Today is the Feast of St. Polycarp. Father Steve offers his reflection on this early Christian martyr, the political situation in Rome at the time of his life and witness, and the urgency of his message for Christians of our current age, persecuted or otherwise.
(Also, be sure to read Ellyn von Huben's review of Brant Pitre's new book on the blog today.)
The Church remembers the witness of Saint Polycarp today, who was killed because he would not renounce his faith in the Lord Jesus in the year 155 AD.
Saint Polycarp was a victim of the brutal persecution of the Church by the Roman Empire, which afflicted the faithful for the first few centuries of the Church’s life.
Polycarp was an elderly man when he died, so old that he had personally known the Apostle John. Saint Irenaeus mentions Polycarp’s relationship with the Apostle John, noting that Polycarp, who knew John, was his own teacher and mentor.
The account of Polycarp’s martyrdom has the saint making this appeal to the Roman magistrate who had offered to spare the elderly saint if he would just place a pinch of incense in a brazier burning before a statue of Caesar: “Eighty six years I have served Christ, how then can I blaspheme my king and Savior"...