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Saint Polycarp

Saint Polycarp
  • Century: 1st & 2nd Century
  • Patronage: Earaches, Intestine Disorders
  • Feast Day: February 23rd

St. Polycarp was born in 69, and was a Bishop of Smyrna.  According to the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, he died a martyr by being bound and burnt at the stake.  Miraculously the fires did not touch him so they stabbed him to death.  St. Irenaeus recorded that he heard him speak in his youth, and that he was a disciple of St. John the Apostle.  St. Jerome also wrote that St. Polycarp was a disciple of St. John and that John had ordained him as the Bishop of Smyrna.  

Early tradition tried to link St. Polycarp in competition to St. John the Apostle, whose life was in contrast to St. Polycarp as far as martyrdom.  Many people tried to kill St. John, but he was not martyred, rather he died of old age after being exiled to the island of Patmos.  Along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp is regarded as one of the three chief Apostolic Fathers.  The only surviving work attributed to his authorship is his letter to the Philippians, and St. Irenaeus of Lyons recorded it.  St. Irenaeus wrote an account of St. Polycarp’s life.  In it he gives an account of his martyrdom.  Outside of the Book of Acts, which contains the death of St. Stephen, St. Polycarp’s death is considered one of the earliest genuine accounts of Christian martyrdom, and is one of the few genuine accounts from the actual age of the persecutions.   

St. Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death, “Eighty and six years I have served him”, which would indicate that he was then eighty-six years old or that he may have lived eighty-six years after his conversion.  He goes on to say, “How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?  Bring forth what thou wilt”.  St. Polycarp was then martyred for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor.  

Practical Take Away

St. Polycarp was born in 69, and was the Bishop of Smyrna.  He was a Disciple of St. John the Apostle.  He studied and followed St. John and was ordained as Bishop of Smyrna by St. John the Apostle.  The Catholic Church regards him as one of the three chief Apostolic Fathers.  St. Irenaeus recorded his life and martyrdom.  According to the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, he died a martyr by being bound and burnt at the stake.  Miraculously the fires did not touch him so they stabbed him to death.  His life shows the struggles our early Church fathers had in spreading the Christian Church.  Other than St. Stephen in the Book of Acts, St. Polycarp’s martyrdom is considered one of the earliest genuine accounts of a Christian Martyrdom.