St Irenaeus

This quotation of St Irenaeus of Lyons helped to bring me into the Catholic Church:

Therefore we will refute those who hold unauthorized assemblies–either because of false self importance, or pride, or blindness and perversity–by pointing to the tradition of the greatest and oldest church, a church known to all men, which was founded and established at Rome by the most renouwned Apostles Peter and Paul. this tradition the church has from the Apostles, and this faith has been proclaimed to all men, and has come down to our own day through the succession of bishops. for thsi church has a position of leadership and authority; and therefore every church, that is, the faithful everywhere, must needs agree with the church at Rome; for in her the apostolic tradition has ever been preserved byu the faithful from all parts of the world.

I think it’s a beautiful detail in this great passage that Ireaeus actually seems to quote St Paul’s epistle to the Romans. In Romans 1:8 St Paul praises the Romans because their faith is ‘known all over the world’ and Irenaeus says that the faith of the Roman church is ‘known to all men.”

It’s also a fine thing to celebrate St Irenaeus the day before we commemorate SS Peter and Paul. How beautiful to say Mass with the Roman Canon on these days with the resounding prayer to God for all those who teach the Catholic Faith, “that comes to us from the Apostles.
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  • “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” Prov.22:28The landmarks set by the Fathers are still standing in the Roman Catholic Church. That is why I am now in RCIA.

  • Hooray for you, n3ee! I just became Catholic myself, for similar reasons. :)Whenever I hear an early church father quoted, I want to know when he lived. It drives me up the wall that my Liturgy of the Hours books quote all these great passages from the church fathers, but don’t date them. So I sat down with my breviaries and the computer, looked up every quoted writer on the Catholic Encyclopedia, and wrote in their death dates next to their names. And my obsession continues as I comment on this post!St. Irenaeus died around AD 200. He was a disciple of St. Polycarp who was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, as we learn in one of his letters: “I can describe the very place in which the Blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed … his personal appearance … and how he would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words” So St. Irenaeus is a very early witness whose word of mouth knowledge can be traced back to the Lord himself. It’s worth pointing that out; makes the quote all the more powerful.

  • Anonymous

    Except the writings of the early fathers shouldn’t be taken out of context. Rome’s claims to unique authority within the church don’t come for centuries after Irenaeus. Irenaeus’s point was that the true faith was guarded and maintained–and recognized–because it was passed down by the bishops who were successors of the apostles. He chose Rome as an example to illustrate his point because, writing from Lyons, he assumed it was the most familiar to his audience. But he could have just as easily used Antioch as an example to illustrate his argument. The same arguments Irenaeus used are also the foundation of the Eastern Orthodox Church… So what do we do when Rome and Antioch disagree?