example of Christian virtue for all of Rome. 

Character is the greatest investment you can make. Invest in your character, and you’ll be investing in a better world.

IWhen social or political circumstances seem out of control, do I also think my life is out of control? How much time and attention do I invest into my character?

I will develop a virtuous character with each decision I make.

This reflection is brought to you from book title.

Patron Saint of: Truth and Protection Against Lies

Feast Day: January 16

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