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Thursday, February 23, 2017

How I Came to Know and Love St. Polycarp - His Life and Martyrdom




First of all, what a name! Polycarp can literally be translated as "many fish" (as poly means “many” and carp means “fish”). Perhaps Polycarp obtained this name because of his great desire to be a "fisher of men" in order to save many souls. 

On this feast of St. Polycarp, I wanted to share with you a little about this amazing man and how I came to know and love St. Polycarp through my study of St. John the Apostle. 

 (I wrote my Master’s thesis in defense of St. John as the Beloved Disciple. I wrote this defense in response to the modern historical critics who have tried not only to discredit St. John’s designation as Jesus’ Beloved Disciple and so subsequently, all history pertaining to the same -- which, if their faulty reasoning and scholarship is accepted, effectively erases St. John’s place in the history of the early Church, and ultimately casts doubt on the authenticity and authority of his Gospel, Epistles and the Book of Revelation.)

In my study, I found a treasure in the early Church Fathers, one of whom was St. Polycarp. I came to cherish these men who fell so in love with Christ that they devoted their entire lives to Him.  Although never knowing Christ personally, they came to know and love Jesus through the eyewitness testimonies of the apostles.

In doing my research, I came across accounts and writings of St. Polycarp who was taught by St. John the Apostle, the Evangelist and Beloved Disciple himself.

St. Irenaeus wrote about being a disciple of Polycarp, sharing that as a boy he would listen at his feet, as he:

gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord. And as he remembered their words, and what he heard from them concerning the Lord, and concerning his miracles and his teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses of the 'Word of life,' (1 John 1:1) Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures.
These things being told me by the mercy of God, I listened to them attentively, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart. And continually, through God's grace, I recall them faithfully. (E.H.5.20.6 emphasis mine)

Several decades into the second century, what an extraordinary grace for believers in Christ, to be able to sit and listen at the feet of someone who was taught by and knew the apostles! If you were to read the whole letter written above by St. Irenaeus, you would hear him speak of the honor it was to be able to listen at the feet of a disciple of “John and others who had seen the Lord”. So much so, that he was surrounded by people who “attentively listened” and carefully kept his teachings in their hearts.

St. Irenaeus further writes of Polycarp:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. (A.H. 3.3.4)

We are blessed to have an eyewitness account of this martyrdom, which was truly amazing! The account is worth reading in its entirety.  But, because of its length, I'll share some highlights:

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying,
“Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!”
No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice.
… [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to your old age… “Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ.”

Polycarp declared,
“Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”

...Polycarp said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why do you tarry? Bring forth what you will.”

While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace …when they were about also to fix him with nails [to consume him in the fire], he said,
“Leave me as I am; for He that gives me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.”

They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said,

“O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before you, I give You thanks that You have counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before You as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as You, the ever-truthful God, have foreordained, have revealed beforehand to me, and now have fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.”




When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odour [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.

At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.

O God of wonders, you never cease to astound me!  Help me to witness to you in this age in which so many of your children no longer believe in you. In this time of widespread deception, may the Truth that St. Polycarp's preached, his love of God and his witness unto death encourage and inspire me, so that I may have the courage to live and die for You as well, realizing: "What have we to fear if God is on our side?"

St. Polycarp, pray for us!  Help us to have ever-greater courage and love for Christ. Help us to stand up to the errors and deceptions of our day, so that we, like you, may be willing to give up everything in order to bring Jesus to the world and to help all enter into the heavenly glory that God longs to share with all His Children.  Amen.


       Life Span of the Eyewitnesses of John
Based on Approximate and Commonly Represented Dating (AD)
Numbers on the left are approximate birth date, on the right of line death date

First Person Testimony of Jesus: John the Apostle (highlighted in yellow)
First Person Direct Testimony of John: Widely recognized Disciple of John (red)
Second Person Direct Testimony: Known Disciple of Polycarp (blue)


5-10 Apostle John_______________________________________100
                                  35 Ignatius of Antioch______________________        108
                                                                         69 Polycarp____________________________________                          155
                                                                                                                                                               115 Irenaeus_________________________________                  202
                                                                         

You can read the entire account of his martyrdom here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0102.htm

If you want to get to know more about Polycarp, you can read one of his epistles here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0136.htm

Also, the Epistle to Polycarp from St. Ignatius can be found here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0110.htm

© Janet Moore 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Have You Entered through the Holy Doors? Profound Reasons to Make the Effort While There is Still Time

Open Wide the Doors of Christ!!! 

In this time of such deep division, confusion, hatred and violence.  God has given us the remedy.  For, "where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more" Romans 5:20.
Thus, let us never lose hope; but, instead, commit ourselves to receiving and pouring out all the grace that abounds in the Body of Christ during this Extraordinary Year of Mercy.

