Saint Polycarp of Smyrna was a pagan man born in the mid to late 1st century between 65-75 AD. Not much is known of his early life accept that he was converted by and a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. He became good friends with Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Saint Papias. Furthermore, they helped him in combating Gnosticism and Marcionites in the East and especially in Smyrna of which he was the bishop. St. Polycarp of Smyrna was also sent by the Eastern churches to discuss the date of which to celebrate Easter with Pope Anicetus.
Saint Polycarp of Smyrna’s martyrdom account is Awe-inspiring!
At the age of 86, St. Polycarp was well-known to be a holy and wise man. One day at the arena, a huge Christian martyrdom occurred which made the onlookers hungry for more and therefore they shouted to bring St. Polycarp of Smyrna to be martyred. The Roman proconsul sent soldeirs to round up St. Polycarp whom was praying in a farm in the countryside. The Roman soldiers tortured two boys who eventually gave up St. Polycarp of Symrna’s location and therefore he was captured and brought to the arena. Once there he and all of the other Christians heard a voice from heaven say, “Be strong Polycarp, and play the man.”
Could you imagine hearing the Voice of God?
St. Polycarp was then asked to denounce his faith and the other Christians but he refused to do so and rather stated that, “Fourscore and six years have I served Him, and he has done me no harm. How then can I curse my King that saved me.” St. Polcarp was then bound to a stake and those pagans and Jews observing in the crowd gathered up wood to use in the burning. The flames of the fire however formed around him without actually harming him in any way. The Roman proconsul was amazed and called to one of the executioners to stab him and he followed the command. The blood rushed out of St. Polycarp and put out the flames. He died on the stake.
So Why is Saint Polycarp remembered?
Few Saints have heard the Voice of God in the way that St. Polycarp did, that is a tremendous gift from God and screams I am with you. Even in the midst of your suffering.
Saint Polycarp also fits the criterion for one who more than likely compiled, edited, and published the New Testament! That is something all Christians can be happy for and amazed at.
Saint Polycarp of Smyrna is one of the first martyr accounts and therefore there is a prayer to St. Polycarp before Martyrdom. Saint Polycarp did not chase martyrdom as many of the time did but rather waited for the appointed time of his passing. Saint Polycarp was gifted with having to hear about the Faith, about Jesus Christ from an eye-witness which is certainly an incredible gift. Common devotion to him includes St. Polycarp of Smyrna Medals featuring his common representation of the fire engulfing him. His feast day is February 23rd.