On October 17 each year we recall the heroism and the teaching of St. Ignatius of Antioch. That was a city two hundred miles north of Jerusalem. Ignatius followed St. Peter and one other as Antioch’s bishop, and it is said that when Ignatius was a child he sat on Our Lord’s knee.
Around the year one hundred there was a public Roman occasion in Antioch to which Ignatius was invited. All went well until each of the dignitaries was obliged to take part in burning incense to the Roman gods. The governor, seeing it as a small show of patriotism, begged Ignatius to sprinkle on a little incense, but he refused. The matter was necessarily reported to Emperor Trajan, and he reluctantly decided that the refusal was tantamount to treason, and Ignatius had to be brought to Rome to be thrown to the lions.
Ignatius was bound to the mast of a coastal schooner which slowly made its way from port to port to Rome. At each of seven ports the Christians came down and visited with him, and when Ignatius reached the port of Troas he penned letters back to the Christians in those seven ports. He wrote as well to John’s disciple, Polycarp; and he sent a letter ahead to the Christians in Rome.