St. Irenaeus of Lyons, France

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, France

St. Irenaeus

 (circa 130 - 202)

     The precise year of the birth of Irenaeus is unknown although it is presumed that this father of the Catholic Church was born at Smyrna (today Izmir, Turkey) in the year 130 AD.   In his youth, Irenaeus was strongly influenced by St. Polycarp*, whose teachings he treasured "not on paper but in my heart, for the things we learnt in childhood are part of our soul."  Irenaeus studied in Rome and then became a priest of Lyons, the principal bishopric of Gaul.  During a sudden persecution, which caused the imprisonment of many of its members, the church of Lyons sent Irenaeus to Rome with a letter for the pope.  This letter urged leniency towards the Montanists in Phrygia, a sect with whom Irenaeus had little sympathy.

     Irenaeus returned to Lyons in 178 AD and was appointed bishop after Pothinus had been killed in the persecution.  It is believed that Irenaeus himself ended his life as a martyr, but the evidence in support of this is inconclusive.

     During Irenaeus' service to the church he wrote many articles, his chief treatises, Adversus Haereses and Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching, warned of the dangers of Gnosticism.  His principal points stressed the truth of monotheism.

      St. Irenaeus died in Lyon in 202 AD. His feast day is celebrated in the West on June 28 and in the East on August 23.  He was buried in the crypt of the church of St. John, where his shrine remained until it was destroyed by Calvinists in 1562.

* St. Polycarp: Bishop of Smyrna and martyr (circa 69 - 155)