CHURCH FATHERS' BIOGRAPHIES

St. Alexander of Alexandria - Died 328 A.D.  Bishop and defender of the faith. He was born circa 250, probably in Alexandria, Egypt, becoming the bishop of the see in 313. The heresy of Arianism was sweeping the region, as Arius was preaching the doctrine there. Alexander excommunicated Arius in 321, a decision upheld by a council. Alexander is also credited with drawing up the acts of the First General Council of Nicaea in 325. He was described by contemporaries as "a lover of God...just...eloquent." His successor, St. Athanasius, was the choice of Alexander on his death bed.  His feast day is February 26th.

St. Ambrose of Milan - Born 340 A.D. Died 397 A.D. At 33, Ambrose had it all -- a successful career as a lawyer, an important position as governor of Milan, the approval and friendship of the emperor and a large estate. Then the bishop of Milan died. At this time, about 374, heresies threatened to destroy the Church. The bishop had supported the Arian heresy that argued against the divinity of Christ. Who would take his place -- an Arian or a Catholic? Both sides met in the cathedral and a riot broke out. Public order was Ambrose's responsibility as governor so he hurried to the church and made a passionate speech not in favor of either side, but in favor of peace. He begged the people to make their choice without fighting, using restraint and moderation. Suddenly, while he was speaking, a voice called out, "Ambrose for bishop!" Soon everyone was shouting, "Ambrose for bishop!" The other bishops of the province were only too glad to have this controversial decision taken out of their hands. But Ambrose was not about to give up a successful career for the dangerous position of bishop -- a life-threatening occupation in these heretical times. So Ambrose ran away. When he appealed to the emperor to overturn the decision on the basis that he hadn't even been baptized yet, the emperor answered that he was happy that he chose governors fit for the episcopal office. Ambrose hid in a senator's house but the senator surrendered Ambrose when he heard about the emperor's decision. With nowhere else to run, Ambrose gave in. Since he'd been forced to take the position, no one would have been surprised if he'd decided to keep on living the way that he had before ordination. Instead, Ambrose immediately gave his property to the poor and put himself under the instruction of Saint Simplician to learn Scripture and theology. The Arians thought Ambrose would be "their" bishop because Ambrose had been a member of court and many in government were Arians. But Ambrose used his skills as a lawyer and orator to fight the Arians in church, court, senate, and even the emperor's own family. The same stubbornness that had made him refuse the position in the first place was now his weapon in fighting heresy and pursuing sanctity. When the Goths invaded the empire and took captives, Ambrose paid out all the money he had in ransom. He said the best and most effective charity was ransoming captives and hostages. He even took all gold vessels belonging to the Church and had them melted down. He said, "It is a better thing to save souls for the Lord than to save treasures. He who sent forth his apostles without gold had not need of gold to form his Church. The Church possesses gold, not to hoard, but to scatter abroad and come to the aid of the unfortunate. "Would not the Lord say to us: 'Why have you let so many needy perish of hunger? Since you had gold, you should provide for their needs'...Could we say: 'I feared to leave the temple of God without ornament.' But that which can't be bought with gold does not take its value from gold. The best way to use the gold of the Redeemer is for the redemption of those in peril." Ambrose always was more concerned for the poor than for power. He often reproached the wealthy for ignoring the poor: "God created the universe in such a manner that all in common might derive their food from it, and that the earth should also be a property common to all. Why do you reject one who has the same rights over nature as you? It is not from your own goods that you give to the beggar; it is a portion of his own that you are restoring to him. The earth belongs to all. So you are paying back a debt and think you are making a gift to which you are not bound." When the emperor died, the Empress Justina, an Arian, became regent for her four year old son. Maximus, a former Roman soldier, realized the emperor's death might weaken the empire enough for his army to conquer it.. Justina begged Ambrose to negotiate with him. In spite of the fact that she was his enemy, Ambrose went on a diplomatic mission that convinced Maximus not to invade. Justina's idea of showing gratitude to Ambrose was to demand that Ambrose's basilica be handed over the Arians. Ambrose answered that he would never give up the temple of God. The people were on Ambrose's side. It is possible he could have even started a coup to overthrow Justina. But Ambrose was careful never to say or do anything to start violence. When Catholics seized an Arian priest and were going to put him to death, Ambrose intervened in the name of peace and prayed God suffer no blood to be shed. He sent out priests and deacons to rescue his Arian enemy. Ambrose said, "When I was told the church was surrounded with soldiers I said I cannot give it up but I must not fight." The soldiers came in to the basilica -- but they came in to pray. Justina then persuaded her son to make a law legalizing Arians and forbidding Catholics to oppose Arians under pain a death. No one could even present a petition against a church being yielded up. On Palm Sunday, Ambrose preached a sermon about not giving up churches. The congregation, afraid for their lives, barricaded themselves in the basilica with their pastor Ambrose. The imperial troops surrounded the basilica in an attempt to starve them out, but on Easter Sunday all the people were still inside. In the face of arms and soldiers, Ambrose said, "My only arms are my tears. I will never depart willingly but I won't resist by force." In order to calm the frightened people Ambrose taught them to sing hymns he had composed. He split the congregation in two in order to alternate verses of the hymns. This is our first record of communal singing in church. The music of praise and prayer seeped out through the walls of the basilica and into the hearts of the soldiers. Soon the soldiers outside joined in the singing. The siege ended. With the military concentrated on fighting Catholics, Maximus decided Rome was ready for an invasion. Justina and her son were panic-stricken. What could they do? They turned to one person they knew could handle the mission -- the person they had just attacked and threatened. They asked Ambrose to go to Maximus again and stop his invasion. Who would have blamed Ambrose for refusing? In a miraculous act of forgiveness, Ambrose went on this mission for his enemies. When Maximus refused to compromise, Ambrose hurried home to warn them. Justina and her son fled to Greece, while Ambrose stayed behind. Fortunately, the eastern Emperor Theodosius intervened and defeated Maximus. However, Theodosius then took over control of the whole empire. Theodosius was Catholic and became a lifelong friend of Ambrose. Ambrose died in 397, at about the age of 57. His memorial is celebrated on December 7th, the date of his ordination.

