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SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH

Bishop and Martyr, -c. 107

Although we know nothing of his birth, parents, or education, we have enough evidence to show that Ignatius is one of the great heroes of Christianity. Was he consecrated bishop by St. Peter himself, or by St. Paul? We do not know, but he was bishop of Antioch before the year 100. As with so many Christians of his day, his faith in Christ was put to the supreme test, and because he would not accept the false gods of the Romans he was sent to Rome to be executed.

The bishop of a great city like Antioch must have been a notable prize, for the emperor had Ignatius transported from Syria to Rome for his martyrdom. On the long trip to his death he wrote seven letters to the faithful in various cities of Asia Minor.

These letters are among the treasures of early Christian literature, and show him to be a highly important witness of the teachings of Christianity in the second century. With strong and beautiful language he urges Christians to hold fast to the teachings of the apostles and faith in Christ. His own great heart, and his ardor and enthusiasm for the faith make him a worthy successor of the apostles.

At each stopping place on the journey to Rome, Ignatius was met by the faithful, who praised him for his help and prayers and pleaded for his freedom. In Rome he begged the Christians not to plan an escape for him: "I am God's wheat; I must be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may end as the pure bread of Christ. " This plea was answered: St. Ignatius was martyred by being thrown to lions in the Colosseum.

 

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