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October 17th - Ignatius of Antioch

October 17th

Every year on October 17th we celebrate the feast day of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He’s certainly known within the communion of saints as being one of the most courageous saints within the Church and he would be the first to use the word “Catholic.” He was a convert to Christianity and was soon after named the Bishop of Antioch. During his time as Bishop, the Emperor Trajan came for a surprise visit to the area. When he saw the prominence of Christianity in the area, he rounded them all up and made them make a choice: either they would deny Christ (and save their life) or they would keep to their faith, which meant their certain death. Ignatius refused to commit apostasy and deny Christ. In fact, he was very proud to confess Jesus Christ as Lord in the midst of a certain death.

The emperor would sentence Ignatius and other Christians to death by Lions in the Circus Maximus. It was a gruesome way to die, but one his way to Rome, Ignatius wrote several letters that described his fate. But he encouraged each community to keep to the faith. These were letters of inspiration, to help them have courage in the midst of adversity, even if that meant possible harm to themselves. In his letter to the Roman community, he said these famous words: "The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ." He is specifically asking them to not attempt to stop his execution as he desires to inspire the Christian world.

He would continue in his letter to say: "May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs-let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I love who rose again because of us."
Ignatius would get his wish and die a martyr’s death in Rome and the blood of his martyrdom would inspire many people to become Christians.