St. Aristides - Lived in the 2nd century. A confessor of the faith and Athenian philosopher. He wrote an Apologia for Christianity, presented to Emperor Hadrian in 125. His text was included in a work by Sts. Barlaam and Josaphat. His feast day is August 31st.

St. Athanasius - Died 373 A.D. St. Athanasius, the great champion of the Faith was born at Alexandria, about the year 296, of Christian parents. Educated under the eye of Alexander, later Bishop of his native city, he made great progress in learning and virtue. In 313, Alexander succeeded Achillas in the Patriarchal See, and two years later St. Athanasius went to the desert to spend some time in retreat with St. Anthony. In 319, he became a deacon, and even in this capacity he was called upon to take an active part against the rising heresy of Arius, an ambitious priest of the Alexandrian Church who denied the Divinity of Christ. This was to be the life struggle of St. Athanasius. In 325, he assisted his Bishop at the Council of Nicaea, where his influence began to be felt. Five months later Alexander died. On his death bed he recommended St. Athanasius as his successor. In consequence of this, Athanasius was unanimously elected Patriarch in 326. His refusal to tolerate the Arian heresy was the cause of many trials and persecutions for St. Athanasius. He spent seventeen of the forty-six years of his episcopate in exile. After a life of virtue and suffering, this intrepid champion of the Catholic Faith, the greatest man of his time, died in peace on May 2, 373. St. Athanasius was a Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

St. Augustine of Hippo - Born 354 A.D.  Died 430 A.D.  St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break. This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. "What are we doing?" he cried to his friend Alipius. "Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!" Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, "How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?" Just then he heard a child singing, "Take up and read!" Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life. He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable, too. On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: "Here we do not speak evil of anyone." St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. "Too late have I loved You!" he once cried to God, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion. His feast day is August 28th.

St. Barnabas - Died 61 A.D.  All we know of Barnabas is to be found in the New Testament. A Jew, born in Cyprus and named Joseph, he sold his property, gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas, and lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He persuaded the community there to accept Paul as a disciple, was sent to Antioch, Syria, to look into the community there, and brought Paul there from Tarsus. With Paul he brought Antioch's donation to the Jerusalem community during a famine, and returned to Antioch with John Mark, his cousin. The three went on a missionary journey to Cyprus, Perga (when John Mark went to Jerusalem), and Antioch in Pisidia, where they were so violently opposed by the Jews that they decided to preach to the pagans. Then they went on to Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia, where they were first acclaimed gods and then stoned out of the city, and then returned to Antioch in Syria. When a dispute arose regarding the observance of the Jewish rites, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, where, at a council, it was decided that pagans did not have to be circumcised to be baptized. On their return to Antioch, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on another visitation to the cities where they had preached, but Paul objected because of John Mark's desertion of them in Perga. Paul and Barnabas parted, and Barnabas returned to Cyprus with Mark; nothing further is heard of him, though it is believed his rift with Paul was ultimately healed. Tradition has Barnabas preaching in Alexandria and Rome, the founder of the Cypriote Church, the Bishop of Milan (which he was not), and has him stoned to death at Salamis about the year 61. The apochryphal Epistle of Barnabas was long attributed to him, but modern scholarship now attributes it to a Christian in Alexandria between the years 70 and 100; the Gospel of Barnabas is probably by an Italian Christian who became a Mohammedan; and the Acts of Barnabas once attributed to John Mark are now known to have been written in the fifth century. His feast day is June 11th.

