St. Polycarp

St. Polycarp (Feast Day: February 23) is an early saint (he was martyred in the year 156) who is said to have been a disciple of the Apostle John. Although only one of his letters survives, the “Acts of Polycarp” are the earliest written account of a Christian martyr’s death after the martyrdom of St. Stephen recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna and is given the title Apostolic Father. Polycarp converted to Christianity because of the witness of people who had spoken with Jesus during his lifetime, and like John the Apostle, the first attempts to martyr him were miraculously unsuccessful. The fire failed to burn him, and he was finally killed with a knife.

“Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man.” — Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians

Questions for Reflection:

  • Polycarp lived at an interesting time in the history of Christianity — in the first generation of believers to receive the faith from people who had actually met and spoken with Jesus while he was alive. Who has served as a witness to Christ in your life? From who have you received your faith?