The Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch

by Fr. Justin Ramos, O.Praem.


Icon Triptych of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr, written by fr. Philip Mudd, O.Praem.
Center Panel: St. Ignatius (Theophoros—“God-holder”)
Left Panel: Blessed Virgin Mary (Theotokos—“God-bearer”), who is saying, “My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior” (Lk. 1:47).
Right Panel: St. John the Evangelist (Theologos—“Theologian”), who was St. Ignatius’ master

“Everyone who acknowledges Me before others, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.”

These words we just heard in today’s holy gospel.

Some assert that the western world is the most highly educated society in history, yet a vast majority of educated Catholics both lay and ecclesiastical have not kept pace by growing in the faith which they verbally profess. One contributing factor to this widespread neglect is the failure to realize that our faith is the assent of the intellect to God’s revelation. As result, it is no wonder we are seeing such a massive defection among so many Catholic intellectuals in Europe and North America.

We have to continue to grow, throughout our entire life, in our grasp of the faith we profess, otherwise we shall lose this precious gift.

The most elementary understanding of the Catholic faith is to know that it has continuity. It has been handed down for generations; our faith is traditional. Already at the beginning of the second century the essentials of faith were understood as the Church understands them today. There has been development of doctrine, but no break in substantial content over the centuries.

This is admirably seen in the writings of today’s saint, St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who was martyred in Rome in 107 A.D. On the way to martyrdom, he wrote seven letters to seven different dioceses, including the Church of Rome, which he said, “presides in the chief place” and “in love, maintaining the law of Christ.”

Reading St. Ignatius, our faith is strengthened because he tells us many things that are being questioned or denied in nominally Catholic circles today. For instance…

That Jesus Christ has a provable history, since “He is really of the line of David according to the flesh, and the Son of God by the will and power of God; was really born of a virgin and baptized by John… And He suffered really, as He also really raised Himself from the dead.”

That Christianity is no mere philosophy but a divinely organized way of life, built around the successors of the Apostles, the bishops of each diocese. Consequently “all those that belong to God and Jesus Christ are the very ones that side with the bishop…. Do not be deceived, my brethren, if a man runs after a schismatic, he will not enter the Kingdom of God; if a man chooses to be a dissenter, he severs all connection with the Passion.”

That the Church founded by Christ is the Catholic Church. Ignatius was the first to use the expression, “Catholic Church.” She is everywhere and meant for everyone. No one has improved on Ignatius’ statement that, “just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

There is a realism about St. Ignatius that is sobering to the modern mind. Ignatius never made the mistake of confusing authentic Christian charity with misplaced compassion. He is refreshing to read in our own age, to remind us of the price we too must pay if we wish to remain loyal to Jesus Christ.

He pleaded with the Roman Christians not to use whatever influence they had with the government to obtain his pardon. Ignatius longed to consummate his union with Christ by sharing in His Passion. “.…Let there come on me fire and cross and struggles with wild beasts…mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body…may I but attain to Jesus Christ.”

We need to read this kind of language today to keep us firm in our allegiance to the One Who gave us the one true faith.

“Everyone who acknowledges Me before others, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.”

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