Javascript is currently disabled. This site requires Javascript to function correctly. Please enable Javascript in your browser!

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons
  • Century: 2nd & 3rd Century
  • Patronage: Father of the Church
  • Feast Day: June 28th

St. Irenaeus was born in 130 what is believed to be Smyrna in Asia Minor, now Izmir, Turkey.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was actually brought up in a Christian family rather than converting as an adult.  Being born in the Asia Minor area, the memory of the apostles was still cherished and the Christian population was numerous.  He was strongly influenced by St. Polycarp, who had personally known the apostles or their immediate disciples. 

The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a high place among the Fathers of the Church, for they not only laid the foundations of Christian theology, but, by exposing and refuting the errors of the Gnostics, they delivered the Catholic Faith from the real danger of the doctrines of heretics – very popular in his time.  

Many Asian Priests and Missionaries brought the Gospel to the pagans and founded a local church.  In this Church of Lyon, Irenaeus came to serve as a Priest under its first bishop, St. Pothinus, an oriental like himself.  In 177, Irenaeus was sent to Rome.  This is the reason he escaped the martyrdom and terrible persecution in Lyons, when St. Pothinus was martyred.  When he returned to Lyons it was to become Bishop, as the persecution was over. 

Due to the wide spread of Gnosticism, he was inspired to undertake the task of exposing its errors.  He produced a treatise in five books in which he sets forth fully the inner doctrines of the various sects, and afterwards contrasts them with the teaching of the Apostles and the text of Holy Scripture.   He was known for his “apologetics” of our faith. 

After his death in the year 202, his bodily remains were buried in a crypt under the altar of what was then called the church of St. John, but was later known by the name of Sr. Irenaeus.  The Calvinists destroyed the tomb or shrine in 1562, and all trace of his relics seemed to have perished. 

Practical Take Away

St. Irenaeus Life shows us that he was not afraid to defend the faith, or to teach it.  He went to great lengths to ensure that it would be passed to the next generation by his writings, which earned him a high position as a Father in the Church.  His writings and apologetics inspired many that prepare themselves to defend the faith even today.  We must always defend that faith, but in order to defend, one must know the faith.  St. Irenaeus’s writings give us the opportunity to grow in the faith – so that we too, can always be equipped to defend Holy Mother Church.