What a life!
By Father Wilmer Todd
We continue with St. Ignatius of Antioch’ letter to Bishop Polycarp on his way to martyrdom in the Roman Colosseum.
“We must not neglect widows. Be, after the Lord, their protector and friend. Nothing must be done without your approval; nor must you do anything without God’s approval, as indeed you do not. Be calm. Let your coming together be as frequent as possible. Seek out all by name.
“Do not treat slaves, whether male or female, with a haughty air, but they too should not become puffed up or conceited.
On the contrary, for the glory of God, they should render all the better service, that they may obtain from God a better freedom. They should not pine for release at the expense of the community; otherwise, they turn out to be slaves of unruly appetites.
“Tell my sisters to love the Lord and to be content with their husbands in body and soul. In like manner, exhort my brothers in the name of Jesus Christ to love their wives as the Lord loves the Church.
“If anyone can remain in a state of purity to honor him who is Lord of the flesh, let him continue without boasting. The moment he boasts, he is lost. If he reckons himself greater than the bishop, he is undone.
“For those who contemplate marriage, entering the union with the approval of the bishop is proper, that their marriage may be according to God and not just after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honor of God.
Give heed to the bishop that God also may give heed to you. Labor together; strive together; run together; suffer together; rest together and rise together. You are stewards in God’s house, members of his household and his servants.
“Please him under whom you fight, from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism be your armor; your faith be your helmet; your love be your spear, your patience as a complete suit of arms. Your deposits should be your works that you may receive your savings to the exact amount.
“To sum up: be long-suffering toward one another and gentle, as God is with you. May you be my joy always!
“Since they have informed me that the Church at Antioch is, through your prayer, at peace, I also gather fresh courage, carefree and confident in God. It is fitting, my dear God-blessed Polycarp, to assemble a council invested with the splendor of God and appoint someone who is dear to you and untiring in zeal, who may be designated as the messenger of God. This man will have the honor bestowed upon him to go into Syria, and glorify your ever active love to the praise of Christ. A Christian is not his own master; his time belongs to God and he must always be ready to serve.
“Because of my sudden embarkation from Troas for Neapolis, I cannot personally write to all the Churches. Therefore, God-minded as you are, you will please write to the principal Churches and tell them to do the same thing, sending letters and messengers if they are able.
“I salute all by name, especially the widow of Epitropus, with all her family and children. I salute my dear Attalus. I salute the man who will have the honor of going to Syria. God’s grace will forever be with him, and with Polycarp who sends him.
“I say goodbye to you all forever in Jesus Christ our God, through whom I wish you to be united with God. My greetings to Alice, that most dear friend of mine. Farewell in the Lord.”