If we don’t know where we came from and who went before us, we feel lost and end up seemingly drifting in the wind wherever it takes us. We need a foundation, on a “Rock”, or at least on a steady barque, in order to make it through the storms of the world. Without these anchors, without that clear connection with our family members who went before us in the faith, we really don’t have anything at all.
If we ignore what they had to say to each other and to us, then how do we know what we believe is actually the truth? We must return to the sources. This is why it’s important that we preserve and maintain our connection and our common traditions with our predecessors in the faith. It’s what they did. They were closer to the source anyway; they should know the best.
The Early Church Fathers said WHAT?! Today’s episode – The Church and the papacy:
“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans, c. A.D. 110)
[The heretics Marcion, Valentinian] “…at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherius, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled.” (Tertullian of Carthage, Prescription Against Heretics, c. A.D. 200)
“…Peter, on whom the Church was to be built, speaks there, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear and obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock that adheres to its pastor. You ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if anyone be not with the bishop, then he is not in the Church…” (Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 68, c. A.D. 254)
“And if you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s house is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the church is, but where the Catholic Church is. For this is the peculiar name of this holy Church, the mother of us all, the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, c. A.D. 350)
“We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church, which is catholic and which is called Catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies. For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk about her, not among themselves but with strangers, willy-nilly they call her nothing else but Catholic. For they will not be understood unless they distinguish her by this name that the whole world employs in her regard.” (Augustine of Hippo, The True Religion, c. A.D. 390)
“…[W]hether I or anyone else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways: first, by the authority of the divine law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church. But here someone perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?
For this reason –because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters…Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation. Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally.” (Vincent of Lerins, Notebooks 2, c. A.D. 434)
“[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (Paul of Tarsus, 2nd Letter to Timothy, c. A.D. 50)
“It is within the power of all, in every church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the Tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were instituted bishops in the churches by the apostles, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew anything these [heretics] rave about.” (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, c. A.D. 189)
“…[W]e put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vanity, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings, by indicating that Tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every church agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, because the apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, c. A.D. 189)
“[The apostles] then in like manner founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the Tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are everyday deriving from them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is only on this account that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, the offspring of apostolic churches. Everything must necessarily revert to its original for its classification.” (Tertullian of Carthage, Prescription Against Heretics, c. A.D. 200)
“Far be it from me to censure the successors of the apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians.” (Jerome of Bethlehem, Letter 14, c. A.D. 376)
“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven…’ On him he builds the Church, and commands him to feed the sheep, and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, by which it is made clear that there is one Church and one chair…If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he think that he holds the faith? If he deserts the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he be confident that he is in the Church?” (Cyprian of Carthage, Unity of the Catholic Church, c. A.D. 251)
“You cannot then deny that you do know that upon Peter first in the city of Rome was bestowed the episcopal cathedra, on which sat Peter, the head of all the apostles (for which reason he was called Cephas), that, in this one cathedra, unity should be preserved by all.” (Optatus of Milevis, Schism of the Donatists, c. A.D. 367)
“As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the Church is built! This is the only house where the Paschal Lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the Ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.” (Jerome of Bethlehem, Letter 15, c. A.D. 376)
“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the sure foundation of his doctrine was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was, by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter, the first fruits of our Lord, the first of the apostles; to whom the Father first revealed the Son; whom the Christ blessed with good reason; the called, and elect.” (Letter of Clement to James, c. A.D. 290)
“[Jesus said:] Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness that I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the firstborn in my institution so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures.” (Ephraim the Syrian, Homilies, c. A.D. 353)
“Among these [apostles] Peter alone almost everywhere deserved to represent the whole Church. Because of that representation of the Church, which only he bore, he deserved to hear ‘I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.'” (Augustine of Hippo, Sermons 295, c. A.D. 411)
“Our Lord Jesus Christ…established the worship belonging to the divine [Christian] religion…But the Lord desired that the sacrament of this gift should pertain to all the apostles in such a way that it might be found principally in the most blessed Peter, the highest of all the apostles. And he wanted his gifts to flow into the entire body from Peter himself, as if from the head, in such a way that anyone who had dared to separate himself from the solidarity of Peter would realize that he was himself no longer a sharer in the divine mystery.” (Leo the Great, Letter 10, c. A.D. 445)
“For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back until we reach Peter himself, to whom, as a figure of the whole Church, the Lord said: ‘Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!’ The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these: Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus…” (Augustine of Hippo, Letter 53, c. A.D. 400)
If you like this, you’ll love Jimmy Akin’s book, The Fathers Know Best.