Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Fraternal charity was the emphasis in May. This month's virtue reflects on how to avoid sins in order to advance in charity. Some areas to consider are: slandering others, ruining reputations, showing jealously towards one, engaging in gosip, making sarcastic remarks, and hurting others by one's angry outbursts.

Ways to overcome these failings and sins include trying to cultivate a genuine zeal for souls, realizing how far-reaching my own example is in influencing others, and recalling those words of Our Lord, "Whatsoever you have done to the least of my little ones, you have done it to me."


Feast Day: June 28
Patron of Diocese of Mobile, Alabama

Born in Smyrna, in Asia Minor about 120 A.D. and died in Lyons, France, in the year 202 A.D.

St. Irenaeus worked diligently to promote the truth about the nature of Christ, to defend the teachings of the Church against the Gnostic heretics, and he "vigorously denounced all heresies and safeguarded unity of belief by laying down the principles of the doctrinal tradition of the Church." (1) In his early training under St. Polycarp, who knew St. John the Evangelist, he learned the teachings of the Church. He encountered heretics and eastern Gnostics and studied all of the pagan philosophers to better understand the bases for heresies within the Church.

Later he moved to Lyons where he was ordained a priest. In 177 A.D. he replaced the existing bishop who had been killed in a persecution. In his 25 years as Bishop of Lyons, he must have had many opportunities to practice love of neighbor and enemy, to help his flock to avoid scandal and to caution them not to slander the heretics. He sought in love to convert the heretics back to the true Church in the expanding territory of Gaul to where many of the eastern Gnostic had migrated. These efforts and his missionary expeditions were eventually fruitful, as Gaul (France) did become known as the eldest daughter of the Church. (2)

It is said that "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. Saint Irenaeus continued to imitate what he had seen done by his beloved master, Saint Polycarp, himself the disciple and imitator of Saint John the Apostle. One can readily imagine the excellence of the administration and the breadth of charity reigning in the Church of Lyons." (3)

According to St. Jerome, it is believed that St. Irenaeus died a martyr's death in a massacre of Christians in Lyons during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus in 202 A.D.

Tertullian, Theodoret and Saint Epiphanus spoke of him as "a luminous torch of truth in the darkness of those times." (4) This Doctor of the Church presented his torch of truth in the form of 5 books known as Against the Heresies. We also have his Account of Apostolic Doctrine which is a direct presentation of Christian beliefs learned at the side of St. Polycarp. (5)


Instead of constantly ridiculing his adversaries, he treated them most charitably. He wrote, "There is no God without goodness." "It is through love that the Word has become what we are, in order to make of us what It is."

"We hold out our hand to you with all our hearts, and will never cease to offer it to you." (6)

Against Heresies - Chapter XIV.—We should obey God rather than the authors of sedition. It is right and holy therefore, men and brethren, rather to obey God than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become the leaders of a detestable emulation. For we shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting strife and tumults, so as to draw us away from what is good. Let us be kind one to another after the pattern of the tender mercy and benignity of our Creator. For it is written, “The kind-hearted shall inhabit the land, and the guiltless shall be left upon it, but transgressors shall be destroyed from off the face of it.”5858 Prov. ii. 21, 22.

And again [the Scripture] saith, “I saw the ungodly highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Lebanon: I passed by, and, behold, he was not; and I diligently sought his place, and could not find it. Preserve innocence, and look on equity: for there shall be a remnant to the peaceful man.”
5959 Ps. xxxvii (7)


Table Blessing for St. Irenaeus

The Word became the steward of the Father's grace for the advantage of men, for whose benefit he made such wonderful arrangements. He revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. 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. (St. Irenaeus, Treatise Against the Heresies).


Verse: Saint Irenaeus, true to his name, made peace the object of his life,
Response: and he labored to preserve the unity of the church.

The Lord's Prayer

Almighty God, you inspired Saint Irenaeus to teach your divine truth faithfully, and to preserve at all cost the bond of unity in your church. May we follow after his example, becoming ministers of peace and reconciliation among all your people. Bestow your blessing upon this nourishment, and may we learn to share it willingly with the poor, the hungry, and the dispossessed. We ask this through Christ the Lord. Amen. (8)



2. ibid.

3. ibid.

4.Christian Classics Ethereal Library - ccel.org

5. Lives of the Saints by Omer Englebert, 1951 - page 248

6. ibid.

7. Christian Classics Ethereal Library - op cit.

8. catholicculture.org Prayer Source: Table Blessings: Mealtime Prayers Throughout the Year by Brother

Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette, Ave Maria Press, 1994