Lives of Saints

St Polycarp (70-156)

Feast day: 23rd February

St Polycarp

I was a friend of St John the Apostle, and of St Ignatius of Antioch. In early adulthood I was raised to the episcopate, and I served as Bishop of Smyrna (nowadays Izmir in Turkey). I was a highly respected Christian leader. I testified to the younger generation, condemning as offensive new ideas sown by heretical teachers. I rejected the teachings of Marcion, an influential heretic who tried to create a "new brand" of Christianity by redefining God and rejecting Old Testament teachings. I also worked towards condemnation of the Gnostic heresies that were beginning to spread throughout the Christian church.

The Asia Minor Churches chose me as a representative to discuss with Pope Anicetus in Rome, the date of the Easter celebration. This was a controversial issue in the early Church.

I tried to live a life of holiness, piety and orthodoxy. But I lived among pagans and led the Church under a government opposed to Christianity. During the persecution I tried to exhibit calm courage, neither courting nor fearing martyrdom.

I was 86 when I was led into the crowded Smyrna stadium to be burned alive. The proconsul promised to let me go if I reviled Christ, but I answered: “Eighty and six years have I served him, and He has never done me wrong, how then, can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” Since the flames did not harm me I was finally killed by a dagger. My body was then burned.

“Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord…loving each other, united in truth, helping each other with the mildness of the Lord…”

St Polycarp

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