By entering through the Holy Doors, we are entering into not only into unfathomable realities, but we are tangibly responding to what St. John Paul II proclaimed in his first homily as Pope:
"Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows "what is in man". He alone knows it."

This Extraordinary Year ends this Sunday, November 20th on the Solemnity of Christ the King.  So, we only have a few days left to experience the grace of entering through the Holy Doors.

The Holy Doors are signs of this abounding grace and saving power of Christ in so many ways...

But to enter into this abounding grace, it is helpful to first understand this time of Jubilee.
During this Extraordinary Year of Mercy, every diocese has taken up to call to "open wide the doors of Christ!" They have responded by opening doors that are normally sealed in Cathedrals and other designated Churches so that they become Jubilee Doors - Holy Doors. 

Why?


Detail of the Holy Door at St. Peter's in Rome

The Holy Doors are a Sign of the Great Jubilee Year

It is a sign of the great Jubilee Year that God instructed His people to declare every 50 years in the Old Covenant. This Jubilee would mark a time of extraordinary mercy following the perfect number of years (Seven is known as the number of perfection in Scripture. Thus, we arrive at 49 years by multiplying seven years by seven).  

In the Jubilee year ( see Leviticus 25:8-13) the Mercy of God was particularly manifested as it granted liberty to all. Remitting all debts and giving God's people the ability to return to their own home and their own families, regardless of how they might have squandered them away in previous years. It was a year of rest of labor and considered a Sabbath of years that was holy, in which all were to eat of its increase! 

In light of this knowledge, it is apparent that this Extraordinary Year of Mercy is exactly that: extraordinary!  Pope Francis felt compelled to inaugurate a Jubilee without waiting for another 50 years to come around again, proclaiming in his teaching the preeminence of Jesus as God's Mercy incarnate:  

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. 


Detail of Holy Door at St. Mary Major in Rome

Detail of Holy Door at St. Mary Major in Rome

We have been living in this time of extraordinary grace and mercy (perhaps without realizing it) since December 8th, 2015. This year has been a sign for us to cling to Christ and the Mercy He has won for us.  And by doing so, we are to be assured that God is more powerful than the sin and evil that is so prevalent in our world. 

So, what's the big deal about going through Holy Doors?  

After this Sunday, we can't enter through Holy Doors... Why is it important?
And why doors?  It seems like an odd way to show forth God's grace and mercy. 

Actually, these same questions are ones that I've asked myself.  So, I've prayed for wisdom  so that I could enter more fully into this gift the Church has given us.

The Holy Doors Reveal Deep Scriptural Insights

As I prayed, I began to realize how deeply scriptural the Holy Doors are!  The Scriptures not only give us understanding regarding the Holy Doors themselves, but provide profound opportunities to contemplate Christ as we enter through them:

1. Jesus spoke about being the "Door" when He said HE is the ONLY way to the Father, saying:

"I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me!" John 14:6

It is only through and in Christ that we have access to a relationship with the God of all creation.  It is in Jesus alone that God is revealed to us as the most Merciful of Fathers. Who, while we were still a long way off, catches sight of us and comes running to embrace us and restore to us everything that sin has tried to rob us of -- not only our birthright, but also our Father's daily provisions and most importantly, our relationship with Him as His sons and daughters!

2. "I am the sheep gate. Whoever enters through me shall be saved..." John 10:9

It is profound to comprehend there were no doors to keep the sheep from wandering in Jesus' time... the shepherd would lie across the opening and become, himself, their door of safety and protection.  He was the shield that would keep evil from his flock. 


The Holy Doors Are A Tangible Sign of Untold and Beautiful Realities

St. John writes of his visions of heaven, saying: "I had a vision of an open door to heaven..."  Rev. 4:1

How profound to realize that by entering through the doors of the Catholic Church, we enter into the mystery of heaven present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! 

If we had eyes to see, we would see that every Catholic Church is itself an open door to heaven, in which we are lifted up in the Spirit! Where, in the Mass and in the Sacraments, the great cosmic battle between God and Satan for our souls is won for us in the One, Eternal, Perpetual offering of the Son to the Father that transcends all space and time. In the Mass, we encounter the One Who lives to constantly intercede for us (cf. Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34)!


The Holy Doors Physically Express God's Opening Heart of Mercy

Secondly, God loves to use ordinary things to show forth the extraordinary love He has for us! He desires that His love is tangible -- that it is touchable to our senses.  

For the most extreme example -- think of bread and wine becoming His very Body and Blood.
Or water being the sign of Baptism, bringing forth cleansing and new life in which we become tabernacles of God Most High, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 
Or the fact that we, as his adopted children, are called to be His Living Presence -- His hands and feet, as well as His priests, prophets and kings --here on earth!

