November 23rd is the feast day of the fourth pope, Clement I who is said to have reigned c. 91 – c. 101. Tradition holds that the earliest church in Rome, St. Clemente, sits on the site of his own home.
It is believed Clement conversed with the apostles, thereby being a direct recipient of their teachings. Tradition also holds that, like many other first and second century popes, he was martyred. This is supported by the canon of the Mass and he is honored as such.
The information about him which can be substantiated is his authorship of the most important document outside of the scriptures in the first century. Called the First Epistle of Clement it was written to the church of Corinth where fierce opposition to some directives of their priests was causing wide-spread dissension. Clement reproves the community on the principle that the orderly succession of the apostles comes not from the community but from the apostles themselves and, therefore, directly from Christ.
This letter to the community of Corinth is the earliest example of intervention by the church in Rome in the affairs of another community.
Clement enjoyed great prestige in the early church. A number of epistles have been attributed to him although the letter written to Corinth is the only one known to be authentic. He was definitely important during the first century and on his feast day, we honor his contribution to our church.