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The Letter of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Philadelphians

Saint Ignatius of Antioch was one of the Apostolic Fathers of the Christian church. He was one of the few brave men who dared to challenge the conventional Roman religion accepted most widely at the time. Before being condemned to death by the Roman emperor Trajan, he wrote seven letters. These seven letters were addressed to the Christian communities of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Smyrna, Polycarp and Philadelphia. These letters provide information for the basis of many of the principles of the modern Catholic Church, as well as guidelines to the hierarchy of the clergymen. The letter to Philadelphia was just one of these informative letters.

One of the issues addressed in his letter to the Philadelphians is his personal view on the church. Although not directly addressed, it is gathered that his opinion is that his church is the only church. He feels that anyone who in any way, shape or form deviates from the beliefs and routines of the original church, of which he was a founder, is a traitor. On must stay true to their church and their bishop. His opinions are even harsher for those religions that are almost completely different from Christianity, case in point, Judaism. St. Ignatius felt that if a Christian merely listened to what the Jews were preaching he was defying his own religion. How could anyone who does not accept Christ as his or her savior be a decent man? In addition to this, St. Ignatius feels that there should be only one Eucharist. There should only be one way in which the Christians symbolize taking the body and the blood of Christ.

The ideal bishop, the bishop that every bishop should be is what St. Ignatius has in his mind. He feels that a bishop should only take his position out of his love and respect for God and his desire to spread God s word. He should think not one second on the glory or the power that accompany his title. A bishop should also act almost as a shepherd for his fellow man, carefully tending to those already in his congregation and herding in those who have lost their way. He must also protect the common man from the wolves of the world, or those who are not being true to the Christian religion.

As compared to the views of the leaders of the early Christian communities, St. Ignatius seems to have a more distant view. The leaders, read about in the Acts of Apostles, had a more hands on way of dealing with their communities. They were constantly talking to the people, trying to convert those who were not of the same religion. In the letter to the Philadelphians, St. Ignatius is very vague regarding manners in which to deal with the people. In fact, he only mentions that they should pray for him and avoid the Jews. From reading his letter, it appears that this matter is not of a high priority to him.

The role of the Bishop in the Church today, although fundamentally the same, has erred slightly from what St. Ignatius had originally pictured. Today s bishops seem to have a more administrative role. They command the priests below them, organize church events and meetings, and bless the holy water and oil. They are more distant from the people, most of the time not even conducting mass. Also, in St. Ignatius time, there was more of a focus on recruiting new members into the Church, and the Bishop was head of that. However, now in modern times, there is less focus on recruiting members. There is more concentration on the members that are already part of the church, and not losing them.

All in all, St. Ignatius truly made breakthroughs in the Church. He many ideas for the structure of the Church. Even today, many of his notions are still used.

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