Lent Madness: Polycarp vs. Justin Martyr

Welcome to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. Sixteen saints in Lent Madness 2011 have been sent packing and sixteen more remain as the struggle for the coveted Golden Halo continues. Get ready for some high stakes, thrilling saintly action over the coming days. Click Lent Madness 2011 to view the updated tournament bracket and see all the upcoming matchups.

Round One consisted of basic biographical information about the saints. Since there’s no need to rehash previously covered ground, the Round of the Saintly Sixteen is made up of what I call Quirks & Quotes. Prepare for some little known facts accompanied by quotes either by or about the saint in question. We begin by going old school (2nd century) with Polycarp and Justin Martyr who defeated Cyprian and John Keble respectively in Round One. Here we go!

Polycarp, the second century Bishop of Smyrna, was martyred at the age of 86. When the emperor’s soldiers came to arrest him, he welcomed them into his home, fed them a meal, and asked for one hour to pray before they took him away. His captors wondered why they were arresting this elderly and holy man. Indeed when he was brought before the proconsul the official tried to release him, giving him every opportunity to renounce his faith and live. Polycarp gently but stubbornly refused and was taken into the arena to be burned. He is quoted as having declared, “For 86 years I have served Jesus Christ and he has never abandoned me. How could I curse my blessed King and Savior?” Ignatius of Antioch once said to Polycarp “your mind is grounded in God as on an immovable rock.” And this quality was certainly on display at his martyrdom.

According to legend, once the fire was lit, Polycarp said “Amen” and the fire burst up in an arch around Polycarp. Instead of being burned he seemed to glow. The soldiers, upon seeing that he was not burning, stabbed him to death and the blood that flowed put out the fire.

Justin Martyr, a second century Christian apologist,  was the author of a number of works including his First and Second Apology which are required reading in any seminary worth its salt. Not many quirks here but plenty of quotes — unless you consider his early spiritual journey a bit quirky.

Born to pagan parents, Justin tells us that he first tried a Stoic philosopher but got frustrated because the man couldn’t explain the nature of God to him. Then he visited a Peripatetic philosopher who was more interested in his fee than teaching. Next came a Pythagorean philosopher who told him to first learn music and geometry which Justin had no interest in doing. He was then drawn to Platonism before meeting an old man who shared with him his Christian faith. Justin was converted and never look back.

As Justin later reminisced, “When the old man had spoken these and many other things, he left, encouraging me to think about what he had said. I’ve never seen him since, but immediately a flame was kindled in my soul. I was overwhelmed by a love for the prophets and the friends of Christ. After pondering over the things the old man had said, I realized that Christianity was the only true and worthwhile philosophy.”

From Justin we have one of the first evidences of the Eucharist: “And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist] … For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”



5 Comments on “Lent Madness: Polycarp vs. Justin Martyr”

  1. Susan Elliott says:

    Rooting for Polycarp — his feast day in February is my birthday and while not so keen on martyrdom, I have to admire his gentleness and faith, along with his long life. Go senior saints!

  2. Manuel says:

    Discovered Lent Madness this year and we’ve been enjoying it at the office. Just curious to know how many people, on average, have been voting?


  3. The Virtual Abbey says:

    Many reasons for voting Polycarp including but not limited to honoring gefilte fish for Passover. Yes, there’s logic to this.

  4. Father Tim says:

    Manuel — glad you found LM! Good question. We’ve been averaging about 130 votes in the early rounds which I’m sure will surge to a great crescendo as we move into the Final Four!

  5. Father Tim says:

    Meredith/Abbess — One of the best things about Lent Madness is hearing your, um, complex reasoning behind each vote!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s