Saturday 20th April 2024

Home » saints » Currently Reading:

St. Polycarp Of Smyrna

January 23, 2018 saints No Comments


Researching Church history usually begins with studying the fathers of the Church. Many rely heavily on the writings on spirituality, traditions, and the development of doctrine of these men, including St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Jerome. Who are these men and why are they called fathers of the Church?
There are four qualities that are considered when categorizing these fathers: They lived before the close of the eighth century, they preserved doctrinal integrity, they possessed personal sanctity, and they earned the approval of the Church.
Many lived in the first few centuries after the death of Christ and are very well known, having left abundant writings that have been handed down. Others are less well known for their writings and better known for their heroic sanctity. St. Polycarp of Smyrna was known widely for his strict adherence to doctrinal integrity and for his heroic fortitude in the face of the enemy.
Most of what is known about St. Polycarp has been saved by other saints who wrote of his sanctity and orthodoxy. Certainly he was a courageous Christian filled with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Polycarp was born around AD 69, converting to Christianity when he was 11 years old. He was a disciple of the apostles, especially of St. John the Evangelist. Most likely, before he went to Patmos, St. John placed Polycarp in Smyrna as bishop, where he served for 70 years.
As bishop, St. Polycarp endured many challenges such as persecution, poverty, and other sufferings. These developed his virtue and gifts as he would eventually be called to martyrdom.
He also encouraged his disciples in their trials, helping them to develop a deeper spiritual Christ-like life and a clearer understanding of his teachings. His disciples included such illustrious men as St. Irenaeus and St. Papias, who described Polycarp as possessing “sanctity of deportment, majestic countenance, and a consistency in holy exhortations.”
St. Jerome wrote that St. Polycarp met the heretic Marcion in Rome. Marcion was quite chagrined that Polycarp paid him little attention and arrogantly asked Polycarp if he knew who he was. The bishop of Smyrna turned to him regally and quickly retorted, “Yes, I know you to be the firstborn of Satan.” Polycarp had absolutely no tolerance for heretics.
On the other hand, he had a great love for those who remained faithful and gave the ultimate witness by their willing martyrdom. When Ignatius of Antioch was led through the streets to his execution, Polycarp stopped the procession and knelt to kiss the chains that were wrapped around St. Ignatius. The saint then asked Polycarp to care for his people.
Thus Polycarp wrote a succinct and clear letter — praised by many — to the Philippians, which is the only one of his letters which has been preserved.
One of the more significant accomplishments of Polycarp was settling the controversy regarding the celebration of Easter. The Western churches used one method of determining the date of celebration whereas the Asiatic churches used a different method and thus a different date. In 158 he went to Rome and while there he presented both sides and the Pope agreed that each church could celebrate on the date to which they were accustomed.
As time went on, Marcus Aurelius came to power and thus began one of the most brutal persecutions of Christians. This persecution reached Smyrna, becoming a site of some of the most barbarous killings of the faithful. Young and old, noble and lowly — no one was exempt from the punishments for being a Christian.
The blood lust of the people intensified and finally they cried out for Polycarp, demanding that he be killed. As the situation had been deteriorating, Polycarp’s friends finally persuaded him to hide in order to save his life. The bishop then went to a nearby village and hid, leaving himself available to his sheep.
He spent most of his time in prayer and meditation. He then had a vision of himself sleeping on his pillow which caught on fire. Thus, he discerned that his death would come soon and that he would be martyred by being burned at the stake.
Since his enemies continued to search for him, he was taken to a new location to escape. Sadly, a young boy witnessed the movements and under threat of dire torture revealed the location of Polycarp. When the soldiers came, Polycarp calmly greeted them and said, “God’s will be done.” He prepared food for the soldiers and asked them to allow him some time to pray. While they enjoyed their meal, some soldiers had misgivings of their mission as a few of them came to admire Polycarp for the way he prayed during his conversation with God, begging Him to care for his flock.
On the journey to Smyrna, Herod and Nicetes met Polycarp on the road. They stopped and tried to convince Polycarp to deny Christ and pay them homage. Imitating Christ when He stood before another Herod, Polycarp remained silent. As the pressed him again and again, more and more earnestly, Polycarp eventually turned to them and calmly said, “I shall never do what you desire of me.”
Enraged by his determination to remain faithful, they threw him out of their carriage injuring his leg. Nevertheless, Polycarp rose with dignity and went to the assembly that awaited him. As he entered, he heard a voice say to him, “Polycarp, be courageous and act manfully.” The proconsul demanded that Polycarp scorn the Christians, but he refused, looked at the people, and clearly projected his voice so that there would be no mistaking what he said: “Exterminate the wicked.” He yearned for their conversion, but this prophetic statement was fulfilled in 177 when a severe earthquake destroyed Smyrna.
Standing before the proconsul, Polycarp answered every challenge with wisdom and authority. Whenever the proconsul threatened him with various tortures and death, the saint remained confident and even cheerful. Polycarp finally closed the exchange, “Why do you delay? Bring against me what you please.”
He was sentenced to burning at the stake. When he was placed on the wood with his hands tied, he prayed, “O almighty Lord God, Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee, God of angels, powers, and every creature, and of all the race of the just that live in thy presence, I bless thee for having been pleased in thy goodness to bring me to this hour, that I may receive a portion in the number of martyrs, and partake of the chalice of thy Christ.”
With great joy he watched the fire being lit, but the fire did not touch him. Frustrated by this miracle, the soldiers speared Polycarp in the side and he died. His martyrdom took place either in 166 or 169 and his feast is now celebrated on February 23. (The old date was January 23).
Dear St. Polycarp, as we too face heretics both within and outside the Church, obtain for us the grace to remain charitable yet forceful in our denunciation of such evil and pray for the conversion of the enemies of the Truth as taught by Jesus Christ. Amen.

