Marcus Aurelius, the enlightened philosopher king who was emperor of Rome (r. 161-180), also engaged in the first systematic persecution of Christians. According the video below, Polycarp was martyred during his reign. If that is so, then Polycarp died in AD 167; the traditional date for Polycarp’s martyrdom is AD 155/156, putting him in the later years of Antoninus Pius, an emperor who had no systematic programme of dealing with Christians. Whatever the case, Polycarp is one of the most famous of Christian martyrs, and if you have three minutes and twenty-one seconds, the little video (found it at www.polycarp.net) below does a better job of his life than I could:
Like St. Valentine, we see in Polycarp’s life great courage. In our own lives, we will likely never face death or torture for what we believe to be good, true, just. Yet we may still find ourselves in situations where our beliefs, from the large to the small, are ridiculed, derided, marginalised, ignored, attacked, and otherwise dealt with horribly. It for us to take courage from the martyrs who faced much worse and to stand firm in our beliefs and be bold with them.