St. Basil the Great - Born 330 A.D.  Died 379 A.D.  St. Basil the Great was born at Caesarea of Cappadocia in 330. He was one of ten children of St. Basil the Elder and St. Emmelia. Several of his brothers and sisters are honored among the saints. He attended school in Caesarea, as well as Constantinople and Athens, where he became acquainted with St. Gregory Nazianzen in 352. A little later, he opened a school of oratory in Caesarea and practiced law. Eventually he decided to become a monk and found a monastery in Pontus which he directed for five years. He wrote a famous monastic rule which has proved the most lasting of those in the East. After founding several other monasteries, he was ordained and, in 370, made bishop of Caesaria. In this post until his death in 379, he continued to be a man of vast learning and constant activity, genuine eloquence and immense charity. This earned for him the title of "Great" during his life and Doctor of the Church after his death. Basil was one of the giants of the early Church. He was responsible for the victory of Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism in the Byzantine East, and the denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381-82 was in large measure due to his efforts. Basil fought simony, aided the victims of drought and famine, strove for a better clergy, insisted on a rigid clerical discipline, fearlessly denounced evil wherever he detected it, and excommunicated those involved in the widespread prostitution traffic in Cappadocia. He was learned, accomplished in statesmanship, a man of great personal holiness, and one of the great orators of Christianity. His feast day is January 2nd.

St. Clement of Alexandria - Died 217 A.D.  Confessor and teacher at the Catechetical School in Alexandria, Egypt. Born Titus Flavius Clemens, he trained Origen and left numerous writings.  His feast day is December 4th.

St. Clement of Rome - Lived in the 1st century A.D.  Died 100 A.D.  He is believed to have been the fourth bishop of Rome and served during the last decade of the first century. Around 96, he sent a letter from the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth, a major city in northeastern Greece and the site of St. Paul's evangelization. This letter, known as Clement's First Epistle to the Corinthians, is most likely directed against immoral practices of prostitution connected with the Temple of Aphrodite. In the letter, Clement expresses his dissatisfaction with events taking place in the Corinthian Church and asks the people to repent for their un-Christian ways. The letter is important because it indicates that the author was acting as the head of the Christian Church and that it was centered in Rome. Clement was allegedly put to death under Emperor Domitian.  His feast day is November 23rd.

St. Cyprian of Carthage - Born 200 A.D.  Died 258 A.D.  Bishop often called the African Pope, was an important Patristic writer of the early Church. His writings can be found in most patristic books. One of the early writers of the Primacy of the Pope as stated in "The Unity of the Catholic Church." A very important writer which shows that the Protestant view that the Chair of Peter was a later invention, is false. His feast day is September 16th.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem - Born 315 A.D.  Died 386 A.D.  Bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church. In the East his feast is observed on the 18th of March, in the West on the 18th or 20th. Little is known of his life. We gather information concerning him from his younger contemporaries, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Rufinus, as well as from the fifth-century historians, Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret. Cyril himself gives us the date of his "Catechesis" as fully seventy years after the Emperor Probus, that is about 347, if he is exact. Constans (d. 350) was then still alive. St. Jerome relates (Chron. ad ann. 352) that Cyril had been ordained priest by St. Maximus, his predecessor, after whose death the episcopate was promised to Cyril by the metropolitan, Acacius of Caesarea, and the other Arian bishops, on condition that he should repudiate the ordination he had received from Maximus. He consented to minister as deacon only, and was rewarded for this impiety with the see. Maximus had consecrated Heraclius to succeed himself, but Cyril, by various frauds, degraded Heraclius to the priesthood. So says St. Jerome; but Socrates relates that Acacius drove out St. Maximus and substituted St. Cyril. A quarrel soon broke out between Cyril and Acacius, apparently on a question of precedence or jurisdiction. At Nicaea the metropolitan rights of Caesarea had been guarded, while a special dignity had been granted to Jerusalem. Yet St. Maximus had held a synod and had ordained bishops. This may have been as much as the cause of Acacius' enmity to him as his attachment to the Nicene formula. On the other hand, Cyril's correct Christology may have been the real though veiled ground of the hostility of Acacius to him. At all events, in 357 Acacius caused Cyril to be exiled on the charge of selling church furniture during a famine. Cyril took refuge with Silvanus, Bishop of Taraus. He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the semi-Arian party was triumphant. Acacius was deposed and St. Cyril seems to have returned to his see. But the emperor was displeased at the turn of events, and, in 360, Cyril and other moderates were again driven out, and only returned at the accession of Julian in 361. In 367, a decree of Valens banished all the bishops who had been restored by Julian, and Cyril remained in exile until the death of the persecutor in 378. In 380, St. Gregory of Nyssa came to Jerusalem on the recommendation of a council held at Antioch in the preceding year. He found the Faith in accord with the truth, but the city a prey to parties and corrupt in morals. St. Cyril attended the great Council of Constantinople in 381, at which Theodosius had ordered the Nicene faith, now a law of the empire, to be promulgated. St. Cyril then formally accepted the homoousion; Socrates and Sozomen call this an act of repentance. Socrates gives 385 for St. Cyril's death, but St. Jerome tells us that St. Cyril lived eight years under Theodosius, that is, from January 379.  His feast day is March 18th.

