St. Polycarp Extinguishing the Fire at Smyrna, a mural at the church that bears his name in Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey. He was a direct disciple of St. John the Evangelist, and therefore an Apostolic Father, martyred at 86 for refusing to curse Christ and burn incense to the emperor. While his age at martyrdom is remarkable, the manner in which he conducted himself was even more so – full of innocence, grace, wisdom and gentle forgiveness, he fed the captors sent to fetch him. Facing the proconsul’s demands to denounce Christ at the stadium, Polycarp replied, “Eighty-six years have I served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” They tried burning him at the stake, and when that didn’t work they stabbed him to death. Never was there so joyful a martyr! (artist unknown)

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