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St. Barnabas, Apostle

In 02 Apostolic Fathers on 2016/02/28 at 12:00 AM

Catholics will celebrate the memory of St. Barnabas on June 11. The apostle and missionary was among Christ’s earliest followers and was responsible for welcoming St. Paul into the Church. Though not one of the 12 apostles chosen by the Lord, Jesus, he is traditionally regarded as one of the 72 disciples of Christ and most respected man in the first century Church after the Apostles themselves.

St. Barnabas was born to wealthy Jewish parents on the Greek-speaking island of Cyprus, probably around the time of Christ’s own birth. Traditional accounts hold that his parents sent him to study in Jerusalem, where he studied at the school of Gamaliel (who also taught St. Paul). Later on, when Christ’s public ministry began, Barnabas may have been among those who heard him preach in person.

At some point, either during Christ’s ministry or after his death and resurrection, Barnabas decided to commit himself in the most radical way to the teachings he had received. He sold the large estate he had inherited, contributed the proceeds entirely to the Church, and joined Christ’s other apostles in holding all of their possessions in common.

Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul, approached Barnabas after the miraculous events surrounding his conversion, and was first introduced to St. Peter through him. About five years later, Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, building up the Church community whose members were the first to go by the name of “Christians.”

Both Paul and Barnabas received a calling from God to become the “Apostles of the Gentiles,” although the title is more often associated with St. Paul. The reference to the “laying-on of hands” in Acts, chapter 13, suggests that Paul and Barnabas may have been consecrated as bishops on this occasion.

Barnabas and Paul left Antioch along with Barnabas’ cousin John Mark, who would later compose the most concise account of Christ’s life and be canonized as St. Mark. The group’s first forays into the pagan world met with some success, but Mark became discouraged and returned to Jerusalem.

The question of Mark’s dedication to the mission would arise again later, and cause a significant personal disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. For many years prior to this, however, the two apostles traveled and preached among the Gentiles, suffering persecution and hardships for the sake of establishing Christianity among those of a non-Jewish background.

The remarkable success of Barnabas and Paul led to one of the earliest controversies in Church history, regarding the question of whether Christian converts would have to observe Jewish rites. During the landmark Council of Jerusalem, recorded in the book of Acts, the assembled apostles confirmed St. Peter’s earlier proclamation that the laws of the Old Testament would not be mandatory for Christians.

Barnabas and Paul finally separated in their ministries, while remaining apostles of the one Catholic Church, over Paul’s insistence that Mark not travel with them again.

In death, however, the “Apostles to the Gentiles” were reunited. Mark is said to have buried Barnabas after he was killed by a mob in Cyprus around the year 62. St. Paul and St. Mark were, in turn, reconciled before St. Paul’s martyrdom five years later.

He is said to have been stoned to death in Salamis in the year 61.

St. Luke described Barnabas as ‘a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith’ (Acts 6:24), and he was known for his exceptional kindliness and personal sanctity, and his openness to pagans.

 

Catholic News Agency

St. Ireneaus and the Knowledge of God by Rev. Robert A. Connor

In 02 Apostolic Fathers on 2015/10/11 at 12:00 AM

St. Irenaeus (130 -200 a.d.) is important for his works defending the Catholic faith against the errors of the Gnostics. He is also epistemologically important for our consideration today because he introduces us into an experiential knowledge of God. In the reading of today’s breviary, he says, “The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.

“Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for him coming….

 

“The Word… revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.”

 

With the “dictatorship of relativism” that obtains today because of the hegemony of only one level of experience – sensation – , God cannot be known intellectually because he cannot be sensed. Or, if we can know Him, the knowledge is trivial and irrelevant as in “abstract.” John Paul II had affirmed that God can be known on another level of experience – i.e. on the level of the being of the “I” in the moral moment of self-determination. This moral act is the act of faith or any act in which the self is given to another in love. Importantly, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger commented:“God in Karol Wojtyla is not only thought but also experienced. The pope expressly opposes the limitation of the concept of experience which occurred in Empiricism; he points out that the form of experience elaborated in the natural sciences are no less real and important: moral experience, human experience, religious experience (34). But this experience is, of course, also reflected upon and verified in its rational content…. The central core of Wojtyla’s philosophy lies in the fact that he does not accept the separation of thought and existence which typifies the modern era. Descartes, says the pope, severed thinking from existing and identified this isolated thought with reason itself: I think, therefore I am. But is not thought which determines existence, but existence which determines thought (38).”

