Saints and Holy People

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Saint Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107)

Saint Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107)

Patron saint of the Church in the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa

Feast day: October 17

Ignatius of Antioch died a martyr’s death when he was thrown to the lions in 107. He was a Greek Christian who became bishop of Antioch in 69. Antioch, in Syria, was the most important Christian community outside of Jerusalem. Ignatius is one of the apostolic fathers, an early Church leader whose writings have been preserved.

He was condemned to death during the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Trajan and taken to Rome as a prisoner to be executed. During the lengthy journey, he wrote letters to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, and a last letter to Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna. These letters give us important information about the life of the Church community after the first Apostles.

Because he had complete confidence that after his death he would be resurrected with Christ, Ignatius fearlessly faced martyrdom and asked the Christians in Rome not to try to prevent it. His letter to the church of Rome testifies: “Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread...  No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way...  Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life” (The Liturgy of the Hours, volume 4, pages 1490–1491, taken from The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Third Edition [Saint Mary’s Press]) 

(Image Sergey Kohl /