Do you know who is Saint Polycarp?
“It still echoes in my ears the stories of his conversations with John and with many others who saw Jesus Christ, repeating the words which he had heard from them”.
“I can show the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit while preaching. I still remember the force of his bearing, the sanctity of his presence, the majesty of his features and his movements, which are as majestic as his holy exhortations to the people. “It still echoes in my ears the stories of his conversations with John and with many others who saw Jesus Christ, repeating the words which he had heard from them”.
Saint Polycarp lived 86 years. He was baptized during his infancy. He was a disciple of the apostle Saint John and for this reason, he had the privilege to hear directly the testimonies of the eyewitnesses of Jesus. Later, it was probably Saint John himself who ordained him to be the bishop of Christian community of Smyrna.
In this way, Saint Polycarp occupied the Episcopal seat of Smyrna (located in present-day Turkey) until 110 A.D. From the very beginning, his strong character and his persistent courage to confess the Christian faith was already evident.
His attitude and character are clearly captured in this simple statement of his: “Let us be followers of the Passion of Christ, and if because of his name we have to suffer, let us glorify his Name nonetheless, because He Himself left us this example and it is part of our faith”.
From what we can know, thanks to the letter that the Christians community of Smyrna wrote about his martyrdom, Saint Polycarp did not give himself voluntarily to martyrdom. He felt he did not have the strength to confront it because of his old age. Instead of giving himself up, granting also the request of his flock, he hid in a countryside house.
Having been betrayed by one of the slaves, the soldiers came to capture him. He did not resisted the arrest, rather, he accepted the Will of God. He ordered that they give food to the others that were captured and he requested that they grant them some time for prayer. The soldiers, seeing his faith and piety, repented for what they have done but it was already too late to undo the capture.
Saint Polycarp was brought before the Proconsul Statius Quadratus who gave him a chance to denounce his faith. He said to Saint Polycarp: “Declare that Caesar is Lord”. Polycarp responded: “I consider my Lord only Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. The governor added: “What’s wrong with burning some incense before the altar of Caesar? Renounce Christ and you will save your life”. San Polycarp gave an admirable response. He answered: “I have been serving Jesus Christ for eighty-six years and he had never failed me. How can I possible fail him at this moment? I will always be a friend of Christ”.
The proconsul answered him angrily: “If you do not adore Caesar and continue to adore Christ, I will condemn you to be burned”. The saint responded: “You threaten me with fire which lasts for some moment but later will be extinguished. What I don’t want is to go to the eternal fire that is never extinguished”.
In this moment, the people angrily asked the proconsul to condemn Saint Polycarp to the flames. The proconsul granted what the people asked. The only thing that Saint Polycarp asked was to leave him alone in the fire because he will not attempt to escape. The soldiers tied his hands and left him at the burning stake. Later, the executioners received the order to pierce the heart of Saint Polycarp with a lance. After the execution, the Christians collected the bones of Saint Polycarp.
It should remembered that etymologically, the name “Polycarp” is a combination of two Latin words: poli, which means “many” and carpo which means “fruit”.
We are making accessible the letter “Martyrum Polycarpi”, addressed to Phylomelium (valley of Phrygia) by the Church of Smyrna and written by the eyewitnesses of the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp.