Today is the feast day of the third (or fourth?) pope of The Church. Clement left one of the first patristric writings when he wrote letters from his office in Rome to the church in Corinth. But what else is known about him?
The first source I saw, from the good folks over at Universalis, said that nothing certain is known of his life. Looking for a little bit more than the terse paragraph they had on him, I turned to the handy YIMCatholic Bookshelf.
There, I found this interesting account of Clements’ life in a book entitled, Lives of the Saints: Compiled From Authentic Sources by a Jesuit Father named Francis Xavier Weninger. Published in 1876, I found this from Volume 11. Have a look before you go and read his letters to the Corinthians.
St. Clement, Pope and Martyr
Whilst the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, were preaching the Gospel at Rome, there came to them Clement, a son of Faustinus, who was related to the Emperor Domitian. After several discourses with St Peter, he saw the error of Paganism in which he had been born and educated, and became a convert to the Christian faith. He progressed so rapidly in virtue and holiness, that he was of great help to Paul in converting the heathen, as the holy Apostle testifies in his Epistle to the Philippians.
The unwearied zeal he manifested in such holy endeavors, his purity and other bright virtues, raised him, after the death of Sts. Linus and Cletus, to the government of the entire Church of Christ. In this elevated but burdensome dignity, his holy life was an example to his flock.
He gave several excellent laws to the Church, by one of which he divided the city into seven districts, and placed in each a notary to record the deeds, virtues and martyrdom of those who were persecuted for Christ’s sake, that posterity, admiring their heroism, might be animated to follow their example. His sermons were so full of deep thought and so powerful, that he daily converted several heathens.
Among these was Flavia Domitilla, a niece of the Emperor Domitian, who not only became a zealous Christian, but refusing several advantageous offers of marriage, vowed her virginity to God. He converted Sisinius, one of the most influential men in the city, by a miracle. While yet a heathen, Sisinius went unseen into the secret chapel where the Christians assembled, in order to ascertain what they were doing, and to see whether his wife was among them. God, however, punished him immediately with blindness in both eyes. He discovered himself by calling for someone to lead him home; and St. Clement, who was present, went to him, and, restoring his sight after a short prayer, he improved the occasion to explain to him the truths of Christianity.
Sisinius, being soon convinced, received holy baptism, and many heathens followed his example. The Emperor Trajan, being informed of this, commanded St. Clement to be banished to the Chersonesus, unless he consented to sacrifice to the gods. Nearly two thousand Christians had already been banished to that region, where they were forced to work in mines and quarries.The holy Vicar of Christ rejoiced to be thought worthy to suffer for his Divine Master, and indignantly refused to comply with the Emperor’s command to worship the Pagan idols. He was accordingly transported, and condemned to labor like the others. This fate at first seemed very hard to him, but the thought that he suffered it for Christ’s sake, strengthened him.
With the same thought he endeavored also to inspire his unhappy companions, when he saw that they became discouraged and lost their patience. He also frequently represented to them the reward which was awaiting them in heaven. A miracle that God performed through him raised him to great consideration even with the heathens. There was a great scarcity of water; and the Christians suffered much from the thirst occasioned by their hard work.
St. Clement, pitying them most deeply, prayed to God to help them. Rising from his knees, he saw, on a high rock, a lamb, which seemed, with his raised right foot, to point to the place where water could be found. The holy man, trusting in the Almighty, seized an axe, and, lightly striking the rock, procured a rich stream of clear water, which refreshed all the inhabitants of the country, especially the poor persecuted Christians.
So many heathens were converted on account of this miracle, that, in the course of a year, almost all the idolatrous temples were torn down, and Christian churches erected in their stead. Some of the idolatrous priests complained of this to the Emperor, who immediately sent Aufidian, a cruel tyrant, to force the Christians to forsake their faith, and to put St. Clement to death.
The tyrant endeavored to induce the holy man to forsake Christ, but finding that all words were useless, he commanded the executioners to tie an anchor to the neck of St. Clement, take him out into the sea, and cast him into the deep, in order that nothing of him should remain to comfort the Christians. The last words of the holy Pope were: “Eternal Father! receive my spirit!”
The Christians, who had been encouraged by him to remain constant in their faith, stood on the sea-shore, until the tyrant and his followers had departed, after the death of the Saint. They then knelt in prayer, to beg of the Almighty that He would restore to them the body of their beloved shepherd; and, whilst they prayed, the sea began slowly to retreat from the shore.
The Christians, following the retreating water, came to the place where the Saint had been cast into the sea, and found, to their inexpressible astonishment, a small marble chapel, and in it a tomb of stone, in which the body of the holy Pope was reposing. At his side lay the anchor which had been tied around his neck.
The joy and comfort that filled the hearts of the faithful at this sight can more easily be imagined than described. They wished to take the holy body away, but God made known to them that, for the present, it should not be disturbed; and that every year the sea would retreat, during seven days, so as to permit all to visit the shrine of the Saint. This took place for several years, until, at last, by divine revelation, the relics were transported to Rome.