Ignatius was a convert to Christianity. When he was named the second bishop of Antioch, Syria, Ignatius became a successor of Saint Peter. In 107, Emperor Trajan tried to force Christians to renounce their religion.
Ignatius allowed soldiers to bind him in a rickety cart and lead him to Rome for martyrdom. As his cart rolled into towns, local bishops and Christians came to meet and encourage him. His friend Saint Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, received him with great honor, because he saw Ignatius’s holiness.
On the journey, Ignatius wrote seven letters to the churches he left behind. The letters give insight into the growth of theology. Ignatius praised the love and support he experienced on his way to Rome. He insisted that the people obey their bishop and act only with his approval. “Wherever the bishop is, there let the people be, for there is the Catholic Church.” (Letter to the Church at Smyrna 8.1–2) Ignatius wrote that Christ was present in the Church, in each member, and in the Blessed Sacrament. Of himself, he said, “I am the wheat of Christ, may I be ground by the teeth of beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.” He asked his people to gather around the Eucharist and to care for “the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, as well as those in prison, the hungry and the thirsty.” (Letter to the Church at Smyrna 6.2) He called himself “the bearer of God.” Ignatius was devoured by wild beasts in the Roman amphitheater.
Have students research the role of bishops and write letters of appreciation to their bishop.
In the church where the bishop presides is the bishop’s chair, or cathedra, a sign of his leadership. But the cathedral belongs to everyone in the diocese. Visit your cathedral.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Ignatius of Antioch by unknown artist, 11th century. Public Domain via Wikimedia.