A Tribute to the Great Fathers of the Church

1. St Ignatius AD 35 107 

Ignatius was the third Bishop of the Church of Antioch, St Peter the Apostle being the first. During the persecution under Trajan, he was condemned to be devoured by wild beasts, and was sent in chains to Rome. During this voyage, which was made by sea, he had to stop at Smyrna, where Polycarp, the disciple of St John, was Bishop. From this city, he wrote several Epistles: one to the Ephesians, a second to the Magnesians, a third to the Trallians, a fourth to the Romans. When he had left Smyrna, he addressed an Epistle to the Philadelphians and Smyrneans, and one to Polycarp himself, recommending to him his Church of Antioch. It is in this last-named Letter that he quotes from the Gospel which I have lately translated a passage bearing testimony to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I cannot pass by this mention of so great a man, without citing a few sentences from the Epistle which he wrote to the Romans. From Syria, he says, "Even unto Rome, I am fighting with wild beasts, both by sea and land, both night and day, for I am fastened to ten leopards, I mean to the soldiers who have care of me. When I show them a kindness, they grow more brutal. Their injuries are my instruction, but I am not thereby justified. I long for the wild beasts that are prepared for me, which I heartily wish may rush upon me and torture me and devour me, and not be afraid to touch me, as has happened with other Martyrs. Nay, if they refuse to approach me, I will make them come on, I will rush upon them, that so they may devour me. Pardon me, my little children: I know what is for my own welfare.

Now do I begin to be a disciple of Christ, and care for nothing in this world, that so I may find Jesus. Let fire, or the cross, or wild beasts, or the breaking of my bones, or the cutting me to pieces, or the shattering of my whole body, yea, all the tortures of the devil let them all come upon me, only let me enjoy my God." When he was sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts, and heard the roaring of the lions, his impatience to suffer made him exclaim: "I am the wheat of Christ; let me be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I may become the pure bread." He suffered in the eleventh year of Trajan's reign. His Relics are at Antioch, in the Cemetery outside the Daphne Gate.

Written by St Jerome, AD 342 to 420
Translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible

2. St Polycarp AD 69 155

Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, who ordained him Bishop of Smyrna, was looked up to by all the Churches of Asia, inasmuch as be had not only known some of the Apostles, and those who had seen our Lord, but had been trained by them. He went to Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and under the Pontificate of Anicetus, in order to have an answer to certain questions regarding Easter-day.

Whilst there, he brought back to the faith several Christians who had been misled by the teaching of Marcion and Valentine. Having, on a certain occasion, casually met Marcion, who said to him: "Dost thou know us?" Polycarp replied: "Yes, I know thee as the firstborn of Satan." Some time after, under the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, in the fourth persecution after that under Nero, he was cited before the Pro-consul of Smyrna, who condemned him to be burnt alive; which sentence was carried into effect in the amphitheatre, amidst the clamours of the whole people. He wrote an important Letter to the Philippians, which is still read in the churches of Asia.

Written by St Jerome, AD 342 to 420
Translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible


3. St John Chrysostom A D 347 407

John, surnamed Chrysostom on account of his golden eloquence, was born at Antioch. Having gone through the study of the law and the profane sciences, he applied himself with extraordinary application and success to the study of the Sacred Scriptures. Having been admitted to holy orders, and made a Priest of the Church at Antioch, he was appointed Bishop of Constantinople, after the death of Nectarius, by the express wish of the Emperor Arcadius. No sooner had he entered upon the pastoral charge than he began to inveigh against the licentious lives led by the rich. This his courageous preaching procured him many enemies. He likewise gave great offence to the Empress Eudoxia, because he had reproved her for having appropriated to herself the money belonging to a widow named Callitropa, and for having taken possession of some land which was the property of another widow.

