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St. Ignatius of Antioch

On Oct. 17, the Roman Catholic Church remembers the early Church Father, bishop, and martyr Saint Ignatius of Antioch, whose writings attest to the sacramental and hierarchical nature of the Church from its earliest days. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate his memory on Dec. 20. In a 2007 general audience on St. Ignatius of Antioch, Pope Benedict XVI observed that “no Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.� In his letters, the Pope said, “one feels the freshness of the faith of the generation which had still known the Apostles. In these letters, the ardent love of a saint can also be felt.� Born in Syria in the middle of the first century A.D., Ignatius is said to have been personally instructed – along with another future martyr, Saint Polycarp – by the Apostle Saint John. When Ignatius became the Bishop of Antioch around the year 70, he assumed leadership of a local church that was, according to tradition, first led by Saint Peter before his move to Rome. Although St. Peter transmitted his Papal primacy to the bishops of Rome rather than Antioch, the city played an important role in the life of the early Church. Located in present-day Turkey, it was a chief city of the Roman Empire, and was also the location where the believers in Jesus' teachings and his resurrection were first called “Christians.� Ignatius led the Christians of Antioch during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, the first of the emperors to proclaim his divinity by adopting the title “Lord and God.� Subjects who would not give worship to the emperor under this title could be punished with death. As the leader of a major Catholic diocese during this period, Ignatius showed courage and worked to inspire it in others. After Domitian's murder in the year 96, his successor Nerva reigned only briefly, and was soon followed by the Emperor Trajan. Under his rule, Christians were once again liable to death for denying the pagan state religion and refusing to participate in its rites. It was during his reign that Ignatius was convicted for his Christian testimony and sent from Syria to Rome to be put to death. Escorted by a team of military guards, Ignatius nonetheless managed to compose seven letters: six to various local churches throughout the empire (including the Church of Rome), and one to his fellow bishop Polycarp who would give his own life for Christ several decades later. Ignatius' letters passionately stressed the importance of Church unity, the dangers of heresy, and the surpassing importance of the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.� These writings contain the first surviving written description of the Church as “Catholic,� from the Greek word indicating both universality and fullness. One of the most striking features of Ignatius' letters, is his enthusiastic embrace of martyrdom as a means to union with God and eternal life. “All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing,� he wrote to the Church of Rome. “It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.� “Now I begin to be a disciple,� the bishop declared. “Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.� St. Ignatius of Antioch bore witness to Christ publicly for the last time in Rome's Flavian Amphitheater, where he was mauled to death by lions. “I am the wheat of the Lord,� he had declared, before facing them. “I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to be made the pure bread of Christ.� His memory was honored, and his bones venerated, soon after his death around the year 107.

Puerto Rico: ‘An unprecedented level of need’

Catholic News Service was the first major Catholic news organization to send a photographer and a reporter to tour the island and document the efforts of the church and other organizations to help many of the people far from the capital of San Juan. Continue reading

Historic Tomb of Michelangelo and altarpiece in dire need of repairs

By Matthew Fowler ROME (CNS) — The historic tomb of Michelangelo and the Buonarroti family altarpiece in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence are in dire need of cleaning and restoration due to sustained damage over the past 50 … Continue reading

A look back at the Legion of Decency

By Mark Pattison and Julie Asher WASHINGTON (CNS) — It’s summertime and the movies are plentiful. As everyone knows the summer movie season is a big one for Hollywood, and when it comes to a close, it is followed closely … Continue reading

Jamboree called ‘life-changing event’ for youths, adults

Here’s a dispatch from Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia sent earlier this week by Msgr. John B. Brady from the national Scout jamboree, which closed today. A retired priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, he became … Continue reading

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 23, 2017

July 23, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time       Cycle A. Readings:      1) Wisdom 12:13, 16-19      Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16      2) Romans 8:26-27      Gospel: Matthew 13:24-33   By Sharon K. Perkins Catholic News … Continue reading

John C. Quinn tended to the ‘least of these’ in U.S. newsrooms

WASHINGTON (CNS) – I’m convinced that around the country, and perhaps the world, there are many letters similar to the one I received in the mail some 18 years ago. It was written by hand and it ended with a … Continue reading

Some cheese with your ‘whine’: Pope ‘establishes’ complaint-free zone

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis left a not-so-subtle message outside his office in the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence: anyone who is thinking of making a fuss, leave your whining at the door. … Continue reading

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 16, 2017

  July 16, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time       Cycle A. Readings:       1) Isaiah 55:10-11       Psalm 65:10-14       2) Romans 8:18-23       Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23   By Jeff Hedglen Catholic News Service It seems as though every time … Continue reading

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 9, 2017

The Scriptures this weekend contain a familiar, but difficult text. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says. “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Continue reading