Polycarp of Smyrna was born in 69 A.D. and died a martyr in 155 A.D. Growing up among Greek-speaking Christians of the Roman Empire, Polycarp was a Christian leader and teacher. The teachings and recollections he received were from disciples and apostles who had seen and known Jesus during his earthly life. The knowledge he obtained served to protect the Catholic Church against the influence of heresy when there were attempts to deny Jesus’ bodily incarnation and full humanity. Polycarp’s studied personally with St. John, who contributed many Bible passages that clearly indicated Jesus’ eternal divinity.
As more and more Christians started to doubt the reality of Jesus’ literal suffering, death and resurrection-- regarding them as “symbols” of highly abstract ideas--Polycarp lived a life of mercy by educating the masses and chastising those who doubted their faith. He urged people to not surrender their beliefs to the “gnostic” teachers claiming to teach a more intellectually refined gospel.
Polycarp’s unwavering faith led to his martyrdom. Refusing to denounce Jesus in favor of the Roman emperor as the higher authority, Polycarp suffered persecution. Although, the first attempt on his life was to be burned alive, miraculously, the fire did not seem to touch Polycarp. Undeterred by Polycarp’s unexplainable survival, the Emperor ordered him to be stabbed to death. St. Polycarp has been venerated as a Saint since his death. His life illustrated an outstanding example of love, patience and mercy. He held strong to his beliefs and won the treasure of eternal life.
· Feast Day: February 23rd
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