St. Epiphanius of Salamis - Born at Besanduk, Palestine, c. 315; died at sea in 403. Born into a Hellenized Jewish family, Epiphanius became an expert in the languages needed to understand Scripture. From his earliest youth, he was a monk in Palestine. Later he went to Egypt and stayed at several desert communities. He returned to Palestine about 333, was ordained, and became superior of a monastery at Eleutheropolis (Beit Jibrin), which he had built in his youth and which he directed for 30 years.  He achieved a widespread reputation for his scholarship, austerities, mortifications, spiritual wisdom, and advice. Called "the Oracle of Palestine," he became bishop of Constantia (Salamis), Cyprus, and metropolitan of Cyprus in 367, although still continuing as superior of his monastery. His reputation was such that he was one of the few orthodox bishops not harassed by Arian Emperor Valens, though Epiphanius preached vigorously against Arianism.  He supported Bishop Paulinus in 376 at Antioch against the claims of Metetius and the Eastern bishops, and attended a council in Rome summoned by Pope Saint Damasus in 382. Late in his life Epiphanius was embroiled in several unpleasant episodes with fellow prelates. First, he ordained a priest in another bishop's diocese.  He also denounced his host, Bishop John of Jerusalem, in John's cathedral in 394 for John's softness to Origenism (he believed Origen responsible for many of the heresies of the times). This won for Epiphanius the friendship of Saint Jerome, who was a bitter opponent of Origen. (It is said that there was a test of wills between Jerome and Origen; the winner of the crown was the one who outlived the other, Jerome.) Like Saint Jerome, Epiphanius was too immoderate in his zeal and unable to use tact and discretion in his polemics.  When Epiphanius was nearly 80, in 402, at the behest of Bishop Theophilus of Alexandria, the saint went to Constantinople to support Theophilus in his campaign against Saint John Chrysostom, and the four "Tall Brothers" and then admitted he knew nothing of their teachings. Yes, even a saint can be headstrong or ornery at times.  When he realized he was being used as a tool by Theophilus against Saint John Chrysostom, who had given refuge to the monks persecuted by Theophilus and who were appealing to the emperor, and Epiphanius started back to Salamis, only to die on the way home.  He wrote numerous theological treatises, among them Ancoratus, on the Trinity and the Resurrection; Panarion (The Medicine Box) on some 80 heresies--real and imagined--and their refutations. The number 80 was chosen to correspond with the 'four-score concubines' of the Song of Songs (6:8) . He also authored De mensuribus et ponderibus, on ancient Jewish customs and measures. He was an authority on devotion to Mary and taught the primacy of Peter among the Apostles.

St. Ephraim (or Ephrem) of Syria - Died 373? A.D. Ephraim the Syrian left us hundreds of hymns and poems on the faith that inflamed and inspired the whole Church, but few facts about his own inspiring life. Most historians infer from the lines quoted above that Ephraim was born into a Christian family -- although not baptized until an adult (the trial or furnace), which was common at the time. Other than that little is known about his birth and youth although many guess he was born in the early fourth century in Mesopotamia, possibly in Nisibis where he spent most of his adult life. Ephraim served as teacher, and possibly deacon, under four bishops of Nisibis, Jacob, Babu, Vologeses, and Abraham. According to tradition, Ephraim began to write hymns in order to counteract the heresies that were rampant at that time. For those who think of hymns simply as the song at the end of Mass that keeps us from leaving the church early, it may come as a surprise that Ephraim and others recognized and developed the power of music to get their points across. Tradition tells us that Ephraim heard the heretical ideas put into song first and in order to counteract them made up his own hymns. The originality, imagery, and skill of his hymns captured the hearts of the Christians so well, that Ephraim is given credit for awakening the Church to the importance of music and poetry in spreading and fortifying the faith. Ephraim's home was in physical as well as spiritual danger. Nisibis, a target of Shapur II, the King of Persia, was besieged by him three times. During the third siege in in 350, Shapur's engineers turned the river out of its course in order to flood the city. The flood, however, turned the tide against Shapur. When he tried to invade he found his army obstructed by the very waters and ruin he had caused. The defenders of the city, including Ephraim, took advantage of the chaos to ambush the invaders and drive them out. In the end, however, Nisibis lost. When Shapur defeated the Roman emperor Jovian, he demanded the city as part of the treaty. Jovian not only gave him the city but agreed to force the Christians to leave Nisibis. Probably in his fifties or sixties at that time, Ephraim was one of the refugees who fled the city in 363. Sometime in 364 he settled as a solitary ascetic on Mount Edessa, at Edessa (what is now Urfa) 100 miles east of his home. In the time before monks and monasteries, many devout Christians drawn to a religious life dedicated themselves as ihidaya (single and single-minded followers of Christ). As one of these Eprhaim lived an ascetic, celibate life for his last years. Heresy and danger followed him to Edessa. The Arian Emperor Valens camped outside of Edessa threatening to kill all the Christian inhabitants if they did not submit. But Valens was the one forced to give up in the face of the courage and steadfastness of the Edessans. Tradition tells us that during the famine that hit Edessa in 372, Ephraim was horrified to learn that some citizens were hoarding food. When he confronted them, he received the age-old excuse that they couldn't find a fair way or honest person to distribute the food. Ephraim immediately volunteered himself and it is a sign of how respected he was that no one was able to argue with this choice. He and his helpers worked diligently to get food to the needy in the city and the surrounding area. The famine ended in a year of abundant harvest the following year and Ephraim died shortly thereafter, as we are told, at an advanced age. We do not know the exact date or year of his death but June 9, 373 is accepted by many.

