St. Ignatius of Antioch

Bishop and Martyr

St. Ignatius of Antioch
St. Ignatius of Antioch

“I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.”

Ignatius (also called Theophorus) was born in Syria around the year 50 AD. We know nothing of his early life. He was a disciple of John the Apostle, and was consecrated the second Bishop of Antioch, Syria by Pope Peter around the year 69 AD. Ignatius was a holy man who defended the faith through teaching and practice and was greatly loved by the early Christians.

His travels took him through Asia Minor and Greece where he wrote many letters addressing the early Christians. These letters addressed the structure of the Church and the importance of remaining true to the Christian faith as it was taught by Jesus Christ to the Apostles. Bishop Antioch was the first to use word “Catholic” to describe the whole Church. These letters still exist today and are a great treasure to the Church.

Around the year 107 AD, the Emperor Trajan sought to force the Christians to worship the pagan gods with the penalty of death for those who failed to worship as prescribed. Bishop Ignatius fought this decree but was eventually arrested and sentenced to death by Emperor Trajan because he refused to renounce the Christian faith. He was taken to Rome where he was publically executed by being fed to two wild lions.

Ignatius was not afraid of dying since he knew that Christ has already defeated death. By following the example of Christ, he knew that he would rise again with Christ in the Resurrection. Before he died, Ignatius wrote to the disciples in Rome asking them to do nothing to deprive him of the opportunity of martyrdom, “Permit me to imitate my suffering God… I am God’s wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”

The relics of St. Ignatius were contained in several places until 637 AD when they were purportedly transported to St. Clement’s in Rome. His feast day is celebrated on October 17.