St. Ignatius chose to be thrown to the lions, rather than burn incense to Rome's gods.

Thursday, 10 17/13

Today we honor St. Ignatius, a wonderful man, and there is a tradition that when he was a small child Jesus lifted him into is lap. He was the second bishop in Antioch following St. Peter, and at a public Roman ceremony, he refused to burn incense in honor of the Roman gods. His case went all the way up to Emperor Trajan, who decided Ignatius would need to be brought to Rome to be fed to the lions, because refusal to honor Rome’s gods was classed as the crime of treason.  

There was a platoon of Roman soldiers who were scheduled to go home to Rome on furlough, and they were charged with bringing Ignatius to Rome and the Coliseum’s lions. Along the way they stopped in seven ports along the coast of Turkey, and in each of them the Christians came down to speak with Ignatius who was chained to the mast. When they got around to Greece, Ignatius wrote a note back to the Christians in each port where he had spent a night.

His seven letters are the first Christian documents dated from after those in the Bible. His Letters tell us some wonderful things. He wrote that priests should be in accord with their bishop like its strings are one with their harp. He said Communion was the bread of immortality.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing he wrote was in the letter he sent ahead to the Christians in Rome. He wrote as follows.

Please let me be thrown to the wild beasts; through them I can reach God. I am God’s wheat to be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may end as the pure bread of Christ. If anything, coax the beasts on to be my sepulcher, and to leave nothing of my body undevoured, so that when I am dead I may be no bother to anyone. 

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