This is the reason Pope Francis placed a sign outside of the Holy Doors of St. Peter's, which reads: 

"As you pass through the Holy Door remember that Jesus is the door who introduces you to the embrace of God's mercy. "




Thus, if we are in the Spirit, by going through the Holy Doors we enter through the heart of Christ into the Arms of Our Merciful Father, Who is ever ready to forgive us!

It is good to ponder the profound depth of this Mystery:
By entering through the doors, we are physically invited to enter into the very Heart of Christ, pierced out of love for us. We are called to be washed by the blood and water that pours forth as a fountain of life and grace for our souls, which opens the way to the Father and pours forth the Holy Spirit in our hearts, so that through Him, with Him, in Him we can renew the face of the earth!

The Holy Doors Are Symbolic Of Our Response To God's Unfathomable Mercy. 

By entering through the doors, we are tangibly invited to open wide the door of our hearts, minds and wills to receive the Mercy that Jesus suffered, died and rose from the dead to give us.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me"  Rev. 3:20.

Jesus has won our freedom, but it is up to us to respond and to accept the embrace of the Merciful Father and allow Him to shower gifts of sonship and so enter into relationship with Him! We do this by returning home to Him with a humbled and contrite heart seeking only to give ourselves as an offering to Him. 

Lastly, They Signify God's Desire To Heal The World Through Us!

Remember, God wants to make use of His creation to proclaim His love - to be a tangible, physical sign of His power and grace! He tells us:  "All I have is yours."  Lk 15:31 

And it is exactly in receiving all He has that we are given the means to give. It is in being loved that we are able to love. It is in receiving Mercy that we are able to be mercy for others. 

Thus, the act of going through Holy Doors is not meant to be a selfish act of receiving only mercy for ourselves, but an action that in time will lead us to long to live the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.  It is meant to be an action that pleads for the grace of Jesus' Sacrifice to pour upon souls to quench the fires of violence and hatred that Satan is stirring up within us and among us.  We must never lose sight that we are fighting a supernatural battle that is a result of sin, division and confusion that stems from rejecting of God's Mercy and His Truth.  So, we hold fast to the supernatural means of grace and the power of prayer to open hearts to receive and be transformed by the infinite tenderness and love of God!

Of course, the Doors of Mercy closing isn't a sign of God's Mercy ending for us. 


But, by receiving this extraordinary grace, we are able to pour out His Mercy in a unique way to the suffering Church in all its forms.


Going through Holy Doors during this Jubilee of Mercy has been something deeply meaningful to ponder and even more profound to experience.
I was able to enter through Holy Doors not only in my home diocese, but throughout Rome and Italy this past Spring. (You can read about my pilgrimage during this Year of Mercy here).

It is because I have had these extraordinary experiences, I feel compelled to share this opportunity with you while there is still time.

So, please consider taking a minute or two to locate a Holy Door in your area and make a plan to enter through it.  Do it not just for yourself, but to help God pour forth His Mercy on our families, on the poor souls in purgatory, on our nation and on the world! 

I promise, you'll never regret it! 

(You can pray with Pope Francis using the prayer he wrote for this Jubilee here.)

© 2016 Janet Moore. All photographs and all words are the sole property of Janet Moore. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Happy 99th Anniversary of the Great Miracle of the Sun


Happy 99th Anniversary of the great miracle of the sun, which took place in Fatima, Portugal! 

70,000 people, including atheists, saw the sun spin and dance in the sky -- sometimes even to plunging to earth. The earth, which had been thoroughly soaked by rain -- completely dried out simultaneously.  


Even secular newspapers covered the story! 



Our Lady of Fatima, you have given us heaven's plan to obtain peace. 
God's plan that He sent you to share with us then -- is just as needed now, as our world and our country is facing tremendous challenges and evils. 

The Miracles and the Power of the Rosary in Our Fight Against Evil

May we heed your requests and pray the rosary every day. Knowing that we should never fear praying the rosary, for the rosary is about Jesus. The rosary is meditating on Jesus' life - from His conception to His Glory - through your motherly eyes and your heart. It's like you are opening up a baby book to us and telling us about your Son - leading us to love and worship Him in an ever deeper way - the more we pray.  

I've never prayed the Rosary before. How Do I Pray It?


Dear Mother, you gave us our salvation when you said yes to bringing Jesus into the world -- today, you seek to bring us back to salvation -- seeking only to lead us back to your Son.  

Dear Mother, thank you for never ceasing to pray for us and our country!   

We are in great need of you!

Jesus, have mercy on us! We trust in You!

For more information about this phenomenal miracle and the plan of God to change the world, please see:

Entering into the Mystery: Our Lady of Fatima in Words and Pictures


© Janet Moore 2016. All Rights Reserved.