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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saint Polycarp

Feastday: February 23

Early Career

St. Polycarp was born at Smyrna, (what is now the city of Izmir, west coast of Turkey) towards the latter end of Nero's reign, 69AD. At an early age, he was taught by the apostle John, and was made deacon then catechist. Later, he was consecrated Bishop of Smyrna by St. John and other apostolic persons.

Courage under Persecution

Not long after the death of St. John, in 107 AD the persecutions against Christians were renewed, under the reign of Trajan. Among those sentenced to death was Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch. As he was transported to Rome to be executed, he was permitted to visit Smyrna. Polycarp exhorted Ignatius to hold fast. Ignatius reciprocated his wishes, exhortations as well as prayers and commended the Church along with the people of Antioch to his watch.

About this time, there came a controversy between the Eastern and Western Churches about the observation of Easter. To patch up the resulting divisions, St. Polycarp visited Rome in the year 154. During his stay, he spent much of his time convincing gainsayers and testifying the truth of the Christian doctrines handed by the Apostles. The piety and zeal of the early Christians was frequently disturbed with heretical doctrines and schism which corrupted the Christian faith. The pagans called the Christians “atheists” but Polycarp made clear to them that the real atheists are those who don’t believe in the one true God.

A Share in the Passion

As the persecution of Christians has been going on, search parties have been looking for the Bishop. Although he was warned of this danger and could have escaped, he decided to stay, saying the will of the Lord be done. Hearing his persecutor’s downstairs, he went down to greet them with a cheerful and gentle countenance. Everyone was astonished at his courage and peaceful disposition and wondered why anyone should wish to apprehend this poor old man. Perfectly calm, he ordered a table to be set for them to eat and drink, requesting that he be given one hour for solemn prayer. He was so filled with the grace of God that he prayed nearly two hours, commending to God everyone who had crossed his path – rich & poor, small or great – and the state of the whole Catholic Church throughout the world. Everyone who heard him was greatly amazed and grieved that so divine and venerable an old man should be put to death.

He was taken to Herod and his father Nicetus (Niketas), both civil officers. They tried to persuade him to renounce his faith in Christ to no avail then began to make threats and threw him from the carriage with such violence, as to scrape his shin. But undaunted, he hastened on to the place of trial. Before the proconsul and surrounded with guards, Polycarp proclaimed, “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong,” said Polycarp. “How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

All these time, Polycarp radiated with joy and courage that the proconsul had to send his herald into the middle of the arena to announce, “Polycarp has declared that he is a Christian.” At the herald’s announcement, the angry crowd roared, insisting that he be burned.

The fire took the shape of a vaulted room, circling around Polycarp as if to protect him while the scent of incense filled the air. Seeing that his body was not consumed by the fire, Polycarp was stabbed by a dagger. A huge amount of blood oozes out to extinguish the fire and his spirit in a form of a dove came out.

St. Polycarp's prayer

"Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and powers, of the whole creation and of the whole race of the righteous who live in your sight, I bless you, for having made me worthy of this day and hour, I bless you, because I may have a part, along with the martyrs, in the chalice of your Christ, to resurrection in eternal life, resurrection both of soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, among those who are in you presence, as you have prepared and foretold and fulfilled, God who is faithful and true. For this and for all benefits I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be to you with him and the Holy Spirit glory, now and for all the ages to come. Amen."


*Whenever God gives us something to do, He is there with us always to see us through. Since God’s wisdom is beyond us, there are a lot of things we do not understand. We just need to trust that what He is doing is what is best for us regardless of the circumstances in our lives.

*St Polycarp followed the Lord Jesus into his Passion, knowing that he would rise with him in his Resurrection.

What is your idea of a saint?

Please feel free to share your reflections or insights on the comment box below.  Thank you and God Bless!

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