Cyprian was born to parents of a noble family in the early part of the third century. He was well educated and became both a teacher and a professional rhetorician.
A convert from paganism to Catholicism, Cyprian was ordained and appointed to be a bishop within three or four years. Despite the fact that he was not experienced, Cyprian became a leading church official and theologian. He was responsible, conscientious and dedicated: a true shepherd of his flock.
In difficult times, Cyprian guided and encouraged his people, promoting unity and peace. It was during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius that Christians were commanded to deny their faith. Cyprian not only supported his flock through his letters, but also defended the authority of St. Peter and his successors over the entire Church. His letters to the clergy and laity in his diocese were often concerned with local problems; they enable us to see various aspects of the early Church in action. They are examples to us of his love for Christ and the Church.
Cyprian, then, is honored both as one of the first prominent Latin Christian writers and as a father of the Church. He is further honored by mention of his name during the first Eucharistic Prayer said during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In 257, while Christians were being persecuted under the Emperor Valerian, Cyprian was beheaded. He is a martyr for his faith. We celebrate his feast on September 16th.