To experience being on this level of the subject is to experience being as imaging God as a triple self-transcendence, i.e., being like God. Hence, the remarks of Irenaeus connecting life and knowledge. Self-transcendence is to live, and self-transcendence is to know.

 

Posted by Rev. Robert A. Connor

 

 

 

St. Ireneaus

In 02 Apostolic Fathers on 2013/09/01 at 12:00 AM

St. Irenaeus (130 -200 a.d.) is important for his works defending the Catholic faith against the errors of the Gnostics. He is also epistemologically important for our consideration today because he introduces us into an experiential knowledge of God. In the reading of today’s breviary, he says, “The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.

“Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for him coming….

“The Word… revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.” 

With the “dictatorship of relativism” that obtains today because of the hegemony of only one level of experience – sensation – , God cannot be known intellectually because he cannot be sensed. Or, if we can know Him, the knowledge is trivial and irrelevant as in “abstract.” John Paul II had affirmed that God can be known on another level of experience – i.e. on the level of the being of the “I” in the moral moment of self-determination. This moral act is the act of faith or any act in which the self is given to another in love. Importantly, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger commented:“God in Karol Wojtyla is not only thought but also experienced. The pope expressly opposes the limitation of the concept of experience which occurred in Empiricism; he points out that the form of experience elaborated in the natural sciences are no less real and important: moral experience, human experience, religious experience (34). But this experience is, of course, also reflected upon and verified in its rational content…. The central core of Wojtyla’s philosophy lies in the fact that he does not accept the separation of thought and existence which typifies the modern era. Descartes, says the pope, severed thinking from existing and identified this isolated thought with reason itself: I think, therefore I am. But is not thought which determines existence, but existence which determines thought (38).”

To experience being on this level of the subject is to experience being as imaging God as a triple self-transcendence, i.e., being like God. Hence, the remarks of Irenaeus connecting life and knowledge. Self-transcendence is to live, and self-transcendence is to know.

Posted by Rev. Robert A. Connor

St. Ireneaus and the Knowledge of God by Rev. Robert A. Connor

In 02 Apostolic Fathers on 2013/05/16 at 3:48 PM

St. Irenaeus (130 -200 a.d.) is important for his works defending the Catholic faith against the errors of the Gnostics. He is also epistemologically important for our consideration today because he introduces us into an experiential knowledge of God. In the reading of today’s breviary, he says, “The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.

“Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for him coming….

“The Word… revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.” 
With the “dictatorship of relativism” that obtains today because of the hegemony of only one level of experience – sensation – , God cannot be known intellectually because he cannot be sensed. Or, if we can know Him, the knowledge is trivial and irrelevant as in “abstract.” John Paul II had affirmed that God can be known on another level of experience – i.e. on the level of the being of the “I” in the moral moment of self-determination. This moral act is the act of faith or any act in which the self is given to another in love. Importantly, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger commented:“God in Karol Wojtyla is not only thought but also experienced. The pope expressly opposes the limitation of the concept of experience which occurred in Empiricism; he points out that the form of experience elaborated in the natural sciences are no less real and important: moral experience, human experience, religious experience (34). But this experience is, of course, also reflected upon and verified in its rational content…. The central core of Wojtyla’s philosophy lies in the fact that he does not accept the separation of thought and existence which typifies the modern era. Descartes, says the pope, severed thinking from existing and identified this isolated thought with reason itself: I think, therefore I am. But is not thought which determines existence, but existence which determines thought (38).”
To experience being on this level of the subject is to experience being as imaging God as a triple self-transcendence, i.e., being like God. Hence, the remarks of Irenaeus connecting life and knowledge. Self-transcendence is to live, and self-transcendence is to know.

