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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VI: June. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

June 7

St. Paul, Bishop of Constantinople, Martyr

        From St. Athanasius, Ep. ad Solitar. &c. Socrates, Sozomen, &c. See Tillem. t. 7, p. 251. Baert, the Bollandist, t. 2, Junii, p. 13.

A.D. 350.

ST. PAUL was a native of Thessalonica, but deacon of the church of Constantinople in 340, when the bishop, Alexander, lying on his death bed, recommended him for his successor. He was accordingly chosen, and being a great master in the art of speaking, and exceedingly zealous in the defence of the Catholic faith, he was a terror to the Arians. Macedonius, who was passionately in love with that dignity, and supported by a powerful faction of the heretics, spread abroad many calumnies against the new bishop. But the accusation being destitute of all probability, he was obliged to drop the charge; and he so well acted the part of a hypocrite, that he was soon after ordained priest by St. Paul. 1 However, Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was the ringleader of the Arians, and had been already translated from the see of Berytus to that of Nicomedia, against the canons, began to cast his ambitious eye on that of Constantinople, revived the old slanders, and impeached Paul falsely, alleging that he had led a disorderly life before his consecration: and secondly, that he ought not to have been chosen bishop without the consent of the two neighbouring metropolitans of Heraclea and Nicomedia. The election of Paul had happened during the absence of Constantius. This was made a third article of the impeachment; and the two former having been easily confuted, this was so much exaggerated to that prince, as a contempt of his imperial dignity, that St. Paul was unjustly deposed by an assembly of Arian prelates, and the ambitious Eusebius placed in his see in 340. Our saint, seeing himself rendered useless to his flock, whilst Arianism reigned triumphant in the East, under the protection of Constantius, took shelter in the West, in the dominions of Constans. He was graciously received by that prince and by St. Maximinus at Triers, and, after a short stay in that city, went to Rome, where he found St. Athanasius, and assisted at the council held by Pope Julius in 341, of about eighty bishops, in the church, in which, as St. Athanasius informs us, the priest Vito was accustomed to hold assemblies of the people; that is, was priest of that parish. This is that Vito who, with Vincent and Osius, was legate of St. Sylvester in the council of Nice. By this synod, St. Athanasius, Marcellus of Ancyra, and St. Paul were ordered to be restored to their respective sees. And Pope Julius, as Socrates and Sozomen relate, 2 by virtue of his authority in the church, sent them back with letters to the eastern bishops, requiring them to restore them to their bishoprics. The excellent letter of Pope Julius to the oriental bishops, is preserved by St. Athanasius. 3 The pope particularly reproves the persecutors for having presumed to judge bishops, even of the principal sees which the apostles had governed, without having first written to him, according to custom. 4
  St. Paul went back to Constantinople, but could not recover his see till the death of his powerful antagonist, who had usurped it, made way for him in 342. Though the Catholics took that opportunity to reinstate him in his dignity, the Arians, who were headed by Theognis of Nice, and Theodorus of Heraclea, constituted Macedonius their bishop. This schismatical ordination was followed by a furious sedition, in which almost the whole city ran to arms, and several persons lost their lives. Constantius, who was then at Antioch, upon the news of these commotions, ordered his general, Hermogenes, who was going into Thrace, to pass by Constantinople and drive Paul out of the city. The general found the mob in too violent a ferment, and whilst he endeavoured to execute his commission by force, lost his own life. This outrage drew Constantius himself to Constantinople in the depth of winter. At the entreaty of the senate he pardoned the people, but banished Paul. Nevertheless he refused to confirm the election of Macedonius, on account of his share in the late sedition. St. Paul seems to have retired back to Triers. We find him again at Constantinople in 344, with letters of recommendation from the emperor of the West. Constantius only allowed his re-establishment for fear of his brother’s arms, and the saint’s situation in the East continued very uneasy; for he had much to suffer from the power and malice of the Arian party. He hoped for a redress from the council of Sardica, in 347. The Eusebians, withdrawing to Philippopolis, thundered out an excommunication against St. Paul, St. Athanasius, Pope