Polycarp vs. Andrew the Fisherman

Today in saintly action, Polycarp faces Andrew the Fisherman, as a second century martyred bishop takes on a martyred apostle. Something fishy is definitely going on here...

Yesterday, Albert Schweitzer defeated Henry Mühlenberg 75% to 25%. Which, although it's tough news for Henry, means we're all collectively spared from trying to figure out how to type an umlaut. Which may remind longtime Lent Madness participants of Franz Jägerstätter, who nearly won the Golden Halo in 2017 before he and his two umlauts succumbed to Florence Nightingale.

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Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna and a leading figure in Roman Asia in the middle of the second century.

For better or worse, Polycarp is remembered as a champion of orthodoxy. He took the arch-heretics Marcion and Valentinus to task. His letter to the Philippians explores how right belief and right action are closely intertwined. Throughout the letter he demonstrates familiarity with the Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures and some of Paul’s letters (which he appears to treat like scripture at times). He is both learned and pastoral.

His death is described at length in the early Christian text, The Martyrdom of Polycarp. In 155, during a local episode of persecution, Polycarp, now age 86, was arrested and brought to trial. In a trance, God had already revealed to Polycarp his arrest and the type of death he was to die. In fact, throughout the text, Polycarp is a bit of a charismatic, experiencing visions and hearing God’s encouragement throughout the ordeal.

After refusing to give an offering to Caesar and verbally sparring with the local magistrate, Polycarp was sentenced to death by burning. As they prepared the pyre, Polycarp refused to be bound, telling the soldiers that God would enable him to stand firm in the flames. When the pyre was lit, the flames circled around him but did not touch him. At the same time, we are told that bystanders smelled a sweet fragrance, like bread baking. The text also describes a “fragrant aroma” like “incense or some other precious spice.”

When it became clear that Polycarp would not die by fire, the executioner was ordered to stab him to finish the deed. As he was pierced, a dove emerged from his side along with so much blood that the fire around him was extinguished. His death was so noble and inspiring that the magistrate worried that Polycarp would now be worshiped alongside Christ so he had his body cremated and reduced to ashes.

In the end, Polycarp is a faithful witness who bridges an important gap between the apostolic age and what would later become orthodox Christianity. He learned from the Apostle John, corresponded with Christian contemporaries like Ignatius of Antioch, and inspired later Christian leaders, including the theologian Irenaeus and the church historian Eusebius. His writings, and the story of his martyrdom, can be found in the collection of writings called The Apostolic Fathers.

Collect for Polycarp
O God, the maker of heaven and earth, you gave your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, the boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior and the steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and to rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (LFF 2022)

David Creech

Andrew the Fisherman

St. Andrew is a saint whom we encounter first in the pages of Scripture. He and his brother Simon are casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee when Jesus strolls by and asks them to join with him. Immediately, he drops his net and follows. From then on, Andrew becomes a disciple of Jesus.

In John’s gospel, the encounter is presented slightly differently – John records Andrew as being a disciple of John the Baptist first, before John kindly redirects his focus to Jesus, exclaiming “Behold the Lamb of God!” as Jesus walks past one day. Upon hearing this, Andrew and his brother up and start trailing after Jesus, evidently without even a word of introduction. After a few moments, Jesus realizes he’s acquired literal followers and asks them what they’re doing. Andrew responds by asking “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus invites him to come and see, and again, from then on, he is a steadfast companion.

Following Christ’s resurrection, tradition varies widely about what became of him. Eusebius quotes Origen, who tells us that Andrew went to Scythia to preach, and then all around northern Greece and what is now southern Russia. The Chronicle of Nestor records that he continued on, making it as far as Kiev/Kyiv, and then to Novogorod, He then went to Thrace to preach, founded the city of Constantinople on his way, and finally ended up in Achaea, in Patras, where he was put to death by the Roman Empire. Andrew protested his death, not because he feared death, but because he felt himself unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord, and so he was crucified by being bound –not nailed –-to the cross, though the exact X shape that has come to be known as the saltire was only described in the Middle Ages.

Because of his extensive travels, St. Andrew is the patron saint of Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Scotland, and Constantinople, as well as fishermen and singers.

