St. Caliztus (or Callistus) was a Roman from the Trastevere district. His
father's name was Domitius. He decreed a fast from corn, wine, and oil
three times a year. These fasts together with the lenten fast make up the
fasts of the four seasons which the Ember days prescribe even to today.
Pope Calixtus is said to have built a basilica across the Tiber in his
native Trastevere district. He constructed a cemetery on the Appian Way
which is one of the most famous of Christian cemeteries. In it are buried
many popes and martyrs.
The Liber Pontificalis gives the above information, but Calixtus is
chiefly known from the writings of his enemies. Hippolytus accused him of
being too friendly to the Monarchian heretics in spite of the fact that
Calixtus condemned Sabellius, the leader of that heresy. Both Hippolytus
and Tertullian were deeply outraged by an act of the Pope which would
endear him to most and shows him to be a true disciple of the merciful
Christ. In the early Church there was a strong tendency to rigorism. Some
bishops had refused to receive back into communion apostates, adulterers,
and murderers. Such sinners, no matter how deeply they might repent, would
remain excommunicated until death. By the time of Calixtus this practice
had become general in the Church. How painful for repentant sinners this
must have been can easily be imagined. Calixtus decreed that all sinners
who truly repented could be absolved and received back into the Church
after suitable penance.
The grim Tertullian, infected with Montanist puritanism, was furious.
Hippolytus went so far as to set himself up as antipope. Both wrote
bitterly against the mercy of Pope Calixtus.
St. Calixtus died a martyr. He was buried in the Cemetery of Calipodius on
the Aurelian Way. His feast is kept on October 14.