Born when the Christian faith was still emerging, St. Polycarp was a follower of St. John, the Beloved Disciple, and went on to teach others and send supportive and instructive letters to distant Christian communities. Besides having a strange name, though, Polycarp is best known for his martyrdom.
Living during a time of Christian persecution, Polycarp was ready to die for his faith. Yet, when he was about to be arrested, he hid for as long as possible. Eventually, he had to face his fate. Before being taken away, Polycarp asked the authorities for a few hours to pray.
In front of a large crowd at an outdoor amphitheater, Polycarp professed his faith and refused to succumb to threats.
“I have wild beasts,” the judge said. “Call for them,” replied Polycarp, “for we will not be moved from good to evil.”
“If you hate the beasts, I will have you consumed by fire,” the judge said.
“You threaten me with fire that burns for a season, and is quenched after a while,” Polycarp replied, “but you do not know of the judgment to come and of the fire of eternal punishment that is prepared for the wicked. Why do you delay? Bring against me what you please.”
The judge finally decided to burn Polycarp alive. When the pyre was lit, though, the flames did not touch him. Instead, the fire swelled around him like sails on a ship, and released a scent of incense. When the soldiers saw this, they killed him with a spear.
Polycarp’s teaching — and especially his example — was foundational for the early Church.
Get to know this early Christian martyr through our Spotify playlist inspired by his life and legacy.
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