Collect for Andrew the Fisherman
Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your Holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP)

Megan Castellan


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102 comments on “Polycarp vs. Andrew the Fisherman”

  1. WIth his brother young Andrew would set
    Out each dawn to see what catch they’d get;
    But when Jesus one day
    Showed them both a new way,
    They followed him, leaving nothing but net.

    1. Thank you for yet another thing for us to look forward to during Lent Madness. You really do help this to be a Happy Lent!

    2. Good Morning John! Love this tribute to Andrew! I have always marveled at faith he must have had to just drop his nets and follow Jesus that day.

    3. This is the first day I've noticed there's a comment section, and I had to go back and read your limericks from the other days!! Nice work!

  2. Are you supposed to make your selection, then I’m not a robot? Robot part always works. Another morning of frustration, tbd.

    1. Susie - make your selection, then click the box to indicate you’re not a robot. Then click vote. Wishing you well!

    2. I often have to do the I’m not a robot verification (aka “Captcha” ) and then vote. I agree that voting has been frustrating this year. I am using my iPad, so it’s a touchscreen. Haven’t tried with a mouse and my laptop yet.

      1. I think the order of casting the vote is to check off which saint you want, then click the "not a robot" box, then click the button that says "vote." That works for me. And of course, don't try to vote in the email, but go directly to http://www.lentmadness.org. Once I figured all that out, it's been smooth sailing.

    3. Make selection, then click not a robot, then click vote. BTW, I have found that I can only vote on my laptop, not my iPhone or iPad, which is too bad. I wish we could vote using our mobile device.

    4. Susie, the system may be a bit overwhelmed again this morning. If it doesn't work this afternoon, call Forward Movement and go to customer service. They can help you. Remember this order: Make your selection, check "I am not a robot" and subtmit your vote. Just wait, the response isn't always fast.

    1. I wanted to vote for Polycarp, but then I was swayed by the way Andrew just started following Christ and could not be turned. But it was a difficult choice to make.

  3. Koi Poloi indeed! Even tho’ initially I was going to vote for Polycarp, Andrew caught my eye. It was his invite to his bro Simon to “come and see” Jesus that swayed me to support him

  4. I have recommended Polycarp to the Supreme Executive Committee yearly for 5 years straight and he finally made it to Lent Madness. Sadly he is first up against an Apostle...a tough battle.

    But Polycarp was a great Bishop, a friend and student of the Apostle John, and a key player in the growth of the early Church in the east. And C'Mon!!! And dove flew out of him at his Martyrdom. My boy is going to lose, but only on the grounds that he was a second generation Church and. ARGH!

    1. Polycarp got my vote- smelled of bread baking when surrounded by fire, and then the dove too!!

    2. I sympathize. I nominated Ananais of Damascus for years before he appeared in the brackets, and then he was up against the Samaritan woman at the well (Photini) - bye-bye.

      1. I'm still waiting to see my nominee of Saint Fred of the Neighborhood approved. If only the Presbyterians would adopt the practice of having commemorating saints.

    3. I've always been a fan of Polycarp but I've also been a fan of Andrew and even a bit more... so tough matchup for round one...

  5. Another difficult choice!

    Andrew is quite well known. I knew nothing of Polycarp! His name sounded like geometry…. Andrew’s faith and evangelism is a demonstration and a profound commitment to The Way! Would I have ‘dropped my nets’ and leave my family to follow an unknown person? I do not know! I would like to think I would. On the other hand, I think not. Instead, I think I would have turned back and with slumped shoulders and dropped head, would have had some confusion and lots of questions of wonder.

    This sentence is what prompted me to vote for Polycarp. And of course the miracles surrounding his eventual death!

    In the end, Polycarp is a faithful witness who bridges an important gap between the apostolic age and what would later become orthodox Christianity.

  6. I confess. that I voted for Andrew because I go to a St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. There are four Episcopal churches in the NH diocese with the same name, and we are a small, but vibrant diocese. I thought Polycarp was fascinating. I really enjoy reading about new saints!!

  7. Still can’t vote on ipad but can easily vote on android phone. And fyi to lent madness tech support.

      1. If orthodoxy had always been considered the best way to go, there wouldn't be an Episcopal Church. Nor would there be Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, or nondenominational churches. People do tend to question orthdoxy; the successful are considered visionaries, the unsuccessful are remembered as heretics. Or so it seems to me.

