In union with and venerating the memory of, in the first place, the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, but also blessed Joseph, spouse of the same Virgin, and your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James and John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Thaddeus: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and all your Saints by whose merits and prayers grant that we may in all things be fortified by the aid of your protection."
The above is taken from the "Communicantes", so referred to because that is the Latin word which begins the prayer. It is found early in the Roman Canon.
How often do we hear these words and do not perhaps stop to consider the saints whose names are there mentioned? Evidently we need no introduction to the Blessed Apostles, nor to Our Lady or St. Joseph, however some of the other names may be less familiar to some of our readers. Accordingly, perhaps there would be some value to quickly take a look at them and who they are.
In the first instance, after the Mother of God and St. Joseph, we have the twelve apostles: "...and your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James and John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude..."
After the twelve, we are presented with another twelve names, and these are:
"...Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian..."
The first three names are accounted as three of the earliest successors of St. Peter.
St. Linus is considered the first successor to the papacy after St. Peter in Rome -- though in some sources he is put later. St. Irenaeus suggests that he was consecrated a bishop by St. Paul. The Liber Pontificalis suggests he was from Tuscany, but there is no other extant source for this information.
St. Cletus [or Anacletus] is thought to have succeeded St. Linus in the See of Rome from ca. A.D. 76-88. The Liber Pontificalis says that Cletus was a Roman by birth.
St. Clement is considered the third successor of St. Peter, sitting as Roman pontiff from ca. A.D. 88-97. He was the author of an epistle to the Corinthians. Of him, St. Irenaeus suggests that he "had seen the Prince of the Apostles, had associated with tradition before his eyes." Tertullian suggested that Roman tradition held he was ordained by St. Peter.
St. Sixtus, or Xystus; there were two popes with the name of Xystus in the early Church, though that mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, various commentaries suggest, was St. Sixtus II who reigned as pope only from A.D. 257-258, at which time he was martyred under the persecutions of the Emperor Valerian. A letter of St. Cyprian suggest he was captured in the catacomb of Callistus and immediately executed, though the method of his execution is debated.
St. Cornelius was likewise a Pope, reigning from ca. A.D. 251-253. He was banished to Civitavecchia by the Emperor Gallus. He is considered a martyr.
St. Cyprian is the first mentioned in this list who was not pope but was a bishop. He was thought to have been from great wealth and education, and was martyred by beheading in Carthage in A.D. 258.
St. Lawrence was a deacon and martyr, and one of the seven deacons of the Roman church, martyred under the same Valerian edict in which St. Sixtus II was martyred, only a few days later. He is one of the most celebrated Roman martyrs.
St. Chrysogonus is considered a martyr. The Catholic Encyclopedia suggests he suffered martyrdom at Aquileia, possibly during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian.
Ss. John and Paul were martyrs who were martyred in the time of Julian the Apostate, half brother of the Emperor Constantine.
Ss. Cosmas and Damian are thought to have been physicians who were martyred in Cyr, Syria, around A.D. 287 during the Diocletian persecutions. The cult of these saints are also found in the Christian East.
This takes us through the listing of the names mentioned in the Roman Communicantes -- I specify Roman for it is worth noting as a point of interest that in other traditions, for example the Ambrosian Canon, some of the names are different and not necessarily in this order.
This is also not the only such listing of saints within the Roman Canon. After the consecration, during the Nobis quoque peccatoribus another listing is found:
"...with John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicitas, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia, and with all Thy saints."
The consideration of these names will form part 2 of this consideration of saints of the Roman canon.