Tomorrow, February 23, marks the feast of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, (present-day Izmir, Turkey) Polycarp was one of the second generation of early Church Fathers, being a disciple of St. John the Apostle, who had converted him around the year 80 AD. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a disciple of Polycarp, writes tenderly of his teacher:
"The memory of that time when as a youth I was with Polycarp in Asia Minor is as fresh in my mind as the present. Even now I could point to the place where he sat and taught, and describe his coming and going, his every action, his outward appearance, and his manner of discourse to the people. It seems as though I still heard him tell of his association with the apostle John and with others who saw the Lord, and as though he were still relating to me their words and what he heard from them about the Lord and His miracles. . . ."
His martyrdom is believed to have occurred on Saturday, February 23, in the pro consulship of Statius Quadratus in 155 A.D. Polycarp was ordered to be burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor and when called upon by the Roman officials to renounce his religion, the elderly Polycarp replied, ""Eighty and six years I have served him. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? Bring forth what thou will."
He was a disciple of the holy apostle John, who consecrated him bishop of that city; and there he acted as the primate of all Asia Minor. Later, under Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, he was brought before the tribunal of the proconsul; and when all the people in the amphitheater cried out against him, he was handed over to be burned to death. But since the fire caused him no harm, he was put to death by the sword. Thus he gained the crown of martyrdom. With him, twelve other Christians, who came from Philadelphia, met death by martyrdom in the same city."The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.