  8. “For better or worse, Polycarp was a champion of orthodoxy”? What is the writer implying? Just for that, I voted for Polycarp. (Not the writer, no offense intended!)

  9. This one was tough for me. Andrew is a "founding father(?)" but Polycarp is an important bridge between the VERY early Church and just the early Church. We feature St. Andrew's saltire our Episcopal shield for a reason.
    Andrew it is!

  10. All honor to St. Andrew, the first to follow Jesus. Nevertheless I voted for Polycarp. I especially like his connection between “the Apostolic Age and what would later become Orthodox Christianity.”

  11. Just figured that the patron saint of both Ukraine and Russia might be a helpful intercessor just now.

    1. Of course Russia only became Russia after discovering some itinerant Swedish traders many centuries after the founding of Kyiv and lots more after the preaching of St Andrew.

    1. I'm online friends in a morning prayer webcast with the former (pretty sure not now, since he's in seminary) leader of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. I've loved learning about the order. Part of the reason I voted for Andrew today.

  12. Both are martyrs and excellent candidates. In the end I went with Andrew as one of the very first people to go "all in" for Jesus.

    1. That's one of the reasons why I voted for St Andrew too. Also because he is the patron saint of Scotland, singers and fishermen.

  13. I agree with the people who are having problems voting, it seems more difficult this year. I have to indicate that I’m not a robot, then press several times to vote~
    On a less whiny note, why is Andrew the patron saint of Scotland?

    1. Here are notes from https://www.thenational.scot/news/17254187.st-andrew-patron-saint-scotland-many-territories

      You will recall the Constantine story of a vision before battle – well the same vision was seen in the sky by King Oengus II before the Battle of Athelstaneford in 832, and with his Picts and Scots being victorious against the larger forces of Northumbria, Oengus ordered that the flag of his kingdom should be a white X cross on a blue background – the Saltire, as we know it.

      The Scottish cult of St Andrew grew exponentially. Thanks largely to St Margaret and subsequent kings, St Andrews became the largest ecclesiastical centre in Scotland and a centre for pilgrimage with the long-lost shrine of our patron saint as the main attraction.

      He is mentioned in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath as the “gentle Saint Andrew” as the Scottish people’s “patron for ever” and he retains that title today.

  14. Patron saint of fishermen, singers, and Scotland? Apologies to the venerable Polycarp, but Andrew's patronships made him an easy choice.

  15. St. Andrew the Fisherman Episcopal Church in Edgewater, MD has a special place in my heart…….so, it’s a no-brainer for me!

  16. "for better or worse regarded as a champion of orthodoxy"? Thank God that he was.

    Andrew's relics were looted during the Fourth Crusade and taken to Scotland. George's were taken to England.

  17. I learned somewhere that at the time of his death Polycarp made the sign of the cross to signal to all observers that he had not renounced his Christian beliefs. He was the first to use this sign.

  18. I was all set to vote for Andrew and you sealed the deal with the last word - patron saint of singers. I hope to learn more about that in following rounds.

  19. No contest again for me today. My homeland Scotland shares the patronage of St. Andrew with Ukraine. Scotland and Ukraine alike stand up to the domination of the tyrannical neighbor. I like to think that Andrew helps in this.

  20. I'm a little stunned that the write up on Polycarp didn't include the moving quote attributed to the saint in his Martyrdom: "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" These words of love and trust, much more than the legendary elements in the tale of his death, are what move me to vote for him today.

    1. I was quite surprised too. I have never forgotten Polycarp since meeting him (decades ago) in a Sunday school textbook in fifth or sixth grade--the only year we had stories from church history instead of the Bible. His memorable name probably helped, of course.

    2. That's why I voted for Polycarp. I don't know why that moving statement of his wasn't used.

  21. With a son named Andrew (and his twin brother Peter) and as a graduate and retired faculty member of St. Andrew’s School, of course I voted for Andrew. Also, as Andrew was a great traveler, in my retirement I have traveled to all 50 states and most of the National Parks.

  22. FWIW in regards to voting issues. My laptop is a hinged hybrid that functions as a tablet with a touchscreen and on-screen keyboard when folded open back-to-back (or tented), and as a regular laptop with physical keyboard when opened that way. It only allows me to vote in laptop mode. Which is to say that device and platform compatibility issues come in multiple forms. I urge those having voting challenges to try different devices and/or browsers to see if you can find one that works for you.