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Memorial of St. Irenaeus

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St.-Irenaeus

Saint Irenaeus, who died around the year 203, was a student of the beloved bishop and martyr, Polycarp (February 23). St. Polycarp was a student of the beloved apostle, evangelist and bishop, John (December 27).  From what we know of his life, it is clear that Irenaeus paid attention to his teachers and learned well.

Irenaeus found all sorts of people writing and preaching all sorts of things about Christ and his church, much of it untrue.

When Irenaeus was still young he traveled to Gaul (now France) and became the assistant to the bishop of Lyons, a man named Plotinus.  After Plotinus was martyred, Irenaeus took his place.

Like Cyril of Alexandria, whose memorial was yesterday, Irenaeus found all sorts of people writing and preaching all sorts of things about Christ and his church, much of it untrue. (A situation familiar to us.) Irenaeus is known to have written five volumes explaining what Christ did teach and how the false teachers were wrong.

Most of what Irenaeus wrote has been lost, but we know some of it from the works of the Roman historian, Eusebius. (Eusebius is famous for his biography of Constantine.) The picture that emerges from these fragments is of a man, Irenaeus, who desired to make peace with his enemies, by persuading rather than vanquishing them. Eusebius gives us one of Irenaeus’ letters, including this one with the beautiful title, “That God is not the Author of Evil.”

Let that brief sentence – “That God is not the Author of Evil” ‑ be our reflection and the source of our praise today.