St. Gregory Nazianzus - Born 329 A.D.  Died 390 A.D. One of the three Cappaddocian Fathers (the other two being Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa) and a Doctor of the Church, was the son of the bishop of Nazianzus in Cappadocia. He was educated broadly in Christian writings, especially Origen, and in Greek philosopy. While studying in Cappadocian Caesarea, he met Basil, and formed a friendship that had both good and bad effects on his life. Together they assembled the Philocalia, an anthology of Origen's works. Gregory's mother, Nonna, formed the center of faith in his family and encouraged him toward the ascetic life. Yet, under forcible influence from his father, he was ordained a priest. Having trouble choosing between ascetic and public life, he fled more than once into monastic retreat when community demands plagued him. From 379-381 he served the Nicene minority as bishop of Constantinople. He thought that belief in God's incomprehensibility was crucial for orthodox theology. His rhetorical skill and defense of the Nicene position, as shown in his five Theological Orations, earned him the title "The Theologian."

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus - Born in 213 A.D. Died 270 A.D. Gregory was of a distinguished pagan family. He was born at Neocaesarea, Pontus, and studied law there. About 233, he and his brother, Athenodorus, accompanied his sister, who was joining her husband in Caesarea, Palestine, while they continued on to Beirut to continue their law studies. They met Origen and instead of going to Beirut, entered his school at Caesarea, studied theology, were converted to Christianity by Origen, and became his disciples. Gregory returned to Neocaesarea about 238, intending to practice law, but was elected bishop by the seventeen Christians of the city. It soon became apparent that he was gifted with remarkable powers. He preached eloquently, made so many converts he was able to build a church, and soon was so reknowned for his miracles that he was surnamed Thaumaturgus (the wonder-worker). He was a much-sought-after arbiter for his wisdom and legal knowledge and ability, advised his flock to go into hiding when Decius' persecution of the Christians broke out in 250, and fled to the desert with his deacon. On his return, he ministered to his flock when plague struck his See and when the Goths devastated Pontus, 252-254, which he described in his "Canonical Letter." He participated in the synod of Antioch, 264-265, against Samosata, and fought Sabellianism and Tritheism. It is reported that at his death at Neocaesarea, only seventeen unbelievers were left in the city. He is invoked against floods and earthquakes (at one time he reportedly stopped the flooding of Lycus, and at another, he moved a mountain). According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Thaumaturgus experienced a vision of Our Lady, the first such recorded vision. He wrote a panegyric to Origen, a treatise on the Creed, and a dissertation addressed to Theopompus; St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote a panegyric to Gregory Thaumaturgus. His feast day is November 17th.

St. Hilary of Poitiers - Died 368 A.D. Bishop and Doctor of the Church. He was a noble born in Poitiers, France, where he became a Christian. In 350, he was made bishop of Poitiers, although he had been married in his younger years. Hilary refused to attend the Synod of Milan, Italy, called by Emperor Constantius II in 355, because he would not condemn St. Athanasius with the other Arian heretics. Condemned himself in return and banished, he went to Phrygia. In 359 Hilary argued so brilliantly against the Arians that the bishop at Seleucia, in Babylonia, persuaded the emperor to end Hilary’s exile. Hilary returned to Poitiers the following year. In 361, Hilary had Arian Bishop Saturninus, who had been responsible for his exile, deposed. Constantius died in the same year, ending Arian domination. He also publicly disputed Auxentius, a major Arian, and defeated him. Hilary died in Poitiers on November 1st , and was one of the leading theologians of his era. His treatises include De Trinitate, De Svnodis and Opus Historicum. He is called “the Doctor of the Divinity of Christ,” declared of this rank by Pope Pius IX in 1851.  His feast day is January 13th.

St. Hippolytus - Died 235 A.D.   Martyr of Rome, with Concordia and other companions, he is a controversial figure who censured Pope St. Callistus I. Hippolytus was slain in Sardinia where he had been exiled for being elected as an antipope, the first in the history of the Church. He was reconciled to the Church before his martyrdom. His writings were important, including A Refutation of All Heresies, Song of Songs, and The Apostolic Tradition .  His feast day is August 13th.

