Today is the feast of Saint Sylvester I, who was Pope from 314 to 335, for 22 years, making him the eighth longest reigning Pope. He was the first Pope to use the title Pope meaning father. His reign coincided with the reign of the Emperor Constantinus so the Latern Basilica and Old Saint Peter's Basilica (the Constantinian Basilica) were built during his reign.
December 31st is the day of the burial of St. Sylvester in the Catacomb of Priscilla. Since it is also the last night of the secular year, the night of St. Sylvester (Sylvesternacht in German) is also celebrated in Catholic Countries.
In Lutheran Sweden, today is celebrated, among other things, as the birthday of cats. This seems like mockery or silliness but, in fact, like many Swedish celebrations, it has its roots firmly planted in Sweden's Catholic past. In Latin the term for a cat is Felis Sylvestris so the obvious day to celebrate the birthday of cats is the feast of their Saint, Sylvester. In a funny way, the Swedish celebration of the birthday of cats keeps alive in our National culture the feast of this holy Pope.
My Utmost Designs - John Evelyn, letter to his uncle William Prettyman (December 2, 1651), in *The Letterbooks of John Evelyn*, Vol. I: *British Museum Add Ms 78298*, edd. Dou...
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