During the Roman persecutions of the third century, some Christians were sentenced to forced labor in metal or salt mines. They marched to the mine shaft two by two, chained together with murderers, political prisoners, thieves, and slaves. Some walls in the mines had words scratched on them to express this faith to other suffering Christians: “You will live in Christ.”
Hypolytus was the most important writer in the Church at that time. But he wanted the Church to be very strict with sinners. When Pope Callistus chose to be forgiving, Hippolytus gathered followers and became antipope. In 230, Pontian became pope. Hippolytus refused to change his position. Pontian could not change him.
In 235, under the persecution of Maximus, Pontian was sentenced to hard labor in the mines of Sardinia. He resigned as pope. That same year, Hippolytus was condemned to the same mines. The forgiving love of Christ finally penetrated his heart. He was reconciled to Pontian. The two of them died in the mines. They are martyrs for Christ.
The early Christians had to live among people who praised the capital sins. Have the students list the capital sins on a sheet of paper: pride, avarice (greed), lust, wrath (anger), gluttony, envy, sloth. Then have them write a way to avoid each sin. (For example: Praise another.)
Form three groups and give each group one of these references: Matthew 10:17–23; 2 Corinthians 4:7–18; 2 Corinthians 6:3–10. Have each group practice reading its passage, either by having each person read a line or by having two sides alternate. Hold a prayer service in honor of the early martyrs. Begin with a well-known hymn such as “Be Not Afraid.” Have the students read the verses and give spontaneous petitions.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Pope Pontian by Artaud de Montor, 1842. Public Domain via Wikimedia.