17th October – St Ignatius of Antioch

ignatiusantioch-lions-360Today’s saint Ignatius of Antioch (+107) was the second bishop of Antioch after St Peter (the first being Evodius). He was arrested (some writers believe that he must have been denounced by a fellow-Christian), condemned to death, and transported to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. In one of his letters he describes the soldiers who were escorting him as being like “ten leopards, who when they are kindly treated only behave worse.”

In the course of his journey he wrote seven letters to various churches, in which he dealt wisely and deeply with Christ, the organisation of the Church, and the Christian life. They are important documents for the early history of the Church, and they also reveal a deeply holy man who accepts his fate.

In his desire to offer his life to Christ in martyrdom, he compares himself to the bread of the Eucharist that is offered to God on the altar. Rather his body will be ground by the wild beasts to become ‘flour’ for a similar sacrifice/offering to God. The following are his own words.

“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. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.”

On a similar note, this homily of Pope Francis speaks about the benefits of living for God rather than the pleasures of this world.

“Only in welcoming with humble gratitude the Lord’s love do we free ourselves from the seduction of idols and the blindness of our illusions. Money, pleasure and success dazzle us, only to disappoint us later. They promise life but bring death. The Lord asks us to detach ourselves from these false riches to enter into true life, a full life, that is authentic and luminous… To entrust oneself to the Lord. He will give us strength; He will give us salvation; He will accompany us along the journey”.