St Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop & Martyr – 17 Oct
Convert from paganism to Christianity. Succeeded Saint Peter the Apostle as bishop of Antioch, Syria. Served during persecution of Domitian. During the persecution of Trajan, he was ordered taken to Rome to be killed by wild animals. On the way, a journey which took months, he wrote a series of encouraging letters to the churches under his care. First writer to use the term the Catholic Church. Martyr. Apostolic Father. His name occurs in the “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” in the Canon of the Mass. Legend says he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.
He was born in c.50 in Syria and died in c.107 – he was thrown to wild animals at Rome, Italy. His relics are at St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire. The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in my for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world I want only God‘s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed from the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God.
Ask for me this only in your prayers, that strength may be given me of the Lord that I may not be called but proved to be a Christian. Then shall I be seen to be faithful when the world no longer sees me. For nothing that appeareth is eternal. For the things which are perceived are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. I write to the Churches and charge you all that willingly I die for Christ, if you prevent me not. I ask of you that your love for me be not untimely; allow me to be devoured of wild beasts, through whom I may attain unto God. I am the grain of God ground between the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found to be the pure bread of Christ. Then indeed shall I be the true disciple of Christ when the world shall no longer behold my body. Beseech Christ on my behalf that through these means I may be found a perfect sacrifice. Not as Peter and Paul do I command you. They were apostles, I am the least of them; they were free, but I am a slave even unto this day, but, if you wish, I shall be the freedman of Jesus Christ, and in Him I shall rise again and be free. Amen. – from a letter to the Romans from Saint Ignatius of Antioch