SAINTS

FEB. 23: ST. POLYCARP

(69-155 AD)

Polycarp was born between 69 and 70 AD of Christian parents. He had the grace of receiving the teachings of Christ directly from the Apostles and became a disciple of St John the Evangelist.

It was at the command of the Apostles that Polycarp would become the bishop of the Church of Smyrna.

Ignatius of Antioch called Polycarp a good pastor and fighter for the cause of Christ. Ignatius, who was judged in Rome, asked Polycarp to transmit his memory to Antioch. The good Bishop passed along Ignatius’ letters, adding his own letter in which he urges them to serve and fear God, to believe in Him, to hope in the resurrection, and to walk in the path of justice, always having before their eyes the example of the martyrs — and Ignatius himself.

Around the end of 154, Polycarp left for Rome as a representative of the Christians of Asia Minor. His mission was to meet with Pope Anicetus and discuss different issues, including the date of Easter — the Eastern Churches celebrated Easter on the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, and in Rome on the following Sunday. No agreement was reached, but relations between the churches remained friendly.

At age 86, Polycarp was arrested for his faith. The Proconsul tried to persuade him to recant, saying: “Think of your age … change your mind … swear and I will free you. Curse the Christ”. Polycarp replied: ‘I have served Him for eighty-six years, and he has done me no harm. How could I curse my King who saved me? … Listen clearly: I am a Christian'”. They attempted to burn the saint at the stake, but he but the flames never touched him. Finally, he was killed by the sword. Polycarp was the twelfth to suffer martyrdom in Smyrna. He was martyred on a Saturday at the eighth hour, the seventh day before the calends of March. This dates his martyrdom as Feb. 23rd in the year 155.

Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smirne and Martiyr – Information on the  Vatican News. (n.d.). Vatican News. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2021, from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/02/23/st–polycarp–bishop-of–smirne-and-martiyr.html