St. Cyprian of Carthage


Catholic priest and bishop in Carthage, Africa, active from about 249 A.D. to 258 A.D. One of the Church Fathers.

Early life. "[Before his conversion]...liberal arts...imbued his mind... [When] his faith was in its first rudiments, he believed that before God nothing was worthy in comparison of the observance of [God's will]... Who has ever recorded such a marvel? His second birth had not yet enlightened [him]...[when] he immediately...distribut[ed] his means for the relief of the indigence of the poor, [and] dispens[ed wth] the purchase-money of entire estates..." (The Life and Passion of Cyprian Chapter 2 by Deacon Pontius of Antioch)

"[In] respect of God's grace, there was no delay, no postponement...[and] he immediately received the presbyterate and the priesthood. For who is there that would not entrust every grade of honour to one who believed with such a disposition?" (ibid. Chapter 3)

"[As] a presbyter...[n]either poverty nor pain broke him down; the persuasion of his wife did not influence him; the dreadful suffering of his own body did not shake his firmness. ... His house was open to every comer. No widow returned from him with an empty lap; no blind man was unguided by him as a companion." (ibid. Chapter 3)

Bishop of Carthage. "[By] the judgment of God and the favour of the people, he was chosen to the office of the priesthood and the degree of the episcopate while still a neophyte, and, as it was considered, a novice. ... Some resisted him...[but] he forgave them, reckoning them afterwards, to the astonishment of many, among his closest and, most intimate friends." (ibid. Chapter 5)

"[As bishop he] composed many writings whereby the memory of his worthy name survives... [The] profuse fertility of his eloquence and of God's grace so expands itself in the exuberance and richness of his discourse, that he will probably never cease to speak even to the end of the world." (ibid. Chapter 1)

Faithfulness under Persecution. "[He] was frequently demanded for the lions [during a persecution]...[but] it occurred then...that [he] was withheld from the consummation of martyrdom...[by fleeing]. ... Wherefore...he [was] banished into a hidden and secret place, [but continued] with the affairs of his God..." (ibid. Chapters 7, 11)

"At last [a] day dawned...[when he] was suddenly announced to the proconsul; he [was] brought forward; he [was] placed before him; he [was] interrogated as to his name. He answer[ed] who he [was], and nothing more. ... And thus...the judge [read] from his tablet [his] sentence... [He] was called a standard-bearer of the sect, and an enemy of the gods, and one who was to be an example to his people; and that with his blood discipline would begin to be established. ... His passion being thus accomplished, it resulted that Cyprian, who had been an example to all good men, was also the first who in Africa imbued his priestly crown with blood of martyrdom, because he was the first who began to be such after the apostles." (ibid. Chapters 16, 17, 19)