By Larry Peterson
The ninth pope in the line of succession and the person who succeeded Telesphorus was a man named Hyginus. According to the Liber Pontificalis (this is the widely referenced history of the Popes from St. Peter up until the 15th century) Hyginus, a contemporary of St. Justin Martyr, was a Greek from Athens who had been a philosopher and a Christian apologist. He attained the Chair of Peter during a time when the Gnostic heresies were taking hold with the church.
Valentinus was a candidate to be Bishop of Rome but when that did not happen, he began his own school of thought. This became known as Gnosticism which basically teaches that the primary way to learn about God is through your own reason and not from revelation or tradition. This concept was against all that was part of Catholic teaching.
Hyginus fought vigourously against the Gnostic heresy and managed to overcome it. Many of the followers of Valentinus rejected his teachings and returned to the church. Some did not.
In addition to confronting and defeating the Gnostics, Hyginus also defined the various levels of the hierarchy and the responsibilities attached to the different positions.
Hyginus, although only pope for a short time, established the practice of including godparents to assist the newly born, not only at the Baptism but throughout their Christian life. He also decreed that all churches must be consecrated before Masses could be offered in them.
It is said that Pope Hyginus died a martyr. However, this has not been fully documented. When he died, he was buried on the Vatican Hill, close to St. Peter’s tomb. His feast day is January 11.
Prayer to Pope St. Hyginus:
O eternal Shepherd, watch over the peace of the flock, and through Blessed Hyginus, Thy martyr and sovereign pontiff, whom thou didst appoint shepherd over the whole church, keep her under Thy constant protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
©Larry Peterson copyright 2019