Saint Ignatius is an apostolic father and one of the great bishops of the early Church. He was born in Syria, converted to Christianity, and became a successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Antioch. He is said to have been personally instructed by the Apostle John. During the persecution of the Emperor Trajan, Ignatius would not deny Christ. He was condemned to death by wild beasts and sent in chains to Rome. During his final journey from Antioch to Rome, St. Ignatius wrote seven epistles (letters) which we still have today. Ignatius wrote to the Christian communities of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna; along with a farewell letter to Bishop Polycarp (also a martyr). The Letters of Ignatius are greatly honored by the Church; they stress the importance of Church unity, dangers of heresy, and the importance of the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.” His writings contain the first surviving written description of the Church as “Catholic” (indicating the universality of the Church). St. Ignatius also wrote of his burning desire for martyrdom. Pope Benedict XVI said that “no Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.” Ignatius’ last words before the lions tore him to pieces: “Allow me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose means it will be granted me to reach God. I am the wheat of God, let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.”
Ideas for celebrating this feast day at home:
- Use lions as a theme for food/snacks today. Here is a neat idea for a lion vegetable tray. Or, bake a lion cake – the internet has lots of ideas for this!
- Do an autumn leaf lion craft with children.
- Make homemade wheat bread, remembering the last words of St. Ignatius.
- Find the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch here. Read and meditate upon his words.
- St. Ignatius had a gift for written letters/epistles: in his honor, write a letter to someone who is sick, lonely, or in need of a handwritten note to brighten their day.