Where did your faith come from? If you are similar to most people, the likely answer to that question is "from another person". It is this idea, that faith is handed on from person to person, that its transmission is a living and personal reality is at the heart of our Catholic Church. Ours is a Church that is founded on the reality that Jesus' message is meant to be passed on, shared, from person to person, to be taught and to be learned. Some Christians, in their effort to rightfully emphasize the importance of Sacred Scripture, overlook this basic element of the teaching of Christ. Jesus did not write a book, he founded a Church that would share his Gospel message with all and, in fact, in the earliest days of the Church that message was often oral and not written.
Why is that an important message today? Well, today we celebrate the feast of St. Polycarp, a bishop and martyr from the first and second centuries. St. Polycarp was a disciple of St. John the Apostle who was a disciple of Jesus himself. Polycarp went on to teach and mentor St. Irenaeus, one of the most read and most influential theologians of the early Church, who helped shape much of what we recognize as the Catholic Church today. St. Polycarp reminds us that our faith is passed on from person to person, that it is a living reality, not a dead one. He also highlights that, as Catholics, we can trace an unbroken line of student-teacher relationships all the way back to Jesus himself. Part of that reality has to do with the line of bishops beginning with the Apostles and continuing with our bishops today, something we call Apostolic Succession. So give thanks today for the parents, grandparents, priests, sisters, and teachers who shared their faith with you and pray that you have the inspiration to share your faith with others.