Bishop and Martyr (d. ca. 152)
+ Polycarp was born around the year 69 and, according to tradition, he was a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist.
+ When Saint Ignatius of Antioch visited the city of Smyrna in 107, Polycarp was serving as the city’s bishop.
+ Polycarp wrote several pastoral letters, but most of these have been lost.
+ Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, who knew Polycarp, recalled how Polycarp “spoke of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord; how he repeated their words from memory; and how the things that he had heard them say about the Lord, his miracles and his teachings… were proclaimed by Polycarp in complete harmony with Scripture.
+ During a visit to Rome, Pope Anicetus honored Polycarp by asking him to preside at the celebration of the Eucharist. This was a great sign of respect for one who was already honored as an “Apostolic Father.”
+ Saint Polycarp was later arrested and burned at the stake by Roman authorities on February 23, around the year 152. The account of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, is one of the oldest and most authentic accounts of martyrdom from the early church.
For prayer and reflection
“I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.”—The last words of Saint Polycarp
On this day we also remember Saint Serenus. A hermit in what is modern-day Hungary, he supported himself by growing fruits and vegetables. Serenus was martyred in the year 303 and is honored as a patron saint of gardeners and of those who are falsely accused.
God of all creation,
who were pleased to give the Bishop Saint Polycarp
a place in the company of the Martyrs,
grant, through his intercession,
that, sharing with him in the chalice of Christ,
we may rise through the Holy Spirit to eternal life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.