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Entrance antiphon, cf. Ga 2:19-20:
I am crucified with Christ, yet I live; it is no longer me, but Christ lives in me. I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.
Gospel verse, James 1:12:
Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is tried he will receive the crown of life.
I am the wheat of Christ which must be ground with the teeth of beasts, that I may be found pure bread.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch (50-107) is one of the great bishops of the early Church. He was the successor of Saint Peter as bishop of Antioch. He was condemned to death by ferocious beasts during the persecution of Emperor Trajan. On his way to Rome, he wrote seven magnificent letters, which we still have today, concerning the Person of Christ, his love for Christ, his desire for martyrdom and on the constitution of the Church and Christian life. His feelings before his next martyrdom are summed up in his words in the Communion antiphon: “I am the wheat of Christ, ground by the teeth of beasts to become pure bread.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch
In the Martyrology we read: “At Rome, the holy bishop and martyr Ignatius. He was the second successor of the apostle Peter in the see of Antioch. During the persecution of Trajan, he was condemned to wild beasts and sent chained in Rome.There, by order of the Emperor, he was subjected to the most cruel tortures in the presence of the Senate and then thrown to the lions, torn by their teeth, he became a victim for Christ.
The bishop and martyr Ignatius occupies a prominent place among the heroes of Christian antiquity. His last trip from Antioch to Rome was like a nuptial procession and a Stations of the Cross. For the letters he wrote along the way look like seven stations of the cross; they can also be called seven nuptial hymns overflowing with the saint’s intense love for Christ Jesus and his desire to be united with him. These letters are the seven most precious jewels of the heritage bequeathed to us by the Church in sub-apostolic times. The year of Saint Ignatius’ death is unknown; this may have happened during the victory festivities in which Emperor Trajan sacrificed the lives of 10,000 gladiators and 11,000 wild beasts for the amusement of the bloodthirsty populace. The scene of his glorious triumph and martyrdom was most likely the Colosseum; this gigantic edifice, sparkling with gold and marble, had just been completed. “From Syria to Rome, I have to fight beasts on land and sea. Day and night I am chained to ten leopards, that is to say the soldiers who guard me and become more ferocious as they are treated better. Their ill-treatment is good instruction for me, I am still far from being justified. Oh, that I may meet the wild beasts who are now prepared for me. I will implore them to kill me quickly and hasten my departure. I will invite them to devour me so that they will not leave my body unscathed as has already happened to other witnesses. If they refuse to pounce on me, I will force them to eat me. My little children, forgive me these words Surely I know what is good for me I no longer desire anything visible, I want to find Jesus Fire and the cross, ferocious beasts, broken bones, lacerated limbs, a crushed body, and all the torments of Satan, let them all overwhelm me, if only I attain Christ.” The holy t, now doomed to fight ferocious beasts, burned with desire for my rtyre. Hearing the roar of the lions, he exclaimed: “I am a grain of wheat for Christ. I must be crushed by the teeth of beasts to find the bread (of Christ) entirely pure”. – Extract of The Church’s Year of GracePie Parsch.Patron: Church in the Eastern Mediterranean; Church in North Africa; throat diseases. Symbols: Chains; the Lions; bishop surrounded by lions; heart with IHC; crucifix; heart.Things to do:
- Find the Epistles of Saint Ignatius. Read and meditate on his words; Meditate on the words of Saint Ignatius in the communion antiphon. Can we accept martyrdom, either bodily death or “white martyrdom”? Jesus Himself was the Grain of Wheat that had to die to bear fruit. The fruit produced is the Mystical Body, the Church. Pie Parsch explains that: “In turn, each Christian becomes a grain of wheat that ripens for the mill of martyrdom! Read the Communion as if it were your own composition. Me, a grain of wheat! I too am destined for the mill of suffering, of being crushed – it was not just the case with Ignatius. What kind of beast teeth would crush me? Persecution? Pain and suffering? Other people ? It makes no difference, the kernel must die, either buried in the ground to produce another stalk or crushed to become bread. Isn’t it our destiny in life, to die to ourselves or to lose ourselves in the service of others?” (The Church’s Year of GraceCandlemas Advent, The Liturgical Press, 1964)
- Learn more about Saint Ignatius of Antioch:
- Learn more about the relics of Saint Ignatius here, here and here.
- Be sure to check out the various podcasts and posts on Catholic culture for Saint Ignatius. Click on “Blogs and Podcasts” in the right column to see the list.
- Plant wheat to help children visualize grains or kernels of wheat.
- Bake a lion cake.
- See the statue of Saint Ignatius at the colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica.
- Bake wheat bread or make something with wheat kernels. Hot rolls or pretzels in their traditional form remind us of the cross that we must embrace, as Saint Ignatius did.