Martyr Attitude

In > Apostolic Writings on 2012/02/05 at 9:11 AM

One must be true to the faith even if it means losing one’s life; the Church has always taught and prescribed this principle. There is never a valid reason for renouncing Christ.  This is something the martyrs clearly understood and acted upon.

Justin Martyr wrote in his  Dialogue with Trypho: “They cut our hands off, they nail us to crosses, they throw us to wild beasts, imprison us and burn us, and we submit to every kind of torture; yet everyone knows that we do not betray our faith.  Rather, the worse our sufferings the more there are who embrace faith and devotion in the name of Jesus.”

Cyprian of Carthage, martyred 238 AD

In 02 Apostolic Fathers on 2011/10/25 at 3:13 AM

Cyprian was born in Roman Africa to a wealthy and renowned noble pagan family.   After having lead a very evil life as a lawyer and teacher of rhetoric, he converted in mid-life to Christianity.  One of his first acts was to dispossess himself of his enormous wealth by giving it all to the poor for he now looked on Christ as his master in charity.

He became a priest and later, Bishop of Carthage.  Believing he could best serve his flock by not being martyred, he fled his episcopal see and hid in the countryside, from where he wrote numerous letters of encouragement, support and spiritual guidance.

This persecution claimed the life of the pope and when the persecution ceased, the new pope asked Cyprian to explain why he had fled and abandoned his see, a decision which was greatly resented by some of the priests in his diocese.

Cyprian explained that he had concluded that the persecution would be brief and that he could guide the church from hiding rather than leaving it without a leader were he martyred.  In his defense, he sent the Roman clergy copies of the numerous pastoral letters he had written during his years in hiding in the country-side.

He had written all types of letters, ranging from settling controversies to converting heretics.  His voluminous correspondence revealed his mildness which was an asset in winning his enemies.

After Cyprian returned to Carthage,  a world-wide epidemic broke out in 252.  He instructed the Christians to serve both Christians and non-Christians alike.  Many a wealthy Christian turned his home into a hospital at the inspiration of Cyprian.

In a subsequent persecution, the pope was martyred and when the humble and unsophisticated bishop Cornelius was chosen, the theologian and rhetorician Novantius was miffed to have been passed over.  He declared himself pope and brought schism to the church.

Cyprian aided and supported Cornelius, the legitimate pope, in his struggles against Novantius, the anti-pope.  A synod of sixty bishops convened at Rome to support Pope Cornelius and excommunicated Novantius and his schismatics.

The next pope in the year ordered Cyprian and others to discontinue the practice of re-baptizing persons who had originally received baptisms from the Novantian heretics. The consistent position of the Church had been and still is that it is the power and action of Christ that confers baptism and its remission of original sin, and not the worthiness or unworthiness of the ministering priest or person administering the sacrament; the Church accepts as valid any baptism which invokes the Trinity.  Also, that baptism, ordination and episcopal consecration put permanent sacramental marks upon the soul, and therefore may never be validly repeated.

The pope specifically called for obedience on the matter by his authority as the successor of Peter and Cyprian refused to obey.  It is not known how the disagreement was resolved, but somehow it was  and Cyprian remained in close contact with Rome and it was Cyprian who wrote: “No one can have God as his Father who does not have the Church for his mother”.

When the new emperor Valerian, the last to successfully defend Rome from barbarians, began his rule, he was in great distress.  His advisors suggested that there was a greater need for unity in the empire.  So Valerian, who originally had seen the value of Christianity, was persuaded to order all the bishops to sacrifice to the pagan gods or be exiled to a remote place as the penalty imposed for non-compliance.

Cyprian was now in exile again.  During this banishment he foresaw his future martyrdom and when it came, he greeted it with the words: “Thanks be to God.”

His great desire to die for Christ was fulfilled as he exhorted crowds of his faithful in the truths of the faith.  Beheaded, he was buried with great solemnity, being mourned by Christians and pagans alike.

