Why do we do that? Catholic Traditions Explained

Who is Ignatius of Antioch and what example does he offer us in Christian living as we celebrate his feast day on October 17?

As Bishop of Antioch (the modern day city of Antakya, Turkey), Ignatius witnessed to the faith during the reign of Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98–117.  Persecution of the Christians broke out in Antioch, and Ignatius was captured and taken to Rome for martyrdom in the arena.

On his journey to Rome over land and sea, Ignatius writes seven letters to various churches. These letters give powerful glimpses into the theology and practice of the early church, along with insights into the role of a bishop as pastoral leader. Ignatius is the first to use the term “Catholic Church” to refer to the various Christian communities of the Roman Empire.  The best known of his letters is the one he wrote to the Romans. Ignatius addresses influential Christians who might be tempted to intercede on his behalf, thus sparing him from martyrdom.  As Christ willingly offered himself as witness to God’s total love, Ignatius, too, desired to be “food for the wild beasts,” so that he could become “the pure bread of Christ.”  Eucharistic living was so crucial to Ignatius that he was willing to die in order to model himself on the Lord who willingly offered all.