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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Harvey

Saint Ignatius of Antioch: Bishop, Martyr, and Associate to the Apostles

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

The Apostolic Fathers were those that had direct contact with Jesus’ apostles. The various

New Testament texts were written over the course of decades and the New Testament was not finalized for a few centuries. During the years surrounding the New Testament’s composition the Church continued to grow, preach, ordain new clergy, and some composed works of their own. To study the writings of the Apostolic Fathers is to study the early Christians and the churches that first received the New Testament texts. One of these Apostolic Fathers is the saint celebrated on October 17th, Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

Saint Ignatius was a disciple/student of Saint John the Apostle. He became the bishop of Antioch at the instruction of Saint Peter the Apostle, Saint Peter being a previous bishop of Antioch. During the persecution of Trajan, he was arrested and sent to Rome. While travelling to Rome this saintly bishop wrote a series of letters that are still available to this day and provide a glimpse of the Catholic Church in these early years. In these letters we find the early Church governed by three degrees of clerics: the bishop, presbyters (priests), and deacons. We also find an emphasis on Church unity and the importance of the Eucharist. Interesting fact, it is our earliest record of the use of the phrase “Catholic Church.”

“I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me” -Letter to the Magnesians #6

“so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.” -Letter to Ephesians #20

“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” -Letter to Smyrnaeans #8

Saint Ignatius’ letters also witness to his courage in the face of death. He was mauled by lions in the Colosseum of Rome in front of a crowd and became a martyr for Christ. He would rather die than deny his Lord and his faith. He died around A.D. 107. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Pray for us.

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