Today the church remembers a 1st Century Saint whose mention in Acts of the Apostles (chapters 10 and 11) is indicative of an event much more important than it might first seem: St. Cornelius, Centurion and Bishop of Caesarea.
We know scant about Cornelius other than he was a Gentile convert who heard St. Peter’s preaching, and had his heart “strangely warmed” to borrow a phrase from John Wesley. His conversion, and that of his household, led to a second Pentecost of sorts, as St. Peter, the leader of the Jewish-Christian arm of the early church, began to accept Gentiles into the fold.
This was a huge deal for that early church. It started the domino effect of honoring the missional work of St. Paul and the admission of Gentile-Christians as equal members of the fledgling apocalyptic community.
St. Cornelius, as a Centurion, was a commander of one hundred soldiers. As a full Roman citizen of rank, he was well paid for his work and undoubtedly wealthy and influential.
Lore has him becoming the second Bishop of Caesarea, leaning into his conversion and leading the early church in service.
St. Cornelius is a reminder to me that the church has, at it’s inception, been forced to wrestle with inclusion and, from the outset, chose to have open doors rather than closed ones.
Perhaps that’s a history the church should re-learn in some corners.
-historical bits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations