This Friday, 14th October, is the (optional) Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I (d. 222). Callistus began his chequered career as a slave in Rome to a Christian master who recognised his great natural ability and placed him in charge of a bank that contained some of his own money and money belonging to the Christian community. Somehow the money was lost and Callistus fled Rome in panic, only to be captured, scourged and sent to work in the Sardinian mines. After being freed, he returned to Rome and became the administrator of a Christian cemetery on the Appian Way, now known as a Cemetery of Callixtus (pictured). The cemetery housed the mortal remains of many earlier popes. He was ordained a deacon by Pope Zephyrinus, who welcomed him as a close friend and adviser. When the pope died in 217, Callistus was selected his successor although he was immediately denounced by a rival candidate, the Roman priest Hippolytus, the first anti-pope. What we know of Callistus’s papacy is thanks to the fulminations of his arch-rival. Callistus had great faith in the mercy of God and was always willing to reconcile murderers and adulterers to communion, provided they repented of their sins and did penance. This angered Hippolytus and led to a bitter controversy within the Church. Callistus seems to have been killed in a riot in 222, but he was subsequently venerated as a martyr. Indeed, later Hippolytus repented of his position and was himself martyred in the year 236 and acclaimed a saint.