Polycarp was taught by John, the Lord’s own disciple, who established him as bishop in Smyrna in 96. In his time the date for celebrating Easter was already a matter of controversy. He visited Anicetus, the Bishop of Rome, to discuss a uniform practice, but they could not agree, except to differ. Before they parted, Polycarp celebrated Communion in Anicetus’ own chapel at his invitation. He was much loved and respected by all who knew him. He was martyred as a very old man, being burnt alive in a stadium, in one of the waves of persecution. The letter describing his ordeal is the first narrative account of a Christian martyrdom after that of Stephen.

Help me to love You, dear Lord, as Polycarp did: to hold to what I believe to be true without withdrawing from communion with other believers, to hold firm even when I face loss or hardship, and to respect all people, so that I may earn their respect in return. Amen.