St. Urban I - The Great Converter

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St. Urban's name is familiar to many because of his supposed connection with the beautiful life of St. Cecilia.

According to the "Liber Pontificalis," he was a Roman, the son of Pontius. He had all the sacred vessels made of silver, and presented to the Church twenty-five silver patens. It seems that in the early Church glass as well as silver was a favorite material for the sacred vessels. He converted many and among them Valerian, the husband of St. Cecilia.

Actually, it is pretty clear that this Urban did not have any dealings with St. Cecilia. The Liber Pontificalis seems to have relied on the fifth- century Passion of St. Cecilia. This is an account of St. Cecilia's martyrdom which is embroidered with legend. That St. Cecilia was a noble Roman lady who was martyred is certain, but her martyrdom goes back to an earlier time than the reign of Pope Urban.

As a matter of fact, Pope Urban lived in times of comparative peace for the Church. The Emperor Alexander Severus, a mild man, even had a statue of Jesus in his collection of gods. Nor was his prefect, the great lawyer Ulpian, a persecutor. Alexander was influenced by his mother Julia Mammaea, who was a friend of the great Christian writer Origen. He even decided a lawsuit in favor of the Christians. The Christians were disputing the title to some land with a tavern keeper. The Emperor decided in favor of the Christians, saying that it was better to have God worshipped on the land in question than a tavern set up.

Urban was buried in the Cemetery of Calixtus. He is honored by the Church as a martyr. His feast is kept on May 25.

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.

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