The Catholic Defender: St. Irenaeus Died for His Lord Jesus and the Catholic Faith.
Jesus for three years prepared His Apostles to begin a new Ministry of a New and everlasting Covenant. Jesus established the Apostles to be the first generation of leaders for the young Catholic Church giving them His Authority to go to the nations (Matthew 28:20).
Apostolic Succession is the important teaching showing the importance where and how the authority was handed down (1 Timothy 4:11-16). 2 Timothy 2:2 states, "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." St. Paul would speak of 4 generations counting Jesus to his Apostles, the Apostles to their successors, entrusting to faithful men beyond them. The Apostles, their successors, then their successors heading all the way to our own generation.
St. Irenaeus knew the followers of the Apostles. Jesus placed St. John the Apostle as one of the Twelve. St. John ordained a number of others who would follow him such as St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna. St. Irenaeus was ordained and influenced by St. Polycarp.
St. Irenaeus is an important figure among the Early Church Father's (ECF) because of what he passed down from what he learned. Concerning Apostolic Succession, St. Irenaeus wrote:
“As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the Tradition is one and the same” (Against Heresies 1:10:2 A.D.180).
St. Irenaeus further states, “That is why it is surely necessary to avoid heretics, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the Tradition of truth… What if the Apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of Tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the Churches?” (1bid, 3:4:1).
Concerning the Eucharist St. Irenaeus stated:
[Christ] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own Body, from which he gives increase to our bodies."
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 180 A.D.:
It is believed that St. Irenaeus was born about the year 125 A.D.from Asia Minor. As a young person, he became a follower of St. Polycarp who taught Young Irenaeus the holy Faith. Irenaeus was ordained a Catholic Priest serving under his Bishop, St. Pothinus, the first bishop of Lyons.
Called to Rome in 177, St. Pothinus sent Irenaeus to see St Eleutherius, the Twelfth successor of St. Peter, the current Bishop of Rome to gather experience and prepare him for the Lord's call. While taking this journey, a terrible persecution was enacted against the Catholic Church. St. Pothinus was among those martyred for their Faith.
When St. Irenaeus returned back to Lyons, the present persecution had subsided, but the bishopric was vacant. St. Irenaeus would become the second Bishop of lyons and because of his training and learning, he became a great voice for orthodoxy defending the Catholic Faith against the gnostics coming from Gaul who was challenging the Faith of the Apostles. St Irenaeus refuted the heretics exposing their errors writing five books that explained the Catholic Faith as it was handed down from the Apostles.
St. Irenaeus became efficient in Greek using the Holy Scriptures that were available at the time. The Canon of Scripture would not be settled for another 220 years by the Catholic Church.
Near the year 202, another terrible persecution broke out under Emperor Septimus Severus who went after the older St. Irenaeus who was among the many caught because of an imperial decree. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Severus reign, the Pagans took vengeance on the Catholic faith because of the many conversions taking place. Armed with daggers, knives and rocks, the Pagans killed thousands of Christians who died with their Bishop, St. Irenaeus.
A Prayer of Irenaeus
I appeal to you, Lord, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob and Israel, You the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Infinitely merciful as you are, it is your will that we should learn to know you. You made heaven and earth, you rule supreme over all that is. You are the true, the only God; there is no other god above you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ…and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, grant that all who read what I have written here may know you, because you alone are God; let them draw strength from you; keep them from all the teaching that is heretical, irreligious or godless.