Tertullian, the rhetorician whom Cyprian had so admired wrote:  “The more often you mow us down, the more in numbers will grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”

Note: In the nineteenth century, Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote CALLISTA, a novel set in third century Carthage with the main character being Cyprian.  In chapter fifteen there is a historically accurate description of the world wide plague of locust that precipitated the world wide plague.  This description can be accessed in its entirety by clicking the following link: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/callista/chapter15.html

ADDENDA: DONATISM

Usually, after major persecution a division of minds appeared among the clergy as to how to deal with the clergy or persons who had collaborated  in any way with the persecutors or avoided imprisonment, torture or martyrdom. The rigorist group demanded excommunication and deprivation of ecclesiastical office. The laxists were those who preferred re-admitting the lapsed after an appropriate amount of time and penance.

In 313 a new pope, and African, called a council in Rome.  Donatus, a bishop, had not only re-baptized but even re-consecrated lapsed bishops. His followers, called the Donatists  sought to win Emperor Constantine with an appeal: “Is it right for the Church to welcome prodigal children home again? Is there a limit to the mercy the Church should dispense in the name of Jesus Christ?” Constantine was appalled by the schism and would not take their side.

This essential to the times controversy continued to rage. The Donatists, Montanists, Tertullianists and many others continued to teach that the Christians who lapsed into mortal sin should not be readmitted to the Church, even if they were repentant.

Two bright lights in the Church brought ruin to themselves: Origin castrated himself and Tertullian went off on a tangent into schism and heresy.

Cyprian of Carthage

In > Apostolic Writings on 2011/10/25 at 3:11 AM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Cyprian of Carthage.  Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge. 

htm://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.titlepage,htm.

http://www.archive.org/details/CyprianTreatise1.html

http://www.archive.org/details/CyprianTreatise1

http://www.catholicapologetics.info/modernproblems/ecumenism/unity.htm

 http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_author/37/St._Cyprian.html

Preface http://www.newmanreader.org/works/fathers/cyprian.html 

Twelve Treatises http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0507.htm 

Eighty Two Epistles http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0506.htm   

On the Baptism of Heretics https://earlychurchfathers.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1504&action=edit 

Cyprian of Carthage Inspiration of Martyrshttp://www.roca.org/OA/134/134d.htm

Clement of Alexandria, martyred 215 AD

In 02 Apostolic Fathers on 2011/10/17 at 9:10 AM

The heresy of Gnosticism spread throughout the empire touting to the civilized world that they had secret knowledge which was reserved for the spiritual elite (themselves).

Clement of Alexandria called their knowledge plain bogus. He staunchly maintained that were was  a knowledge that could prepare the mind for revelation.  He said that “Greek philosophy purifies the mind and prepares it to receive the faith on which truth constructs knowledge.”  He maintained that philosophy gave Christians a language for articulating their doctrines. How could one describe the Incarnation of the Word without mastery of metaphysical concepts such as time, eternity, being, substance?  Clement’s position was summed up later by an axiom that called secular philosophy the “handmaid of theology.”

Clement founded and presided over the famous school at Alexandria and tried to rescue knowledge from heretical association. He put to good use his encyclopedic knowledge of the Scriptures,  pagan poetry, philosophy and the sciences.  Students came from all over the Roman world to study there, particularly many of the early Church Fathers.

St. Mark, the evangelist is believed to have been the founder of the Christian community in the important Roman city of Alexandria which at the time was one fourth Jewish.  Alexander the Great had ordered the construction of a library to contain all the written works of the world.  These were housed there until the Battle of Actium during which the library was set on fire and consummed the written heritage of the world.  However Alexandria continued as center of learning.

The martyr Deaconess, Appolonia,  was his secretary or trained recorder who received dictation and made multiple manuscripts of Clement’s Instructions to Catechumens. A copy in her handwriting, written on papyrus, is in the British Museum.

Clement had to flee Alexandria during a persecution and died in Cappadocia.  Because the persecution in Alexandria lasted over five years, his catechetical school broke up temporarily, but was re-established by Origen, the young genius Clement had tutored.  Origen, unlike his father and many friends, survived the persecution and lived to become the second head of the renowned school.

