Saint Polycarp the Hieromartyr
Born in Ephesus around 70 AD, St Polycarp was raised by a devout Christian noblewoman, Callista, who received Polycarp in her care when his parents were martyred. Polycarp was, from a young age, generous in spirit and thirsty to serve those around him in Christ’s name. He became the disciple of St John the Theologian alongside Saints Bucolos and Ignatius. Together they preached the Word until Bucolos was appointed bishop of Smyrna, with Polycarp as his assistant and later, his successor. Polycarp performed many miracles during this time: a huge fire was extinguished and a famine was broken with his prayers. This converted many pagans in the Church of Smyrna.
In 154, Polycarp, now a well-seasoned bishop of over fifty years, travelled to Rome to address Pope Anacletus in the wake of a controversy concerning the date of Easter. Polycarp corrected those who had been following the heresies of Valentinus and Marcion. When Polycarp returned to Smyrna, the churches of Asia came under the attack of Proconsul Stratius Quadratus. Polycarp was captured and thrown into the stadium in front of the Proconsul and a crowd of shouting pagans who demanded he be set on fire. After refusing to deny Christ, Polycarp calmly undressed, and when the soldiers began to nail him to the stake, Polycarp said to them, “Let me be. For he who gives me the strength to endure the flames will also help me to remain steadfast at the stake”. The wood around him was lit, but the flame did not touch Polycarp, instead forming a wall around him. Because of this, the executioner was instructed to stab him. Polycarp bled so much that the fire was put out, and he gained the incorruptible crown of martyrdom.
This early Christian era was wrought not only with persecutions from the pagan world, but also with heresies from within the Church. Polycarp, with other true disciples of Christ, firmly stood by the Apostolic Christian Faith through uncertainty, adversity, and finally death.