It is difficult to summarize the gift of Irenaeus (pronounced eye-ren-AY-us) to the early Church. His birth year is uncertain, many say around AD 115-125. He grew up among the last of those who had personal acquaintance with the Apostles, was highly educated, and was taught by those discipled by the Apostles. Polycarp, a disciple of St. John and bishop of Smyrna was Irenaeus’s spiritual father.
He served the Church at Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyons in France) as a priest under the Bishop St. Pothinus. He had been sent to Rome and while there, persecutions under Marcus Aurelius were both violent and severe at home. Many died quickly from burns and wounds, while others lived through unspeakable tortures before being released by death. Among them was the ninety year old Bp. Pothinus. Irenaeus returned and succeeded him as bishop. His episcopate became chiefly devoted to exposing the the strange errors of Gnosticism and other false doctrines in his famous treatise in five books called popularly Against Heresies. Its original title was Detection and Overthrow of False Knowledge. A second important work was Proof of Apostolic Preaching .
Little is known about his martyrdom. No original documentary evidence has survived, but the title Martyr remains.
Here is the Collect for the Day
O God, who didst bestow upon blessed Irenaeus Thy Martyr and Bishop grace to overcome false doctrine by the teaching of the truth, and to stablish Thy Church in peace and prosperity: we beseech Thee, that Thou wouldest give Thy people constancy in Thy true religion; and grant us Thy peace all the days of our life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thanks be to God for the gift of godly and learned Bishops.