On June 27 we celebrate the feast day of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and on June 28 we celebrate the feast day of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. These are two of the greatest early Church Fathers (Apostolic Fathers) who helped to shape the life, the teachings and the spirituality of the young Catholic Church.
“As our own fathers are the predecessors who have taught us, so the Fathers of the whole Church are especially the earliest teachers, who instructed her in the teachings of the Apostles, during her infancy and first growth.” – from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
What can the Fathers of the Church teach us?
“The Fathers offer us a unique and privileged look at the ancient Church. Granted that this is not the Church of the apostolic era, it is nonetheless the Church that emerged fresh from that era and that first developed what might be called the apostolic tradition. It was in the Patristic era that the Church took recognizable shape, and it is to that time, consequently, that we must return if we want to ask why the Church is the way it is and not some other way.
The Fathers were the first to face the full spectrum of problems and objections that Christianity was bound to encounter, and they provided responses that are classic, if no canonized. God as one and three, Christ as human and divine, the Church as spotless and sinful, the coherence of Scripture, the moral obligations of the Christian – these are the issues that the Fathers first addressed and that are still debated . . . To know tha Fathers, then, is to grasp the essentials of Christianity or, in others words, to be educated in the sensus catholicus, in the sense of what is truly Christian.” – from the book Beginning to Read the Fathers by Fr. Boniface Ramsey O.P.
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“In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority. Indeed, ‘the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.”
This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, ‘the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.' ‘The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the presence and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.
‘Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And (Holy) Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.'
As a result the Church, to whome the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Traditon must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”
– from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 77 – 78 and 81 – 82
More Fathers of the Church selections –
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Prayer for Christians, by St. Irenaeus of Lyons –
give perfection to beginners,
understanding to the little ones,
and help to those who are running their course.
Give sorrow to the negligent,
fervor to the lukewarm,
and a good consummation to the perfect.
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