SAINT IGNATIUS, bishop of Antioch, was a disciple of Saint John. When Domitian persecuted the Church, he obtained peace for his own flock by fasting and prayer. But for his part he desired to suffer with Christ, and to prove himself a perfect disciple. In the year 107, Trajan came to Antioch, and forced the Christians to choose between apostasy and death. “Who are you, poor devil,” the emperor said when Ignatius was brought before him, “who sets our commands at naught?” “Call not him ‘poor devil,’” Ignatius answered, “who bears God within him.” And when the emperor questioned him about his meaning, the saint explained that he bore in his heart Christ crucified for his sake. Thereupon the emperor condemned him to be torn to pieces by wild beasts at Rome. Saint Ignatius thanked God, who had so honored him, “binding him in the chains of Paul, his apostle.”
He journeyed to Rome, guarded by soldiers, with no fear except of losing the martyr’s crown. He was devoured by lions in the Roman amphitheatre. The wild beasts left nothing of his body, except a few bones, which were reverently treasured at Antioch, until their removal to the Church of Saint Clement at Rome, in 637. After the martyr’s death, several Christians saw him in vision standing before Christ, and interceding for them.