Today we honor St. Ignatius who was bishop of Antioch following St. Peter toward the end of the First Century. At a public Roman ceremony that opened with each participant honoring the Roman gods by dropping grains of incense on red coals, Ignatius refused to thus pay honor to such gods. Under law his refusal was counted as a capital crime, and his repeated refusing to comply forced the officials to condemn him to be brought to Rome to be fed to the lions.
Put in the charge of a platoon of Roman soldiers who were returning home after there time in the east, Ignatius was tied to the mast of a coastal vessel that, going from port to port, was taking the soldiers to Rome. At seven stops along the coast of Turkey, the Christians came down to visit with Ignatius, and before the ship crossed over to Greece, Ignatius wrote a note to each group that had visited with him. Here is a sample sentence from each of his letters.
To the Christians of Ephesus he wrote, “With hearts warmed in the blood of Christ you were eager to visit with me when I was in chains.”
To the Magnesians he wrote, “I hope that you may be fully convinced of the birth and passion of Jesus,” He wrote that because people were saying that the physical body of Jesus was a mirage. By saying that, they denied him the heroism of his sufferings.
To the Tralians he said, “Jesus Christ is our hope if only we believe in him.”
To the Romans he wrote, “Please let me be thrown to the wild beasts so that through them I shall reach God. I must be ground by their teeth so that I may end up as the pure bread of Christ.”
Of the bishop of Philadelphia he wrote, “I am full of admiration for the man who can do more by his silence than others by speaking.”
To Christians in Smyrna he wrote, “Wherever Jesus Christ is there is the Catholic Church.”