Persecution/St. Polycarp




  1. Students should be able to say the word “persecution” and know its meaning.
  2. Students should be able to name Polycarp and tell his story.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. Read the story of St. Polycarp as follows:

In the early days of the Church, it was dangerous to be a Christian. Many of the

Emperors of Rome did not like Christians because they would not worship the gods of Rome and the Emperor himself. Do you remember the stories of the three young men in the fire and Daniel in the lion’s den? (Review them here; there are pictures in the children’s Bible storybooks.) Just like these men who loved God, early Christians were burned and eaten by lions. The Romans killed Christians just for believing in Jesus. People who are killed for what they believe are called martyrs. St. Polycarp was a martyr. Here is his story:

Polycarp’s parents were martyred when he was a little boy. He was left an orphan on

the streets of Smyrna to find food for himself and a place to sleep at night. But, he had been taught to love Jesus by his parents and know that God would care for him.

            There was a widow in Smyrna named Callista. She was very rich but had no children. She lived in a big house with many servants.  One night in a dream, an angel said to Callista, “Callista, there is an orphan whose name is Polycarp. Take him as your son, for you have no children.” Callista got up right away and brought Polycarp into her home. She loved him as her own son and he had a home and plenty of food.

            One day, Callista went on a journey. She left her servants to watch over Polycarp. Now, Polycarp, like the Lord Jesus Himself, loved the poor people who, like he had been, had no food and were starving. So, while Callista was away, Polycarp opened all the cupboards and gave away all the food in the house; there was a lot of food since Callista was very rich. The poor people were so happy! But the servants were shocked and frightened. How would they explain the empty cupboards to their mistress?

            One of the servants met Callista on the road outside town as she returned home. He told her how Polycarp had given everything away. Callista was very angry with Polycarp. But, when she got home and looked in the cupboards, they were full! She thought the servant had lied and was about to beat him when Polycarp came running up. He explained that, after he had given away the food, he prayed to God and the cupboards were filled with everything good, even more than before! Callista was amazed. She gave Polycarp all her wealth. Polycarp knew what God wanted him to do. He fasted and prayed thru life, giving all to the poor and helping the sick.

            Soon the bishop of Smyrna heard of young Polycarp. He grew to love the young man who so loved the poor. Bishop Vukola ordained Polycarp as a deacon. All the people loved Polycarp for his good works! Later Polycarp became bishop of Smyrna. Finally, when Polycarp was 86 years, an old man indeed, the soldiers came and took him prisoner. The judge begged him to say he would worship the emperor of Rome, but Polycarp would worship only Jesus. They tied him to a pole and lit a fire around Polycarp, but, like the three young men in Babylon, Polycarp was not hurt. Finally, one of the soldiers killed Polycarp with a spear in the heart and this gentle and loving saint died as a martyr during the great persecutions of the Romans against the Church.




  1. Feed the Elephant True/False Questions:

True                                                     False

                  Polycarp was a poor orphan.                     Callista was a poor orphan.

                  Callista was a rich widow.                        Polycarp was a rich widow.

                  Polycarp always gave to the poor.            Polycarp hid his gold in a cave.

                  Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna.              Polycarp was Bishop of Jerusalem.


  1. Polycarp is listed by the Church as a saint. What are his “saintly” attributes? Was it that he was a bishop? Are all bishops saints? What about his life? In what ways was his life saintly? (gave to the poor, helped the sick) What about his death? Had he done anything wrong to be killed as a martyr? Discuss the word “persecution” and review “martyr”. Say them a few times. What do they mean? Are Christians persecuted anywhere today?


  1. Make a Polycarp Puzzle. Take the icon and color it. Cut out the border and glue it onto a piece of construction paper. Turn the central part of the icon over and draw some puzzle pieces – 5 or 6 is enough. Cut them out. Can you put Polycarp back together?


  1. Close with Prayer: Lord, help me to give to the poor and help people as did Polycarp.