Yesterday was the feast day of St. Polycarp.
By Michael Kenny on Journey towards Easter.
In the annals of the early Church we have a substantial and important record of the beliefs and practice of early Christians, as well as the incredible witness they provided to the Faith through evangelisation and martyrdom. Persecution of Christians was rife in the Church during the first three centuries, and one of the earliest to bear witness to their faith in this way was Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp is important for several reasons: firstly, according to Tertullian, he was a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist, and thus bore direct witness to the faith of the Apostles.
Secondly, he made many converts amongst the Gnostics because of his personal holiness and witness to the apostolic teaching, and through his martyrdom, gained even greater credibility amongst the people. Thirdly (and this is linked to the second point), the description of his martyrdom provides us with very early evidence for not just the veneration of saints, but the preservation and veneration of their relics…