Julius, and several other pillars of the Catholic faith. The death of Constans in 350 left Constantius at full liberty to treat the Catholics as he pleased. Upon application made to him by those of his party, he sent from Antioch, where he then was, an order to Philip, his Præfectus Prætorii, to drive Paul out of the church and city of Constantinople, and to place Macedonius in his see. Philip, being attached to the Arian party, but fearing a sedition from the great affection which the people bore their pastor, privately sent for him to one of the public baths of the city, and there showed him the emperor’s commission. The saint submitted cheerfully, though his condemnation was in every respect notoriously irregular. The people, suspecting some foul design, flocked about the door; but Philip caused a passage to be made by breaking down a window on the other side of the building, and sent him under a safe guard to the palace, which was not far off. From thence he was shipped away to Thessalonica, and at first allowed to choose the place of his exile. But his enemies soon repented of this mildness; and he was loaded with chains, and sent to Singara in Mesopotamia. From thence he was carried to Emesa in Syria, and afterwards to Cucusus, a small town on the confines of Cappadocia and Armenia, famous for its bad air and unhealthful situation, in the deserts of mount Taurus. Here he was confined in a close, dark place, and left to starve to death. After he had passed six days without food, he was, to the great disappointment of his enemies, found alive. Upon which they strangled him, and gave out that he died after a short sickness. Philagius, an Arian officer, who was upon the spot when this was executed, told the whole affair to several persons, from whom St. Athanasius had it. 5 His martyrdom happened in 350 or 351. The divine vengeance soon overtook Philip, who the same year was deprived of his honours and estate, and banished. The Arians from this time remained masters of the church of Constantinople, till the year 379, when St. Gregory Nazianzen was chosen bishop. The body of St. Paul was brought to Ancyra in Galatia, and, by the order of Theodosius the Great, was thence translated to Constantinople in 381, about thirty years after his death. It was buried there in the great church built by Macedonius, which from that time was known by no other name than that of St. Paul. 6 His remains were removed to Venice in 1226, where they are kept with great respect in the church of St. Laurence, belonging to a noble monastery of Benedictin nuns. 7  2
  The Arian emperor Constantius objected to the Catholics the prosperity of his reign, as a proof of the justice and truth of his cause; but he had not then seen the issue. When Polycrates of Samos boasted that fortune was in his pay, he little thought that he should shortly after end his life at Sardis on a cross. The smiles of the world are usually, to impenitent sinners, the most dreadful of all divine judgments. By prosperity they are blinded in their passions, and “resemble victims fattened for slaughter, crowned for a sacrifice,” according to the elegant expression of Minutius Felix. 8 Of this we may understand the divine threat of showing them temporal mercy: Let us have pity on the wicked man, and he will not learn justice. 9 Upon which words St. Bernard cries, “This temporal mercy of God is more cruel than any anger. O Father of mercies, remove far from me this indulgence, excluding from the paths of justice.” 10 Who does not pray that if he err he may rather be corrected by the tenderness of a father, than disinherited as a cast-away? Even the just must suffer with Christ, if they hope to reign with him. He who enjoys here an uninterrupted flow of prosperity, sails among rocks and shelves.  3
Note 1. Socr. l. 2, c. 6. Sozom. l. 3, c. 4. S. Athan. ad Solitar. p. 813. [back]
Note 2. Et quoniam propter sedis dignitatem omnium cura ad ipsum spectabat, suam cuique ecclesiam restituit. Sozomen, l. 3, c. 8, ed. Vales. Cum Julio Romanæ urbis episcopo causam suam exposuissent, ille, quæ est Romanæ ecclesiæ prærogativa, liberioribus litteris eos communitos in orientem remisit; singulis sedem suam restituens. Socrates, l. 2, c. 15. [back]
Note 3. Apud S. Athanas. Apol. contra Arianos, p. 141. [back]
Note 4. An ignoratis hanc esse consuetudinem, ut primum nobis scribatur, et hinc quod justum est decernatur. Quæ accepimus a beato Petro Apostolo, ea vobis significo: non scripturus tamen, quod nota apud omnes ea existiment, nisi quæ gesta sunt, nos conturbassent. Julius apud Athan. p. 153. [back]
Note 5. St. Athan. ad Solitar. t. 1, p. 813, et de fugâ suà, p. 703. [back]
Note 6. Socr. l. 5, c. 9. Sozom. l. 7, c. 10. Photius, Cod. 257. [back]
Note 7. See Baërt, p. 24. [back]
Note 8. In Octav. [back]
Note 9. Isa. xxvi. 10. [back]
Note 10. Serm. 42, in Cant. [back]