Another day, another Church Father -- and another great post from Mike Aquilina:
St. Irenaeus is a giant. Pay no mind to the modern academics who portray him as a meanie nun out to rap gnostic knuckles with a crozier-sized ruler. St. Irenaeus was a scholar's scholar, a biblical theologian of the first rank. He was a global diplomat who actually succeeded at making peace. And he was a holy, plain-speaking, and truth-telling bishop. If today's gnostic resurgents don't like him, it's because, after eighteen centuries and more, his critique is still right as rain and still raining all over the gnostic parade.
Irenaeus deserves a posthumous Purple Heart for having read all the available gnostic writings in their entirety. I have six children, but I cannot imagine that kind of patience. And most of the time he was able to address the gnostic arguments (I use the term loosely) in an even tone. Sometimes they raise his ire. Once their cosmology gets so flaky that it inspires the saint to compose a parody. There are times when only satire will do.
St. Irenaeus is an important link in tradition's golden chain. He probably composed his works when he was very old, in the late 100s in the land we now know as France. When he was a young man, though, he lived in Asia Minor, where he studied under the holy bishop Polycarp, who had himself converted to Christianity under St. John the Apostle. Irenaeus treasured the stories of John that he had learned from his master. His few, small anecdotes are a precious witness to the life of the apostle.
Father, you called Saint Irenaeus to uphold your truth and bring peace to your Church. By his prayers renew us in faith and love that we may always be intent on fostering unity and peace. Amen.