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Saint of the Day for 17 October: St Ignatius of Antioch

St Ignatius of Antioch: the martyr who helped define Christianity


St Ignatius of Antioch


Bishop and martyr


35, Antioch, Turkey


107, Rome


17 October


2004 edition


O Glorious Saint Ignatius, we thank You for the ardent witness of faith You have given us and for Your intercession for us. Stay close to the suffering, the lonely, the poor, the unemployed. Console the sick, enlighten the atheist, warm the hearts of the indifferent, care for the elderly, pray for families, guard the young, protect the children. Intercede with Jesus, our Lord from whom we receive His infinite love through His Word and Sacraments. Pray that God may grant the grace to priests and families to be renewed in faith, hope and charity so that the Christian community may always be a credible witness to His Son in our society. Amen.

Roman Martyrology

Memorial of Saint Ignatius, bishop and martyr, who, a disciple of Saint John the Apostle, ruled the Church of Antioch second after Saint Peter. Condemned to the beasts under the Emperor Trajan, he was taken to Rome and here crowned by a glorious martyrdom: during the journey, while he experienced the ferocity of the guards, similar to that of the leopards, he wrote seven letters to different Churches, in which he exhorted his brothers to serve God in communion with the bishops and not to prevent him from being immolated as a victim for Christ.


The Saint and Mission

St Ignatius of Antioch, also known as Ignatius Theophorus, emerges in the history of Christianity not only as one of the Apostolic Fathers, but as a figure deeply immersed in the heart of the Christian mission. His testimony, his writings and his martyrdom speak of a faith that, even in the midst of the most serious challenges, remained steadfast and determined to carry the Gospel message forward.

Ignatius lived at a time when Christianity was still young and often misunderstood, arousing suspicion and persecution. But instead of withdrawing or seeking to please the society of his time, Ignatius courageously embraced his episcopal vocation, providing guidance and support to the Christian communities of his time. His correspondence with these communities reveals a deep understanding of the missionary nature of the Church. For Ignatius, being a Christian was not simply a matter of personal identity or belonging to a community; it was a call to live and bear witness to the truth of the Gospel in every aspect of life.

Mission for Ignatius was rooted in communion with Christ and the life of the Church. For him, the Church was not an abstract entity, but a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit and united by the bond of love. This vision of the Church as a ‘sacrament’ of the world was essential to his understanding of mission. The Christian, as a member of this body, was called to reflect Christ’s love in the world and to invite others to enter into this communion of love.

But what makes Ignatius’ testimony truly extraordinary is his profound conviction that martyrdom was the culmination of the Christian mission. As he was led to Rome to be thrown to the beasts, he did not see his imminent death as a tragedy, but as an opportunity to witness his love for Christ in a definitive way. For Ignatius, the mission was not only to proclaim the Gospel in word or deed, but also to live (and die) in such a way as to make Christ’s sacrificial love evident.

His vision of martyrdom as a supreme form of missionary witness challenges our contemporary understanding of mission. At a time when we often try to avoid suffering and sacrifice, Ignatius reminds us that true mission can require everything from us, even our very lives. But this offering, made in the name and love of Christ, has the power to transform the world in a more profound way than we can imagine.

The life and witness of St Ignatius of Antioch offer us a vision of mission as a profound act of love: love for Christ, for the Church and for the world. A love that is willing to give everything, to risk everything, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

The Saint and Mercy

St Ignatius of Antioch, one of the great Apostolic Fathers, is not only an emblematic figure in the history of Christianity for his martyrdom and writings, but also a shining example of divine mercy embodied in the life of a believer. His testimony and letters offer us valuable insights into the nature of mercy and how it manifests itself in Christian love, especially in times of persecution and challenge.

In his correspondence with different Christian communities, Ignatius manifests a deep desire for unity and communion. This desire stemmed not only from a theological or ecclesiological concern, but from a deep awareness of God’s mercy that embraces each and every believer, regardless of their weaknesses or imperfections. Ignatius saw the Church as the body of Christ, in which every member, regardless of position or status, was precious and worthy of love and respect. This vision is deeply rooted in mercy, as it recognises the inestimable value of each person in the eyes of God.

Mercy, for Ignatius, was not an abstract concept, but a lived reality. While en route to Rome, where he would meet his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote letters that were imbued with compassionate and merciful love. Even in the face of imminent death, his main concern was for the spiritual well-being and fidelity of the Christian communities. This shows how deeply Ignatius had internalised the essence of divine mercy: an unconditional love that always seeks the good of others, even at the cost of great personal sacrifice.

It is remarkable to note that, while ardently desiring martyrdom as a way to be completely united with Christ, Ignatius did not manifest resentment or a desire for vengeance towards those who persecuted him. On the contrary, he saw his imminent sacrifice as an opportunity to bear witness to Christ’s love and mercy in a world in need. This ability to respond to hostility and violence with love and forgiveness is an eloquent testimony of mercy in action.

The life and writings of St Ignatius of Antioch represent a profound and authentic exploration of Christian mercy. Through his testimony, we are invited to reflect on the true meaning of mercy: not only as a gift received from God, but as a reality to be embodied and shared with others, especially in the midst of trials. Ignatius, through his life and death, shows us that mercy is not a mere emotion or gesture, but a life choice that reflects God’s eternal and immeasurable love for each of us.


Ignatius, nicknamed Theophorus (God-bearer), embraced the faith through the work of the Apostles, particularly St John, whose favourite disciple he was. Having received holy ordination, he distinguished himself for his rare apostolic gifts, so the Apostles consecrated him bishop of Antioch. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and his word was received by the faithful as an oracle from heaven. Zealous pastor and…


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