+ + +

(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1


Today . . .

Kamala Harris Heads to Arizona to Promote Abortions Up to Birth

Kamala Harris is visiting Arizona today to showcase the Biden-Harris Administration’s radical support of unlimited abortion. “Kamala Harris has become the abortion czar of the Biden Administration,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. “Instead of joining with the pro-life movement to build programs and safety nets to help promote real solutions for women and their preborn children, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have engaged in fearmongering and propaganda,” Tobias continue

May Everyone Have a Blessed and Joyful Easter

Is Easter being replaced with the ‘Transgender Day of Visibility’?

Two observances — Easter and the recently contrived “International Transgender Day of Visibility” — fall on Sunday, March 31 this year, causing some to wonder “Is Easter being replaced with the ‘Transgender Day of Visibility?’” It’s a valid question. For more than a few, it certainly will. Others might dismiss this as nothing more than a coincidence. That would be a mistake. On the last day of this month, we will witness a clash of religions as…Continue Reading

Abortion Advocates No Longer Consider It “A Necessary Evil,” They Celebrate Killing Babies

Last week, Kamala Harris became the first vice president in U.S. history to make a public visit to an abortion clinic. Though the Democratic party’s support for abortion is nothing new, Harris’ Planned Parenthood appearance does illustrate how that support has become a flagrant celebration of abortion as a public and personal good, essential to both “freedom” and to “healthcare.” At the appearance, Harris proclaimed,  It is only right and fair that people have access…Continue Reading

Wisconsin Supreme Court says Catholic charity group cannot claim religious tax exemption

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a major Catholic charity group’s activities were not “primarily” religious under state law, stripping the group of a key tax break and ordering it to pay into the state unemployment system. Catholic Charities Bureau (CCB) last year argued that the state had improperly removed its designation as a religious organization.  The charity filed a lawsuit after the state said it did not qualify to be considered as an organization…Continue Reading

The King of Kings

Cindy Paslawski We are at the end of the Church year. We began with Advent a year ago, commemorating the time awaiting the coming of the Christ and we are ending these weeks later with a vision of the future, a vision of Christ the King of the Universe on His throne before us all.…Continue Reading

7,000 Pro-Lifers March In London

By STEVEN ERTELT LONDON (LifeNews) — Over the weekend, some seven thousand pro-life people in the UK participated in the March for Life in London to protest abortion.They marched to Parliament Square on Saturday, September 2 under the banner of “Freedom to Live” and had to deal with a handful of radical abortion activists.During the…Continue Reading

An Appeal For Prayer For The Armenian People

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on August 29, 2023, issued this prayer for the Armenian people, noting their unceasing love for Christ, even in the face of persecution.) + + On the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, having a few days ago celebrated the…Continue Reading

Robert Hickson, Founding Member Of Christendom College, Dies At 80

By MAIKE HICKSON FRONT ROYAL, Va. (LifeSiteNews) — Robert David Hickson, Jr., of Front Royal, Va., died at his home on September 2, 2023, at 21:29 p.m. after several months of suffering and after having received the Last Rites of the Catholic Church. He was surrounded by friends and family.Robert is survived by me —…Continue Reading

The Real Hero Of “Sound of Freedom”… Says The Film Has Strengthened The Fight Against Child Trafficking

By ANA PAULA MORALES (CNA) —Tim Ballard, a former U.S. Homeland Security agent who risked his life to fight child trafficking, discussed the impact of the movie Sound of Freedom, which is based on his work, in an August 29 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. “I’ve spent more than 20 years helping…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: This lesson on medical-moral issues is taken from the book Catholicism & Ethics. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. The email and postal addresses are given at the end of this column. Special Course On Catholicism And Ethics (Pages 53-59)…Continue Reading

Color Politics An Impediment To Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The USCCB is rightly concerned about racism, as they should be about any sin. In the 2018 statement Open Wide Our Hearts, they affirm the dignity of every human person: “But racism still profoundly affects our culture, and it has no place in the Christian heart. This evil causes great harm to its victims, and…Continue Reading

Trademarks Of The True Messiah

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this essay on September 2, and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + In Sunday’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.First: The Pattern That…Continue Reading

A Beacon Of Light… The Holy Cross And Jesus’ Unconditional Love

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON Each year on September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The Feast Day of the Triumph of the Holy Cross commemorates the day St. Helen found the True Cross. It is fitting then, that today we should focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life on the…Continue Reading

Our Ways Must Become More Like God’s Ways

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9Phil. 1:20c-24, 27aMatt. 20:1-16a In the first reading today, God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially when we look at what the Lord…Continue Reading

The Devil And The Democrats

By FR. DENIS WILDE, OSA States such as Minnesota, California, Maryland, and others, in all cases with Democrat-controlled legislatures, are on a fast track to not only allow unborn babies to be murdered on demand as a woman’s “constitutional right” but also to allow infanticide.Our nation has gotten so used to the moral evil of killing in the womb that…Continue Reading

Crushed But Unbroken . . . The Martyrdom Of St. Margaret Clitherow

By RAY CAVANAUGH The late-1500s were a tough time for Catholics in England, where the Reformation was in full gear. A 1581 law prohibited Catholic religious ceremonies. And a 1584 Act of Parliament mandated that all Catholic priests leave the country or else face execution. Some chose to remain, however, so they could continue serving the faithful.Also taking huge risks…Continue Reading