Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (died 220), bishop, martyr, writer, theologian, defender of the faith, and Doctor of the Church. Saint Irenaeus defended the Church against the threat of gnosticism, writing five volumes on the tenets of the Catholic faith, and logically discrediting the heresies of factions attacking the one true Church.
Saint Irenaeus was born to Christian parents in Asia Minor. He was placed under the tutelage of Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, at an early age, where he was trained in Greek and Latin. Saint Irenaeus modeled his daily practices after those of the venerable bishop, praying, meditating, and engaging in various acts of penance and mortification. From an early age, Irenaeus demonstrated considerable piety and sanctity, as well as a deep aptitude for theological, philosophical, and scholarly pursuits. He befriended and became expert in the beliefs of various pagan and heretical sects, later using his knowledge to discredit their teachings and beliefs.
After Irenaeus had spent a number of years in combat against the eastern Gnostics and philosophers of error, Saint Polycarp determined to send him to Gaul, where many of the heretics of Asia Minor had already migrated to pursue the Catholic religion, which was beginning to find roots there. With a company of about forty Christians, the valiant soldier of Christ ascended the Rhone to Lyons to rejoin and aid Saint Pothinus, its bishop. Saint Pothinus was already advanced in age, and his church’s neophytes could not always distinguish truth from the Gnostic aberrations. Saint Pothinus received the apostles with joy and soon ordained Saint Irenaeus. Following the martyr’s death of Saint Pothinus, Irenaeus became the second Bishop of Lyons, where he continued to address the teachings of the Gnostics.
“The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they become immortal and attain to God himself. God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown. Through his Word the whole creation learns that there is one God the Father, who holds all things together and gives them their being. As it is written in the Gospel, “No man has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.” From the beginning the Son is the one who teacher us about the Father; he is with the Father from the beginning. The Word revealed God to men and presented men to God. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.”
Doctor of the Church, Saint Irenaeus wrote many additional works, in explanation of the Faith. Along with his writings, he was a gifted preacher, who by all reports, converted the entirety of the country in short order. The Christians of Lyons became models by their candor, their estrangement from all ambition, their poverty, chastity and temperance, and in this way confounded many adversaries of their religion.
Eventually, due to his fearless preaching of the truth, Saint Irenaeus was martyred in Lyons, with many others, under the Emperor Septimus Severus. He was approximately 80 years old at the time of his death. On order from the Emperor, all Christians were put to death, unless willing to offer sacrifice to the gods. Of course, Saint Irenaeus adamantly refused. Assassins armed with daggers, stones and knives filled the city with blood, and thousands of Christians were killed alongside their courageous bishop, martyrs for the faith. The bodily remains of Saint Irenaeus were buried in the church of Saint John, later renamed for Saint Irenaeus himself. However, his tomb and shrine were destroyed in the sixteenth century, with all earthly traces of the saint lost forever. His writings remain, and continue to inspire us to faithfulness to the truth.
“For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” Throughout his life, he worked tirelessly to uphold the truth of our faith, during the most difficult times. When we consider his sacrifice, we truly see that the early Church was built by the blood of the martyrs. What are we willing to sacrifice for the Church of God on earth? What extraordinary things are we capable of, filled with the conviction of Christ?
The Church, spread throughout the whole world, received this preaching and this faith and now preserves it carefully, dwelling as it were in one house. Having one soul and one heart, the Church holds this faith, preaches and teaches it consistently as though by a single voice. For though there are different languages, there is but one tradition.
The faith and the tradition of the churches founded in Germany are no different from those founded among the Spanish and the Celts, in the East, in Egypt, in Libya and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world. Just as God’s creature, the sun, is one and the same the world over, so also does the Church’s preaching shine everywhere to enlighten all men who want to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Inspired by the origins and spiritual history of the Holy Rosary, we continue our meditation on the psalms, one each day, in order, for 150 days.
Today’s Psalm: Psalm 64: Treacherous Conspirators Punished by God
1 Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint;
protect my life from the threat of the enemy.
2 Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
from that noisy crowd of evildoers.
3 They sharpen their tongues like swords
and aim their words like deadly arrows.
4 They shoot from ambush at the innocent man;
they shoot at him suddenly, without fear.
5 They encourage each other in evil plans,
they talk about hiding their snares;
they say, "Who will see them?"
6 They plot injustice and say,
"We have devised a perfect plan!"
Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.
7 But God will shoot them with arrows;
suddenly they will be struck down.
8 He will turn their own tongues against them
and bring them to ruin;
all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
9 All mankind will fear;
they will proclaim the works of God
and ponder what he has done.
10 Let the righteous rejoice in the LORD
and take refuge in him;
let all the upright in heart praise him!
Day 179 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Confidence and courage in the truth of the Lord, the teachings of the Church; For those persecuted for their beliefs.
Requested Intentions: For a recovery and sanctification (X); For a daughter struggling with disease and illness (T); For all lost children (I); Prosperity, health, healing, and conversion for a family (M); Health and healing of a mother (A); Healing of heart and mind (T); Healing of a new relationship before marriage (K); Healing of a relationship (T); Eternal rest for the dearly departed, end to financial struggles, successful sale of home, ability to travel on pilgrimage (L); For healing of a stomach illness (L); For the repose of the soul of a sister (C); Vocational security for family, Financial security for daughter beginning college (M); Vocational guidance, courage and strength (I); Health for an ailing nephew (A); Those suffering from depression (J); Successful adoption (S); Healing of a father battling cancer (S).
Psalm: Psalm 64: Treacherous Conspirators Punished by God
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."