Clement’s monumental work, the STROMATA  is the trilogy on the Christian life which the prolific Clement wrote.  It is called ‘stromata” which means “patchwork” because it dealt with a great variety of topics.  It aims at perfecting Christian life by the acquisition of requisite and complete knowledge of the realities of belief.  Based on Scripture and Tradition, it gives an account of the Christian faith in such a way as to satisfy the inquiries of the learned  and the student.

Clement wrote: “God is love and He is knowable to those who love Him.”

Clement of Alexandria

In > Apostolic Writings on 2011/10/17 at 12:00 AM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Clement of Alexandria. Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge.

http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Clement+of+Alexandria

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.toc.html

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/clement.html

http://www.monachos.net/content/patristics/patristictexts/334-clement-stromata-link

Stromata  http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0210.htm

Who is the Rich Man Who Can Be Saved? http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0207.htm

Justin Martyr, 165 AD

In 02 Apostolic Fathers on 2011/10/10 at 8:00 AM

The first Christians were contradictory in that while they would pray for their emperor, they would not burn incense in worship to him; while they loved all men, they considered all men sinners; although not accepted by Jews, they considered themselves heirs of Moses. Pagans and Jews did not understand them and accused them of every crime possible, blaming them for all natural calamities, making scapegoats out of them until the Emperor and the Senate ordered them persecuted.

Many a pagan was converted by the example of the martyrs.  Justin, who himself would be a martyr and through subsequent history bear the name of Justin Martyr, was strongly impressed by the Christians: “what courage and constancy, rather than betray their religion, or commit the least sin, they suffered the sharpest tortures, and encountered, nay, even courted death itself, in its most horrible shapes…they were fearless and rushing on death.”

Justin was part of a Greek colony transplanted by Emperor Vespasian to Samaria.  His pagan father raised him with both the errors of the pagan world and a classical curriculum.  The young man read all the works of the major literary figures of the time.  However, his great desire was to study philosophy to find truth.

First he followed the Stoic philosophy, then the Pythagorean and then Platonism.   That was, until he was told by a man he met that he was going in the wrong directions, telling him that if he really wanted to know truth he should study the prophets in order to find the real God.  He told him that there was only one God and that He had sent his Son into the world to save it.  As Justin studied Christian doctrine, he discovered that what he had been told and what he believed about Christianity was false.  His life was transformed; now he dedicated himself to explaining and defending the truth of his newly found faith in the Redeemer and refuted every error by sound explanations.

Justin then moved to Rome where he would remain the rest of his life.  His home became a haven for Christians to meet and a place where anyone who wished to be instructed would receive his attention.  In 155, Justin wrote to the pagan Emperor Antoninus a magnificent description of the Christian liturgy: “The food that has been made the Eucharist by the prayer of His word, and which nourishes our flesh and blood by assimilation, is both the flesh and the blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

Justin became a deacon as is evidenced by the fact that he preached.  However, he remained a layman, dedicating himself completely to the school of Christian philosophy which he founded and which was the first school of apologetics. Methodically, the apologists explained what the Christian believed and defended it even with their lives.

He wore his philosopher’s cloak with dignity and distinction according to St. Jerome, and has always been honored as the master of first apologists.  Tertullian related that Justin Martyr wrote within the living memory of the time of the Apostles, and that Justin stated that census reports mentioned by Luke in his gospel were in the archives of Rome.

Justin’s works have been cited through the ages.  In modern times, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council reflect two of Justin’s most famous APOLOGIES and the Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes him extensively  when considering the Eucharist.  (#1345)

During a particular persecution a pope, several bishops and Christian laity were condemned to hard labor in the salt mines, but Justin would be scourged and then beheaded.  His last words to his judges spoke for them all: “There is nothing which we more earnestly desire than to endure torments for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; for this is what will promote our happiness, and give us confidence at His bar, where all men must appear to be judged. Do quickly what you are about. We are Christians, and will never sacrifice to idols.”