Ignatius of Antioch (Ancient Greek: Ἰγνάτιος, also known as Theophorus from Greek Θεοφόρος "God-bearer") (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117) was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, after St. Peter and St. Evodius (who died around AD 67). Making his apostolic succession even more immediate, Theodoret (Dial. Immutab., I, iv, 33a) reported that Peter himself appointed Ignatius to the see of Antioch.
Tradition says he was one of the children Jesus took in His arms and blessed. He lived his life in the imitation of Christ. It is believed that St. Ignatius, along with his friend Polycarp, with great probability were disciples of the Apostle St. John.
He is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning "universal", "complete" and "whole" to describe the church, writing : “Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid. — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8, -J.R. Willis translation.”
It is from the word katholikos ("according to the whole") that the word catholic comes. When Ignatius wrote the Letter to the Smyrnaeans in about the year 107 and used the word catholic, he used it as if it were a word already in use to describe the Church. This has led many scholars to conclude that the appellation Catholic Church with its ecclesial connotation may have been in use as early as the last quarter of the 1st century.
On the Eucharist, Ignatius wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes. — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 ”
Saint Ignatius's most famous quotation, however, comes from his letter to the Romans:
“I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ. — Letter to the Romans
Epistles attributed to St. Ignatius report his arrest by the authorities and travel to Rome:
“ From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated. —Ignatius to the Romans, 5.”
En route to his martyrdom in Rome, he wrote six letters to the churches in the region and one to a fellow bishop, which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
He was sentenced to die in the Colosseum, to be eaten by lions.
In his Chronicle, Eusebius gives the date of his death as AA 2124 (2124 years after Adam), which would amount to the 11th year of Trajan, i.e. 108 AD.
Honored in: Eastern Christianity, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheranism
Major shrine: Relics are in Basilica di San Clemente, Rome
Western and Syrian Christianity:-> October 17
General Roman Calendar, 12th century to 1969:-> February 1
Eastern Orthodox Church and Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria:-> December 20 (January 2nd in the Julian calendar)
Attributes: a bishop surrounded by lions or in chains
Patronage: Church in eastern Mediterranean; Church in North Africa