Optional Memorial of St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr and Companions
St. Sixtus was ordained bishop of the Church of Rome in 257. The following year, while celebrating the sacred liturgy over the tomb of a martyr in the cemetery or Catacombs of Saint Callistus, he was arrested by soldiers carrying out the edict of the Emperor Valerian. On the same day, August 6, he was put to death along with four deacons and buried in the same cemetary. This excerpt from a letter (Epist. 80: CSEL 3, 839-840) by Saint Cyprian, the North African bishop of Carthage who was later martyred in the same persecution, appears in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for August 7th, the liturgical memorial (feast) of Pope St. Sixtus.
The feast of Sts. Sixtus II and his companions, Felicissimus and Agapitus. Pope Sixtus II was one of the first victims of the persecution under the Emperor Valerian. Felicissimus and Agapitus were two of his deacons who were executed with him. Sixtus governed the Church from 256 to 258. His name is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass.
St. Sixture and St. Cajetan's feasts are celebrated today both in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, August 7th is the feast of St. Donatus. His name occurs second on the list of the bishops of the See of Arezzo. Little is known of him. The Acts of his martyrdom, unfortunately, do not merit credence.
St. Sixtus II and Companions
Even as the storm of persecution created by Emperor Valerian raged against the Church, the papal throne was not vacant. Sixtus, a Greek, was elected to succeed Stephen. The emperor's decrees had ordered the Christians to take part in state religious ceremonies and forbade them to assemble in cemeteries. For nearly a year Sixtus managed to evade the authorities before he was gloriously martyred.
Valerian issued his second edict ordering the execution of Christian bishops, priests, and deacons. Sixtus had taken to holding services in the private cemetery of Praetextatus because it was not watched as closely by the authorities as was the cemetery of Calixtus. But in early August of 258, while Sixtus was seated on his episcopal chair and surrounded by the brethren, the soldiers broke in arresting Sixtus and four deacons who were in attendance. After a formal judgment, Sixtus was led back to the very place where he had been arrested, to face execution. His chief deacon Lawrence, upon hearing the news, hastened to his side, desiring to die with his bishop. Sixtus consoled his deacon by telling him that he would follow in three days with even greater glory. The soldiers then placed Sixtus in his chair and swiftly beheaded him. True to the great pope's words, Lawrence was arrested three days later and executed the same day.
Excerpted from The Popes: A Papal History, J.V. Bartlett