St. Polycarp

Today is the memorial of St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, now Izmir, Turkey, and a disciple of St. John the Apostle.  He was also the friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch.  St. Polycarp (whose name means “many good things” in Greek) was revered in the first half of the second century as a Christian leader. He learned the faith directly from the Apostles and is thus called an Apostolic Father.

In 156 A.D., at age 86, Polycarp was taken to a Smryna stadium to be burned alive. There was a movment at the time to get rid of elderly Christians. When they lit the fire, the flames did not harm him, and he was finally killed by a dagger. His martyrdom is one of the first recorded in detail by eyewitnesses.

Because St. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostles themselves, his writings take on particular importance in the study of Patrology, which is the study of the writings of the early Church Fathers. He wrote and lived before the New Testament was compiled. He, along with St. Ignatius of Antioch, are examples to us today of the importance of Tradition as a source of Truth in our faith, in addition to Scripture and the Magisterium.

Polycarp and Ignatius handed on the faith that they had directly received from the Apostles. Both men were bishops of the Church, representing of what we call the Magisterium, i.e., the teaching authority of the Church.

It is reported that Polycarp said to his executioners: “For 86 years I have served Christ, and he has done me no harm. How can I deny my King, my Savior?”

When called upon to be witnesses of our faith, let us pray for St. Polycarp’s intercession so the Lord may give us the strength to do so bravely.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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