June 28th: The feast of *Saint Irenaeus*

Today, June 28th, we celebrate the feast of *Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr*. He was born in the year 120; he was of the Greek tongue, and probably a native of Asia Minor. His parents, who were Christians, placed him while still young under the care of the great Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

Saint Polycarp cultivated his rising genius and formed his mind to piety by his precepts and example, and the zealous young scholar was careful to reap all advantages offered him by the solicitude of such a master.

In order to confound the heresies of his age, this Doctor of the Church acquainted himself with the conceits of the pagan philosophers, and thereby became qualified to trace every error to its sources and set it in its full light. This great Doctor of the Church wrote many important works. By his preaching, Saint Irenaeus in a short time converted almost the whole country of Lyons  to the Faith.

As bishop of Lyons he was especially concerned with the Gnostics, who took their name from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Claiming access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teaching was attracting and confusing many Christians. After thoroughly investigating the various Gnostic sects and their “secret,” Irenaeus showed to what logical conclusions their tenets led.

These he contrasted with the teaching of the apostles and the text of Holy Scripture, giving us, in five books, a system of theology of great importance to subsequent times. Moreover, his work, widely used and translated into Latin and Armenian, gradually ended the influence of the Gnostics.

Finally, he suffered martyrdom there, with many others, in the year 202, under the Emperor Septimius Severus, after eighty years spent in the service of the Lord.

*St. Irenaeus, pray for us*.