Polycarp, the holy bishop of Smyrna, lived from 69-155 A.D. A friend of Ignatius of Antioch, he struggled to overcome the Marcionite heresy that troubled second century Christians. A model of forgiveness and respect, he was praised by Ignatius for the “candid face” he showed no matter the circumstance.
St. Polycarp was captured by the Romans, who attempted to force him to recant his faith. He refused. He was then ordered to be burnt alive. However, as the fire began to engulf him eyewitnesses report that that the flames formed a kind of halo around his body, leaving him unscathed. Soldiers stabbed him several times with their spears, and his life ended.
An account of his steadfastness in the face of death has moved many:
Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying,Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On hisconfessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying,Have respect to your old age,and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as],Swear by the fortune of Cæsar;repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said,Away with the Atheists.Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying,Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ;Polycarp declared,Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?