Irenaeus linked the Church at the time of the twelve apostles and the Church of the second century. He wrote and taught the faith handed on by the apostles and preserved it when it was attacked. His chief concern was unity among the churches. Irenaeus was born about 130 in Smyrna, a port town in western Turkey.
He traveled to Lyons, France, where he was ordained a priest. Eventually, he became its bishop. Irenaeus faced a strong battle against Gnosticism. This heresy claimed that eternal life could be gained only by receiving special knowledge about God, knowledge available to a chosen few. Irenaeus taught that, according to Scripture, God wished all people to be saved and to know the truth. The name Irenaeus means “peace,” and this saint was true to his name.
At one time, a group of Christians in Irenaeus’s homeland did not want to celebrate Easter at the time the Church in Rome had decided. Irenaeus explained to Pope Victor I that this was not a matter of faith. The date for celebrating Easter was an old tradition for these people. His pleading helped the pope decide in their favor. Irenaeus was an important writer and a strong witness to the teaching of the Church as it came from Peter and the other apostles. Perhaps Irenaeus was martyred; we know only that he died in about 200.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Saint Irenaeus, Biship of Lugdunum by unknown artist, unknown date. Public Domain via Wikimedia.