1. On this martyrs’s feast day:
— Detroit Priest (@DetroitPriest) February 23, 2016
"Let us therefore become imitators of His endurance; and if we should
suffer for His name's sake, let us glorify Him."- St. Polycarp
— Father Dan O'Reilly (@FrDanOReilly) February 23, 2016
Polycarp was tortured and his body burned. The destruction of his body was intended as an assault on Christian sensibilities that believe in the dignity of the body and the resurrection of the dead.
The reason for Rome’s persecution of the Church is not always understood by Christians – it is not simply a case that the Roman system was intolerant of religion. As a point of fact, the Roman system was inherently religious and willing to sanction a diversity of cults.
The reason for Rome’s persecution of the Church was that Christians proclaimed that Christ was an authority that was higher than that of Rome and its emperor. We call Christ “Lord and Savior” and do not realize that these terms are not just honorary titles or theological abstractions. Caesar held the titles “Lord and Savior” and would tolerate no rivals to this claim. That Christians would call Christ, who had died at the hands of Roman power, their “Lord and Savior” was an affront to Caesar’s status and authority.
Further, and this might surprise you, the early Christians were called “atheists” because they refused to recognize the many gods of the Roman religion as worthy of reverence or worship. For these reasons, Christians were enemies of the state, and the Church was an illegal organization.
We live in a culture that has had a relatively benign relationship with Christians and the Church. The Catholic Faith has not always been welcome in our nation’s history, but over the past several decades many of the anti-Catholic attitudes have softened into a toleration of the Church just as long as we can demonstrate that we are not a threat to the nation as agents of a foreign power and are sufficiently accommodating to modern secularism.
However, many Christians do not live in a situation that either tolerates the Faith or allows its free expression. As massacres of Christians in Iraq, Egypt, and other nations of the Middle East have recently demonstrated, the experience of Saint Polycarp is not merely a matter of history. It continues today.
In this regard, Saint Polycarp reminds us of a truth that takes us beyond our own experience and brings us face to face with the Lord’s stinging words: “No slave is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…”
May Saint Polycarp intercede for us and give us the strength and courage to bear witness to the Faith in the face of opposition and persecution.
5. Fr. Roger Landry, in his homily today:
He was given a chance to save his life simply by cursing Jesus Christ. He replied, “For 86 years I have served him and he has done me no wrong, why would I betray him now?” He was dependent on God’s mercy until the end. They sentenced him to be burned at the stake and as they were tying his feet to the stake and were about to nail his feet, but he said, “Leave me as I am. The one who gives me strength to endure the fire will also give me strength to stay quite still on the pyre, even without the precaution of your nails.” He knew that God’s mercy could give him power even to sustain joyfully being burned alive. After he had prayed, they lit the fire, and the Christian eyewitnesses noted in their account of his martyrdom, “When a great flame burst out, those of us privileged to see it witnessed a strange and wonderful thing. Indeed, we have been spared in order to tell the story to others. Like a ship’s sail swelling in the wind, the flame became as it were a dome encircling the martyr’s body. Surrounded by the fire, his body was like bread that is baked, or gold and silver white-hot in a furnace, not like flesh that has been burnt. So sweet a fragrance came to us that it was like that of burning incense or some other costly and sweet-smelling gum.” He entered into the sacrifice of Christ that he had the privilege of celebrating each morning. And we prayed for the same gift as we opened today’s Mass, begging God to “grant, through [Polycarp’s] intercession, that, sharing with him in the chalice of Christ, we may rise through the Holy Spirit to eternal life.” It’s through receiving Christ’s mercy poured out for us for the remission of our sins each day that we are able to rise by the power of the Holy Spirit, our guide, to eternal life. This is the means by which we live out our perpetual conversion and receiving God’s enduring mercy so that we, like the saint we celebrate, may remain faithful to serving the Lord and never betraying him no matter how long we live and no matter what vicissitudes we face!
May God give us the grace to hold fast to the true Apostolic faith handed down to us in the Church, to be zealous in its proclamation, and to live this faith through great acts of love toward God and neighbor, following the shining example of St. Polycarp.
8. From Magnificat today:
Our conversion is the movement of our hearts, contrite and drawn by grace to respond to the merciful love of God. (Catechism – Para 1428)
— Cardinal Napier (@CardinalNapier) February 19, 2016
"Though you do not see Him, you believe, and in believing there is unspeakable joy". St. Polycarp
— FrSteveGrunow (@FrSteveGrunow) February 23, 2016