St. Ignatius of Antioch - Died 107 A.D.  Ignatius was a convert to the Faith and a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. St. Chrysostom says that St. Peter appointed him Bishop of Antioch, which See he governed for forty years. The saint longed to shed his blood for Christ but the opportunity was not granted him during the persecution under Domitian. While the short reign of Nerva lasted the Church was in peace, but under Trajan persecution broke out anew. In the year 107, the Emperor came to Antioch. St. Ignatius was seized and brought before him. Having confessed Christ, he was condemned to be taken in chains to Rome, there to be exposed to the wild beasts. During this last journey he was welcomed by the faithful of Smyrna, Troas, and other places along the way. He arrived in Rome just as the public spectacles in the amphitheater were drawing to a close. The faithful of the city came out to meet him. He was at once hurried to the amphitheater, where two fierce lions immediately devoured him. He ended his saintly life by a glorious death, exclaiming, "May I become agreeable bread to the Lord." His remains were carried to Antioch, where they were interred. In the reign of Theodosius they were transferred to a church within the city. At present they are venerated in Rome. During his long journey he addressed seven epistles to various congregations, in which, as a disciple of the Apostles, he testifies to the dogmatic character of Apostolic Christianity.  His feast day is October 17th.

St. Irenaeus - Born 125 A.D.  Died 202 A.D. The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a high place among the fathers of the Church, for they not only laid the foundations of Christian theology but, by exposing and refuting the errors of the gnostics, they delivered the Catholic Faith from the real danger of the doctrines of those heretics. He was probably born about the year 125, in one of those maritime provinces of Asia Minor where the memory of the apostles was still cherished and where Christians were numerous. He was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples. Many Asian priests and missionaries brought the gospel to the pagan Gauls and founded a local church. To this church of Lyon, Irenaeus came to serve as a priest under its first bishop, St. Pothinus, an Oriental like himself. In the year 177, Irenaeus was sent to Rome. This mission explains how it was that he was not called upon to share in the martyrdom of St. Pothinus during the terrible persecution in Lyons. When he returned to Lyons it was to occupy the vacant bishopric. By this time, the persecution was over. It was the spread of gnosticism in Gaul, and the ravages it was making among the Christians of his diocese, that inspired him to undertake the task of exposing its errors. He produced a treatise in five books in which he sets forth fully the inner doctrines of the various sects, and afterwards contrasts them with the teaching of the Apostles and the text of the Holy Scripture. His work, written in Greek but quickly translated to Latin, was widely circulated and succeeded in dealing a death-blow to Gnosticism. At any rate, from that time onwards, it ceased to offer a serious menace to the Catholic faith. The date of death of St. Irenaeus is not known, but it is believed to be in the year 202. The bodily remains of St. Irenaeus were buried in a crypt under the altar of what was then called the church of St. John, but was later known by the name of St. Irenaeus himself. This tomb or shrine was destroyed by the Calvinists in 1562, and all trace of his relics seems to have perished. His feast is June 28th.

St. Jerome - Born 347 A.D.  Died 419 A.D.  St. Jerome was baptized when he was 18 by Pope Liberius. An ambitious and hard worker, St. Jerome began building a library that became one of the most famous in the world, copying most of the books himself. He continued this practice while living as a hermit, learning several languages in order to translate the works. His nights were spent writing letters and suffering the usual austerities of living in the desert. In only a few years, he left after growing tired of the laxity of the other hermits. While living in Rome as a secretary to Pope Damasus, and under his direction, St. Jerome completed copying the New Testament into Latin. He was only 40 years old at the time. He then continued with the Old Testament, having the assistance of several learned companions. During his life he made numerous enemies because of his fierce attacks on pagan life, his denouncement of several heresies, and his sometimes abrupt demeanor. On the death of Pope Damasus, who was his supporter and protector, he decided to return to the East, and eventually settled in Bethlehem with a small community he had formed. St. Jerome died in Bethlehem, with his head resting in the manger where Our Lord was born.  His feast day is September 30th.

St. John Cassian - Died 433 A.D. Eastern monk and theological writer. He went to Palestine in 380 with a companion, Germanus, and became a monk in Egypt. In 400 he entered into the discipleship of St. John Chrysostom, going to Rome to defend the much-oppressed saint before Pope Innocent I. Ordained in Rome, John started monasteries in southern France, near Marseilles, thus helping to pioneer monasticism in Europe. His two main writings, Institutes of the Monastic Life and Conferences on the Egyptian Monks, were much praised by St. Benedict and were long influential; the former had a direct impact upon Benedict during the time that he was composing his famed Rule. John also authored the work De Incarnatione Doniini, in seven books, at the behest of Pope Leo I the Great so as to inform the Western Church of the details of the teachings of the heresiarch Nestorius. His feast day is July 23rd.

