St. Ignatius of Antioch
Bishop Martyr, Apostolic Father of the Church (c.45 - c107)
A native of Syria and a zealous convert and disciple of St. John the Evangelist, Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch. From 94 to 96 there raged the second great persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian, and St. Ignatius was indefatigable in instilling hope and courage in the faithful, so that they might profess the faith unwaveringly, even at the cost of life. After a short period of peace, Trajan started a third persecution during his reign (98-117).
St. Ignatius once again proved himself the faithful and intrepid leader of the Church in Antioch, both by word and by example __ "A Christian does not live for himself alone. He belongs to God!" Arrested in 107 as the mainspring of Christian resistance to the imperial edict, he was brought before Trajan, who happened to be in Antioch at the time. His fearless replay to a derogatory remark made by the Emperor was: "Call me not a poor wretch, for I bear God with him me!" Trajan ordered that he be sent to Rome to be devoured by wild beasts in the Coliseum.
Ignatius was then 62, and the journey to Rome proved a great ordeal; but it also took on the aspect of triumph, for the large numbers of Christians who turned out to meet him all along the way across Asia Minor and northern Greece. Distant Churches sent delegates with messages of homage and affectionate sympathy. At Smyrna, where a protracted stay was made, he was greeted by his friend St. Polycarp, and from there were dispatched Ignatius' well known epistles to the Churches of Ephesus, Magnesia and Tralles. Filled with pastoral zeal and loving solicitude, these letters touched on the various aspects of the faith, like the Eucharist, the Resurrection, etc.
Ready and eager to die for the faith, Ignatius was heard to say, to those who were desirous of working for his release: "I am the wheat of the Lord and must be ground by the teeth of wild beasts to become the pure bread of the Lord Jesus Christ" _ words which have been preserved in the communion prayer of his Mass. Two ferocious lions were let loose upon the aged Bishop, who kept reiterating the holy name of Jesus. The story of his last journey and courageous martyrdom was written by two disciples who had accompanied him to Rome and who bore back to Antioch the few remains of their martyred Bishop which they were able to collect. St. Ignatius is invoked against soreness of the throat.
Reflection :"Let us ask St. Ignatius to help us understand Jesus' words to his disciple: The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world preserves it to life eternal!" (Blessed James Alberione)