Faith for the Journey of Life

My Thoughts on Faith, Life, and 2,000+ Years of Catholicism / Christianity

28 October 2006

Who is Linus?

With his ubiquitous blue blanket, his adeptness at quoting Scripture and his words of wisdom beyond his youthful age, the Peanuts character Linus is one of the most enduring and lovable icons of American culture. Linus has waited in vain for the Great Pumpkin, waxed poetically about the sacrifices at D-Day and brought the true meaning of Christmas clearly into focus by quoting Luke's Gospel in the midst of commercialism.

There is much that we know about Linus, fictitious as he is though. Yet there is another Linus that we know very little about. That is Pope St. Linus, the successor to St. Peter and 2nd Pope of the Catholic Church.

What little we do know about St. Linus comes to us from several early Church writers, namely St. Irenaeus, Church historian Eusebius, St. Hippolytus and Julius Africanus. St. Irenaeus and Eusebius record him as succeeding St. Peter after his matrydom. At the time, there was no Pope in the modern sense of the word. Nevertheless, St. Linus led the Church in Rome for twelve years. He in turn was succeeded by St. Anencletus.

In his Second Letter to St. Timothy, St. Paul wrote, "Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers send greetings (4:21)." St. Irenaeus, Eusebius, and some Western traditions identify this as Linus the successor of St. Peter. Given that St. Paul was writing from Rome at the time, he could have been referring to St. Linus. However, as the Jerome Biblical Commentary noted, Linus was common name at the time.

The details about St. Linus's life are sketchy but we can draw some deductions. In succeeding St. Peter, St. Linus took on a mantle of tremendous responsibility at a time when the early Church was struggling to survive and define itself. Many of its early leaders and evangelists had been killed or imprisoned, most especially St. Peter and St. Paul. Early Christians were struggling against not only the Roman authorities but Jewish religious leaders. Many, if not most, Christians believed that Christ would return within their lifetimes.

Both Linus the comics character and St. Linus the Pope have impacted the world in their own ways. While the blanket-toting Linus's impact may be more readily apparent, St. Linus undoubtedly helped a fledgling Church at a time when it needed leadership, faith and courage to survive.

[Richard P. McBrien's Lives of the Popes and The Jerome Biblical Commentary were consulted for this posting.-BJD]


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