At the instigation, therefore, of Eudoxia, several Bishops met together at Chalcedon. Chrysostom was cited to appear, which he refused to do, because it was not a Council either lawfully or publicly convened. Whereupon, he was sent into exile. He had not been gone long before the people rose in sedition on account of the Saint's banishment, and he was recalled, to the immense joy of the whole city. But his continuing to inveigh against the scandals which existed, and his forbidding the games held before the silver statue of Eudoxia, which was set up in the space opposite Sancta Sophia, resulted in a second banishment. The widows and the poor of the city bewailed his departure as that of a father. It is incredible how much Chrysostom had to suffer in this exile, and how many he converted to the Christian Faith.

At the very time that Pope Innocent the First, in a Council held at Rome, was issuing a decree ordering that Chrysostom should be set at liberty, he was being treated by the soldiers, who were taking him into exile, with un-heard of harshness and cruelty. Whilst passing through Armenia, the holy Martyr Basiliscus, in whose Church he had offered up a prayer, thus spoke to him during the night: "Brother John we shall be united together tomorrow." 

Whereupon, on the following morning, Chrysostom received the sacrament of the Eucharist, and signing himself with the sign of the cross, he breathed forth his soul to his God, on the eighteenth of the Kalends of October (September 14th). A fearful hail-storm happened at Constantinople after the Saint"s death, and four days after, the Empress died. Theodosius, the son of Arcadius, had the Saint's body bought to Constantinople with all due honour, where amidst a large concourse of people, it was buried on the sixth of the Kalends of February (January 27th)

The body was, at a later period, translated to Rome, and placed in the Vatican Basilica. All men agree in admiring the unction and eloquence of his numerous sermons, as indeed of all his other writings. He is also admirable in his interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, which he explains in their genuine sense. It has always been thought that he was aided, in his writings and sermons, by St Paul the Apostle, to whom he entertained an extraordinary devotion. This most renowned Doctor of the Church was by Pope Pius X declared and appointed heavenly Patron of the preachers of holy things.

From the Roman Breviary
(the Psalms and Scriptures appointed for daily prayer.)

4. St Gregory the Great AD 540 604 

Gregory the Great, a Roman by birth, was son of the senator Gordian. He applied early to the study of philosophy, and was entrusted with the office of praetor. After his father"s death he built six monasteries in Sicily, and a seventh, under the title of Saint Andrew, in his own house in Rome, near the basilica of Saints John and Paul, on the hill Scaurus. In this last named monastery, he embraced the monastic life under the guidance of Hilarion and Maximian, and was, later on, elected abbot. Shortly afterwards, he was created Cardinal-Deacon, and was by Pope Pelagius sent to Constantinople, as legate, to confer with the emperor Constantine. While there, he achieved that celebrated victory over the patriarch Eutychius, who had written against the resurrection of the flesh, maintaining that it would not be a real one. Gregory so convinced him of his error, that the, emperor threw his book into the fire. Eutychius himself fell ill not long after, and when he perceived his last hour had come, he took between his fingers the skin of his hand, and said before the many who were there: "I believe that we shall all rise in this flesh."

On his return to Rome, he was chosen Pope, by unanimous consent, for Pelagius had been carried off by the plague. He refused, as long as it was possible, the honour thus offered him. He disguised himself and hid himself in a cave but he was discovered and was consecrated at Saint Peter's. As Pontiff, he was an example to his successors by his learning and holiness of life. He every day admitted pilgrims to his table, among whom he received, on one occasion, an angel, and, on another, the Lord of angels, who wore the garb of a pilgrim. He charitably provided for the poor, both in and out of Rome, and kept a list of them. He re-established the Catholic faith in several places where it had fallen into decay. Thus, he put down the Donatists in Africa, and the Arians in Spain; and drove the Agnoites out of Alexandria.


He wrote several books; and Peter the deacon assures us, that he frequently saw the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove resting on the head of the Pontiff, while he was dictating. It is a matter of wonder that, with his incessant sickness and ill-health, he could have said, done, written, and decreed, as he did. At length, after performing many miracles, he was called to his reward in heaven, after a pontificate of thirteen years six months and ten days; it was on the 12 March which the Greeks also observe as a feast, on account of this Pontiff's extraordinary learning and virtue. His body was buried in the Basilica of Saint Peter near the Secretarium.


From the Roman Breviary 
(the Psalms and Scriptures appointed for daily prayer.)

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