Today, February 23, is the Memorial of St. Polycarp of Smyrna.
St. Polycarp was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, who brought him to faith in Christ. He served as Bishop of Smyrna, on the west coast of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) in the first half of the second century AD.
During his service in Smyrna, a controversy developed over when Catholics ought to celebrate Easter. St. Polycarp, as did other Eastern Catholics, celebrated Passover and then Easter on the following day, on whichever day of the week that happened to fall in any given year. In the West, Catholics celebrated Easter always on the Sunday of the week after Passover. St. Polycarp traveled to Rome to consult with Pope St. Anicetus on the matter. Though St. Polycarp and Pope St. Anicetus could not come to agreement on when to celebrate Easter, they affirmed their one faith in Christ, and St. Anicetus asked St. Polycarp to celebrate Mass in the papal chapel.
St. Polycarp was a friend and brother bishop of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who wrote a letter to the Bishop of Smyrna.
Around AD 156, St. Polycarp was accused of and tried for being a Christian. St. Polycarp made the prosecutor’s job very easy. “I am a Christian,” he confessed unhesitatingly.
During the trial, the magistrate gave St. Polycarp every chance to renounce Christ and save his life. St. Polycarp replied, “Eighty-six years have I been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
The account of St. Polycarp’s martyrdom is the earliest extant account of a Christian martyr. He died for Christ on February 23, about AD 156.
God of all creation, who were pleased to give the Bishop Saint Polycarp a place in the company of the Martyrs, grant, through his intercession, that, sharing with him in the chalice of Christ, we may rise through the Holy Spirit to eternal life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Collect for the Memorial of St. Polycarp
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.