Monarchs...World Wars...Super Bowls...
......and of course Popes.
Roman Numerals are used rather sparingly in American Culture but when you’re talking about Popes, especially a Pope who would assume such a Biblically significant name as John and the Roman Numeral “1” appears after his name, you know you’re going deep into the annals of church history, which is precisely where we find ourselves today as we celebrate the life of Saint Pope John I.
Born in Tuscany, John was rather surprisingly elected to be the Catholic Church’s 53rd Pope on the heels of Pope Hormisdas’ death in 523. This would be a significant promotion for a man who was serving as an Archdeacon at the time. To put this promotion in perspective, it would be akin to an entry level manager being appointed Chairman & CEO.
Theodoric was the ruler of Italy when John I assumed the Papacy, and although he was an Arian Christian, he expressed no tangible objections to the Catholics under his reign. This would all change as a result of some controversial literature and subsequent dialogue that took place between ranking members of the Roman Senate and the rulers of Constantinople. Emperor Justin I, who was the first Catholic to assume the Byzantine Throne in over fifty years, was at the center of this rift. It sparked a hostile and toxic atmosphere between the Arian Christians and the Catholics.
Things would get exceedingly worse.
Theodoric felt compelled to wage war against Justin but ultimately decided to negotiate with him instead via a consortium spearheaded by Pope John I. Through artful negotiation, John convinced the Emperor to improve his treatment of the Arians which ultimately served to preserve the peace.
Theodoric inexplicably came to the conclusion however that John and the emperor were plotting against him, perhaps due to John’s lengthy absence or maybe simply as the result of an irrational case of misguided paranoia. Pope John I was imprisoned on suspicion of unlawful collusion and subsequently died in prison in the year 526, due in large part to his already frail condition coupled with the ghastly treatment he experienced while in confinement.
Although Saint Pope John I’s reign was brief, clocking in at less than 3 years, his impact and legacy looms large, yet another great Saint who died in service to God while paving the way for others to become consecrated in the truth.
“Dear Saint John I, we implore your miraculous intercession as we seek to grow in the virtues of wisdom, fortitude and peace. Kindly place our prayers before the throne of God so that we too can bring the message of the Resurrection, the crown jewel of our faith, into the lives of those we encounter, so that they too can joyfully carry out their mission as members of the mystical body of Christ.”