St. John Chrysostom - Born 344? A.D.  Died 407 A.D. St. John, named Chrysostom (golden-mouthed) on account of his eloquence, came into the world of Christian parents, about the year 344, in the city of Antioch. His mother, at the age of 20, was a model of virtue. He studied rhetoric under Libanius, a pagan, the most famous orator of the age. In 374, he began to lead the life of an anchorite in the mountains near Antioch, but in 386 the poor state of his health forced him to return to Antioch, where he was ordained a priest. In 398, he was elevated to the See of Constantinople and became one of the greatest lights of the Church. But he had enemies in high places and some were ecclesiastics, not the least being Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who repented of this before he died. His most powerful enemy, however, was the empress Eudoxia, who was offended by the apostolic freedom of his discourses. Several accusations were brought against him in a pseudo-council, and he was sent into exile. In the midst of his sufferings, like the apostle, St. Paul, whom he so greatly admired, he found the greatest peace and happiness. He had the consolation of knowing that the Pope remained his friend, and did for him what lay in his power. His enemies were not satisfied with the sufferings he had already endured, and they banished him still further, to Pythius, at the very extremity of the Empire. He died on his way there on September 14, 407.  His feast day is September 13th.

St. Justin Martyr - Died 165 A.D. Martyr, philosopher, and defender of Christianity. He was born into a pagan family at Flavia Neopolis, or Nablus, in Palestine. At the age of thirty, he became a Christian and traveled to debate pagan philosophers, eventually going to Rome. There he was denounced and tried with Charita, Chariton, Euelpistus, Hierox, Liberianus and Paeon. They were scourged and beheaded. Jus­tin, also called “the Philosopher,” was the first layman to serve as an apologist. His works include Apologies for the Christian Religion and Dialogue with the Jew Trypho. The records of Justin’s trial are extant. His feast day is June 1st.

St. Methodius - Died 311.  Bishop and martyr, famous for his writings. St. Jerome wrote of his martyrdom at Chalcis, in modern Greece. Methodius was the bishop of Olympus, Lycia, in Asia Minor. He then ruled Tyre, Lebanon, or possibly Patara, in Lycia, and was the author of the treatise On the Resurrection and the Symposium.

St. Optatus - Died 387 A.D. Bishop of Milevis, Numidia, in Africa. A convert from paganism, he is best known for his opposition to the heresy of Donatism and his six treatises composed against them. One of them, Against Parmenian, is still extant, and was mentioned by St. Jerome in his De Viris Illustribus as having been composed in six books. The treatise stresses the need for unity and is conciliatory in tone, but it criticizes Donatist teachings on Baptism, and stresses that the Church cannot be limited to Africa but is “catholic.” Optatus was much praised by such contemporaries as Augustine and Fulgentius of Ruspe. His feast day is June 4th.

St. Peter of Alexandria - Died 311 A.D. Bishop of Alexandria from 300. A native of Alexandria, Egypt, Peter survived the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian and served as a confessor for the suffering Christians. Made head of the famed Catechetical School of Alexandria, he was a vigorous opponent of Origenism before receiving appointment as bishop. He composed a set of rules by which those who had lapsed might be re-admitted to the faith after appropriate penance, a settlement which was not to the liking of extremists of the community. Thus, in 306 when the persecutions began again, Peter was forced to flee the city. The partisans of Melitius, Peter’s chief critic, installed their favorite as bishop of Alexandria, thereby starting the Melitian Schism which troubled the see for many years. Peter returned to Alexandria in 311 after a lull in the persecutions, but was soon arrested and beheaded by Roman officials acting on the decree of Emperor Maximian. He is called the “seal and complement of martyrs” as he was the last Christian slain by Roman authorities. Eusebius of Caesarea described him as “a model bishop, remarkable for his virtuous life and his ardent study of the Scriptures.” He is much revered by the Coptic Christians, although since 1969, his cult has been confined to local calendars in the Catholic Church. His feast day is November 26th.

