Saint Alexander studied with Origen in the great Christian school of Alexandria, under St. Pantenus and his successor, St. Clement. He was chosen bishop of a certain city in Cappadocia. In the persecution of Severus, in 204, he made a glorious confession of his faith, and though he did not then seal it with his blood, he suffered several years’ imprisonment, till the beginning of the reign of Caracalla, in 211, when he wrote to congratulate the church of Antioch upon the election of St. Asclepias, a glorious confessor of Christ, to that patriarchate; the news of which, he says, had softened and made light the irons with which he was loaded. He sent that letter by the priest St. Clement of Alexandria, a man of great virtue, whom God had sent into Cappadocia to instruct and govern his people, during his confinement.
St. Alexander being enlarged soon after, in 212, was commanded by a revelation from God, to go to Jerusalem to visit the holy places. 1 The night before his arrival, Saint Narcissus, bishop of Jerusalem, and some other saints of that church, had a revelation, in which they heard a distinct voice commanding them to go out of the city, and take for bishop him whom God sent them. St. Narcissus was then very old and decrepit: he and his flock seized Alexander, and by the consent of all the bishops of Palestine, assembled in a council, made him his coadjutor and joint bishop of Jerusalem.
Narcissus and Alexander still governed this church together, when the latter wrote thus to the Antinoits: “I salute you in the name of Narcissus, who held here the place of bishop before me, and, being above one hundred and sixteen years old, is now united with me by prayer. He conjures you with me to live in inviolable peace and union.” St. Alexander collected at Jerusalem a great library, consisting of the writings and letters of eminent men, which subsisted when Eusebius wrote. He excelled all other holy prelates and apostolic men in mildness and in the sweetness of his discourses, as Origen testifies. Saint Alexander was seized by the persecutors under Decius, confessed Christ a second time, and died in chains at Cæsarea, about the end of the year 251, as Eusebius testifies. He is styled a martyr by St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome, and the Martyrologies, and honoured in the Roman Martyrology on the 18th of March; by the Greeks on the 16th of May and the 22nd of December.
A pastor must first acquire a solid degree of interior virtue, before he can safely undertake to labour in procuring the salvation of others, or employ himself in exterior functions of the ministry. He must have mortified the deeds of the flesh by compunction, and the habitual practice of self-denial; and the fruits of the spirit must daily more and more perfectly subdue his passions.
These fruits of the spirit are charity and humility, which stifle all the motions of anger, envy, and pride: holy joy, which banishes carnal sadness, sloth, and all disrelish in spiritual exercises; peace which crushes the seeds of discord, and the love and relish of heavenly things, which extinguish the love of earthly goods and sensual pleasures. One whose soul is slothful, sensual, and earthly, deserves not to bear the name of a Christian, much less of a minister of the gospel. There never was a saint who did not carry his cross, and walk in the steps of Christ crucified.
St. Alexander would have thought a day lost in which he did not add something to the sacrifice of his penance in order to continue and complete it. By this he prepared himself to die a victim of fidelity and charity. This is the continued martyrdom by which every true Christian earnestly labours to render himself every day more and more pleasing to God, making his body a pure holocaust to him by mortification, and his soul by the fervour of his charity and compunction.