Memorial of Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr

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Saint Polycarp. Image via Wikipedia.

“Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man.”

– St. Polycarp


Daily Scripture Readings

First Reading Sir 4:11-19
Wisdom breathes life into her children
and admonishes those who seek her.

He who loves her loves life;
those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord.

He who holds her fast inherits glory;
wherever he dwells, the LORD bestows blessings.

Those who serve her serve the Holy One;
those who love her the LORD loves.

He who obeys her judges nations;
he who hearkens to her dwells in her inmost chambers.

If one trusts her, he will possess her;
his descendants too will inherit her.

She walks with him as a stranger
and at first she puts him to the test;

Fear and dread she brings upon him
and tries him with her discipline
until she try him by her laws and trust his soul.

Then she comes back to bring him happiness
and reveal her secrets to them
and she will heap upon him
treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice.

But if he fails her, she will abandon him
and deliver him into the hands of despoilers.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:165, 168, 171, 172, 174, 175
R. (165a) O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

Those who love your law have great peace,
and for them there is no stumbling block.

R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

I keep your precepts and your decrees,
for all my ways are before you.

R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

My lips pour forth your praise,
because you teach me your statutes.

R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

May my tongue sing of your promise,
for all your commands are just.

R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

I long for your salvation, O LORD,
and your law is my delight.

R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

Let my soul live to praise you,
and may your ordinances help me.

R. O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

Gospel Mk 9:38-40

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”


St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Polycarp had known those who had known Jesus, and was a disciple of St. John the Apostle, who had converted him around the year 80 AD. He taught, says his own pupil Irenaeus of Lyons, the things that he learned from the Apostles, which the Church hands down, which are true. Irenaeus, who as a young boy knew Polycarp, praised his gravity, holiness, and majesty of countenance. He had lived near Jerusalem and was proud of his early associations with the Apostles.

Polycarp became bishop of Smyrna and held the see for about 70 years. He was a staunch defender of orthodoxy and an energetic opponent of heresy, especially Marcionism and Valentinianism (the most influential of the Gnostic sects). Toward the end of his life he visited Pope St. Anicetus in Rome and, when they could not agree on a date for Easter, decided each would observe his own date. To testify his respect and ensure that the bonds of charity were unbroken, Anicetus invited Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in the papal chapel on this occasion. Polycarp suffered martyrdom with 12 others of his flock around the year 156.

Excerpted from St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr by Fr. Paul Haffner (Inside the Vatican, February 2004)

Among the select few from apostolic times about whom we have some historical information is Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and one of the most glorious martyrs of Christian antiquity. His life and death are attested by the authentic “Acts” of his martyrdom (no similar account is older), as well as by other contemporary writings. It moves us deeply when, for example, we find in St. Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, the passage in which he reminisces:

“The memory of that time when as a youth I was with Polycarp in Asia Minor is as fresh in my mind as the present. Even now I could point to the place where he sat and taught, and describe his coming and going, his every action, his outward appearance, and his manner of discourse to the people. It seems as though I still heard him tell of his association with the apostle John and with others who saw the Lord, and as though he were still relating to me their words and what he heard from them about the Lord and His miracles. . . .”

On the day of his death (February 23) the Martyrology recounts with deep reverence:

“At Smyrna, the death of St. Polycarp. He was a disciple of the holy apostle John, who consecrated him bishop of that city; and there he acted as the primate of all Asia Minor. Later, under Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, he was brought before the tribunal of the proconsul; and when all the people in the amphitheater cried out against him, he was handed over to be burned to death. But since the fire caused him no harm, he was put to death by the sword. Thus he gained the crown of martyrdom. With him, twelve other Christians, who came from Philadelphia, met death by martyrdom in the same city.”

Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

Patron: Against ear ache, dysentery.

Things to Do:

via Catholic Culture : Liturgical Year.

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