Humdingers from the Saints: St. Polycarp

Last week, St. Polycarp was our featured “You May Not Know” Saint. He’s making a second appearance this week, this time as our featured “Humdinger.”

I think my favorite thing about the Saints is their boldness in speech. I never fail to be amused and inspired by their fearlessness. Seriously — there is no Saint in existence who was a push-over. They seem to all have found that sweet spot, being both ferocious and humble at the same time. Polycarp is no exception…

St. Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of St. Peter and also among the second generation of bishops in the line of apostolic succession) was good friends with St. Polycarp. Polycarp was not very well educated, and was most known for his stoic and candid mannerisms. When it came to the faith, no outside threats worried him. His life was built on a solid foundation (which, if he was the little boy from St. John’s Gospel, I don’t see how he wouldn’t be solidly fixed on Christ). St. Ignatius once told him, “…your mind is grounded on Christ as on an immovable rock.”

This proved to be true in many cases. For example, the heresy of Marcionism was alive and well when St. Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna. Marcion (the main voice behind this false teaching) demanded the support of his bishop by shouting, “Recognize us, Polycarp!” Polycarp replied without his stoic face changing expression:“I recognize you, yes, I recognize the son of Satan.”


His boldness in speech isn’t limited to times upon which he was “ruling” as bishop. My favorite quote of Polycarp actually comes from right before his martydom. Polycarp was an old man, and the Romans took pity on him. They did not want him to die. So they told him, “Say, ‘Away with the atheists…” (in those days, Christians were referred to as atheists since they did not believe in the Roman gods). Without missing a beat, Polycarp responded, “Away with the atheists…” proclaiming that they themselves were the true atheists as they did not believe in the one, true God.

After that, they burned him. When the flames wouldn’t consume his body, they stabbed him and let him bleed out.

St. Polycarp’s heavenly birthday is Feb 23, 155 AD.

St. Polycarp, pray for us!

Have you heard these quotes of St. Polycarp before? Do you have any suggestions for future “Humdinger” posts? I love to meet new Saints!


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