St. Polycarp - Died 156 A.D. Imagine being able to sit at the feet of the apostles and hear their stories of life with Jesus from their own lips. Imagine walking with those who had walked with Jesus, seen him, and touched him. That was what Polycarp was able to do as a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. But being part of the second generation of Church leaders had challenges that the first generation could not teach about. What did you do when those eyewitnesses were gone? How do you carry on the correct teachings of Jesus? How do you answer new questions that never came up before? With the apostles gone, heresies sprang up pretending to be true teaching, persecution was strong, and controversies arose over how to celebrate Liturgy that Jesus had never laid down rules for. Polycarp, as a holy man and bishop of Smyrna, found there was only one answer -- to be true to the life of Jesus and imitate that life. Saint Ignatius of Antioch told Polycarp "your mind is grounded in God as on an immovable rock." When faced with heresy, he showed the "candid face" that Ignatius admired and that imitated Jesus' response to the Pharisees. Marcion, the leader of the Marcionites who followed a dualistic heresy, confronted Polycarp and demanded respect by saying, "Recognize us, Polycarp." Polycarp responded, "I recognize you, yes, I recognize the son of Satan." On the other hand when faced with Christian disagreements he was all forgiveness and respect. One of the controversies of the time came over the celebration of Easter. The East, where Polycarp was from, celebrated the Passover as the Passion of Christ followed by a Eucharist on the following day. The West celebrated Easter on the Sunday of the week following Passover. When Polycarp went to Rome to discuss the difference with Pope Anicetus, they could not agree on this issue. But they found no difference in their Christian beliefs. And Anicetus asked Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in his own papal chapel. Polycarp faced persecution the way Christ did. His own church admired him for following the "gospel model" -- not chasing after martyrdom as some did, but avoiding it until it was God's will as Jesus did. They considered it "a sign of love to desire not to save oneself alone, but to save also all the Christian brothers and sisters." One day, during a bloody martyrdom when Christians were attacked by wild animals in the arena, the crowd became so mad that they demanded more blood by crying, "Down with the atheists; let Polycarp be found." (They considered Christians "atheists" because they didn't believe in their pantheon of gods.) Since Polycarp was not only known as a leader but as someone holy "even before his grey hair appeared," this was a horrible demand. Polycarp was calm but others persuaded him to leave the city and hide at a nearby farm. He spent his time in prayer for people he knew and for the Church. During his prayer he saw a vision of his pillow turned to fire and announced to his friends that the dream meant he would be burned alive. As the search closed in, he moved to another farm, but the authorities discovered he was there by torturing two boys. He had a little warning since he was upstairs in the house but he decided to stay, saying, "God's will be done." Then he went downstairs, talked to his captors and fed them a meal. All he asked of them was that they give him an hour to pray. He spent two hours praying for everyone he had ever known and for the Church, "remembering all who had at any time come his way -- small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world." Many of his captors started to wonder why they were arresting this holy, eighty-six-year-old bishop. But that didn't stop them from taking him into the arena on the Sabbath. As he entered the arena, the crowd roared like the animals they cheered. Those around Polycarp heard a voice from heaven above the crowd, "Be brave, Polycarp, and act like a man." The pro-consul begged the eighty-six-year-old bishop to give in because of his age. "Say 'Away with the atheists'" the pro-consul urged. Polycarp calmly turned to the face the crowd, looked straight at them, and said, "Away with the atheists." The pro-consul continued to plead with him. When he asked Polycarp to swear by Caesar to save himself, Polycarp answered, "If you imagine that I will swear by Caesar, you do not know who I am. Let me tell you plainly, I am a Christian." Finally, when all else failed the pro-consul reminded Polycarp that he would be thrown to the wild animals unless he changed his mind. Polycarp answered, "Change of mind from better to worse is not a change allowed to us." Because of Polycarp's lack of fear, the pro-consul told him he would be burned alive but Polycarp knew that the fire that burned for an hour was better than eternal fire. When he was tied up to be burned, Polycarp prayed, "Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and powers, of the whole creation and of the whole race of the righteous who live in your sight, I bless you, for having made me worthy of this day and hour, I bless you, because I may have a part, along with the martyrs, in the chalice of your Christ, to resurrection in eternal life, resurrection both of soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, among those who are in your presence, as you have prepared and foretold and fulfilled, God who is faithful and true. For this and for all benefits I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be to you with him and the Holy Spirit glory, now and for all the ages to come. Amen." The fire was lit as Polycarp said "Amen" and then the eyewitnesses who reported said they saw a miracle. The fire burst up in an arch around Polycarp, the flames surrounding him like sails, and instead of being burned he seemed to glow like bread baking, or gold being melted in a furnace. When the captors saw he wasn't being burned, they stabbed him. The blood that flowed put the fire out. The pro-consul wouldn't let the Christians have the body because he was afraid they would worship Polycarp. The witnesses reported this with scorn for the lack of understanding of Christian faith: "They did not know that we can never abandon the innocent Christ who suffered on behalf of sinners for the salvation of those in this world." After the body was burned, they stole the bones in order to celebrate the memory of his martyrdom and prepare others for persecution. The date was February 23, 156.

St. Sechnall of Ireland - Born c. 375. Died 447. Sechnall was sent from Gaul in 439(?) to assist his uncle, Saint Patrick, in Ireland, together with Auxilius and Iserninus. He became the first bishop of Dunslaughlin in Meath, and then auxiliary bishop of Armagh. He wrote several hymns, notably the alphabetical hymn Audites, omnes amantes Deum (the oldest known Latin hymn written in Ireland) in honor of Patrick and the earliest Latin hymn in Ireland, and Sancti, venite, Christi corpus sumite . His feast day is November 27th.

St. Victorinus - Died 284 A.D. Martyr with companions. A citizen of Corinth, Greece, he was exiled with a group of fellow Christians to Egypt during the persecutions under Emperor Numerian. Victor and the others had been exiled in 249 and lived in Egypt. Under Governor Sabinus they were arrested again, brutally tortured, and finally executed at Diospolis.  His feast day is February 24th.


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