Saint Polycarp

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Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Amidst the sweetness he is enjoying from the contemplation of the Word made Flesh, John, the Beloved Disciple, beholds coming towards him his dear Polycarp, the Angel of the Church of Smyrna (Apoc. ii. 8), all resplendent with the glory of martyrdom. This venerable Saint has on his soul the fervent love that made him say, in the amphitheatre, when asked by the Proconsul to curse his Divine Master: “Six-and-eighty years have I served Him, and He has never done me any wrong–nay, He has laden me with kindness. How could I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?” After having suffered fire and the sword, he was admitted into the presence of this King, his Saviour, in reward for the eighty-six years of his faithful service, for the labours he had gone through in order to maintain faith and charity among his flock, and for the cruel death he endured.

He was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, whom he imitated by zealously opposing the heretics, who were then striving to corrupt the faith. In obedience to the command of his holy Master (II. St. John, i. 10), he refused to hold intercourse with Marcion, the heresiarch, whom he called the first-born of Satan. This energetic adversary of the proud sect, that denied the mystery of the Incarnation, wrote an admirable Epistle to the Philippians, in which we find these words: Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is an Antichrist. Polycarp, then, had a right to the honour of standing near the Crib, in which the Son of God shows Himself to us in all His loveliness, and clothed in flesh like unto our own. Let us honour this disciple of John, this friend of Ignatius, this Bishop of the Apostolic Age, whose praise was pronounced by Jesus Christ himself, in the Revelations of Patmos. Our Saviour said to him by the mouth of Saint John: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life (Apoc. ii. 10). Polycarp was faithful even unto death, and has received his crown; and whilst we are celebrating the coming of his King among us, he is one of the Saints who assist us to profit of the holy season. Continue reading

The Conversion of Saint Paul

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The Conversion of Saint Paul

We have already seen how the Gentiles, in the person of the Three Magi, offered their mystic gifts to the Divine Child of Bethlehem, and received from Him, in return, the precious gifts of faith, hope, and charity. The harvest is ripe; it is time for the reaper to come. But who is to be God’s labourer? The Apostles of Christ are still living under the very shadow of mount Sion. All of them have received the mission to preach the gospel of salvation to the uttermost parts of the world; but not one among them has, as yet, received the special character of Apostle of the Gentiles. Peter, who had received the Apostleship of Circumcision (Gal. ii. 8), is sent specially, as was Christ Himself, to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel (St. Matth. xv. 24). And yet, as he is the Head and the Foundation, it belongs to him to open the door of Faith to the Gentiles (Acts, xiv. 26); which he solemnly does, by conferring Baptism on Cornelius, the Roman Centurion.

But the Church is to have one more Apostle–an Apostle for the Gentiles–and he is to be the fruit of the martyrdom and prayer of St. Stephen. Saul, a citizen of Tarsus, has not seen Christ in the flesh, and yet Christ alone can make an Apostle. It is then, from heaven, where He reigns impassible and glorified, that Jesus will call Saul to be His disciple, just as, during the period of his active life, He called the fishermen of Genesareth to follow him and hearken to His teachings. The Son of God will raise Saul up to the third heaven, and there will reveal to Him all his mysteries: and when Saul, having come down again to this earth, shall have seen Peter (Gal. i. 18), and compared his Gospel with that recognised by Peter (Ibid. ii. 2)–he can say, in all truth, that he is an Apostle of Christ Jesus (Gal. i. I), and that he has done nothing less than the great Apostles (II. Cor. xi. 5). Continue reading