Born: 1st century
Died: Early 2nd century
FEast: Oct. 17th
prisoners, fearlessness, the Middle East, Northern Africa
Not much is known of Ignatius before his arrest for being Christian, but there are several theories that he was one of the children that Jesus took in his arms while preaching. Another theory says that he and his friend and colleague St. Polycarp were companions and learned from St. John, and that St. Peter himself may have appointed Ignatius as Bishop of Antioch. It is likely that Ignatius was a convert to the faith at a young age, and we do know that he was Bishop in Syria when the Emperor Trajan decided he would unite his empire by making sure all people worshipped Roman gods. When he would not give up his Christian faith, he was arrested, put in chains, and sent to Rome to be put to death by wild animals in the arena.
It is unclear why he was taken on so long a journey in chains across land rather than on a short boat voyage, but because the soldiers walking with him stopped in so many cities along the way that weren't on a direct path, we can assume they were tending to other business and just had Ignatius along with them. Because of this, though, Ignatius was able to speak to large groups of Christians while stopped in those cities, and speak to individuals almost daily. He was even able to stop in Smyrna where Polycarp was bishop, and they spent much time together. He wrote a total of seven letters inspiring and encouraging the Christians. In them, he discussed many teachings and ideas important to the Catholic Church today. He is characterized as an extremely energetic, passionate, and fearless man, who did not even want his fellow Christians to mourn his martyrdom.
When he finally arrived in Rome, he was taken to the Flavian Amphitheater and thrown in with wild animals, suggested by St. Jerome to be lions, as entertainment for the Romans. His remains were taken back to Antioch later by a few other Syrian Christians.
You had no choice in the way your life ended up. You were unable to even take your own steps as you were led in chains to your death. And yet, you used the excruciating journey for God and to change and grow yourself, also. Help us with the tough things we can’t change about our lives. May we have patience, peace, and find a way to use it for good.
Ignatius' ever-present chains that he bore while on his journey were an important symbol I wanted to include in his icon, as well as paws of a lion symbolizing his method of execution. I wanted his expression to be as fearless as his well-known words of acceptance of his imminent death. He is not afraid.