Post #016: Saint Telesphorus

Glasgow, February 28, 2018

The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of Saint Telesphorus [1] on February 22, while the Catholic Church on January 5. This less-known but universally-canonised Pope has served as the seventh Bishop of Rome after Saint Peter, possibly from 125 to his death (136). Very little is known about his life, apart from the fact that he was of Greek descent (born in the region of Calabria, Italy), the claim that he had been a hermit prior to assuming the papacy [2], and the testimony that he suffered a “glorious” martyrdom.

His name, in Greek, means “the one who brings fulfilment” or “the accomplisher”, and even though “Telesphorus” is also a name for a minor deity in the Greek mythology [3], the Saint not only served as a Pope with this name [4], but linked it to several liturgical reforms. He is not reported to have performed any miracles or to possess any supernatural qualities, apart from his strong faith, his virtuous life and his choice to serve the Church; a choice he fulfilled and, eventually, paid with his own life.

In Christianity, canonised figures such as martyrs, prophets or saints, are appreciated and worshiped as beacons of morality, and are often called upon for guidance and protection. Saint Telesphorus is a less prominent figure of the Christian hagiology, but a figure some of us ought to relate to and inspire from. His name could remind us of the need to focus on our life’s purpose, and his life could inspire us to pursue persistence in its fulfilment. The latter might be particularly useful if we are able to recognise that no matter what we choose to stand for – no matter what our life’s purpose is – faith, uncompromising vision and willing commitment are the key virtues we should treasure.


Notes: [1]: Greek: Άγιος Τελεσφόρος; [2]: this is why he is the patron saint of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (widely known as “Carmelites”); [3]: in the Greek mythology, Telesphorus is the cap-bearing, dwarf-looking son of Asclepius, who escorts his father and symbolises the successful recovery from illness; [4]: in fact, Pope John II was the first to adopt a different name for his papacy (533-535), as his birth name was Mercurius.

Citation: Zarros A. Post #016: Saint Telesphorus. 2018; 28-Feb.