Patron Saints…

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : July 20, 2006

I’ve been reflecting about church history lately. While I have no doubt that the era we are in is a unique one, there is no doubt that there are MANY lessons to be learned from those-that-have-gone-before. Some heroes have lessons for us in such a time as this. A historian friend is writing a book for postmodern folk that looks at past saints and shares the lessons they have to teach us. In this spirit, I offer a few suggestions of my own, and ask you, my readers, to share some heroes of your own:

Irenaeus of Lyon (his theological insights are proving to be much more compelling and biblical in a postmodern era than the tradition which grew from Augustine)

Aidan of Lindisfarne (in a time in Northern England that Christianity was declining, Aidan walked from village to village and spoke of Jesus)

200px-Francisbyelgreco.jpgFrancis of Assisi (in a time of war and growing affluence, he showed the church the simple way of Jesus)

Shusaku Endo (Many folks would probably put C.S. Lewis on their list. As much as I like him, he doesn’t get into the dark corners of the faith–the places of anger and doubt–enough. So I’m puting Shusaku Endo on my list as the “token” writer. Shusaku Endo is like Graham Greene in that he goes into those places. Shusaku Endo is a Japanese Catholic, and his faith infuses everything he writes. But his faith is a marginalized, fragile faith.)

Just a few of my own…who would you add?

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12 Responses to “Patron Saints…”

  1. blorge on July 21st, 2006 8:18 pm

    I’d add St. Athanasius for stubbornly defending the faith in spite of being exhiled five times and having his enemies trumph up murder charges, etc. against him.

  2. James on July 23rd, 2006 12:16 am

    While I have no doubt that the era we are in is a unique one, there is no doubt that there are MANY lessons to be learned from those that have gone before.

    This era may not be as unique as most want to believe. The more I look at the world of the first century through the fourth or fifth century, the more I realize how similar our society is to the one the early Christians faced. I realized during two semesters of historical theology that American Christians have been seduced by the myth that they are an island in history unto themselves.

    I am glad that people are beginning to recognize that the faithful who came before us earned the right to be heard when it comes to living the faith.

    One other saint I would add is St. Cyprian, whose letter to Donatus reads as if it could be a contemporary treatise on the sins of American culture. In it he speaks to rampant violence, the immorality of theater, abortion, and other vices of the Roman world that continue to play themselves out in today’s culture.

  3. joe on July 24th, 2006 9:05 am

    St. Ignatius of Antioch (disciple of Polycarp, who was the disciple of St. John the Apostle):

    “See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. 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. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.”

    St. Vincent of Lerins (434 AD):

    “Hold fast that faith which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.”

    Unfortunately for Emergents, if they actually heeded the words of these Saints, they would no longer be emergent or emerging but EMERGED into the Church as it has existed since 33 A.D.

  4. joe on July 24th, 2006 9:19 am

    “In the Church, the past is contemporary; and that which is present remains so on account of the living past, since the God-man Christ Who is `the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8, continuously lives in His divine-human body by means of the same truth, the same holiness, the same goodness, the same life and establishes the past in the present. Thus, to a living Orthodox understanding and conscience, all the members of the Church, from the Holy Apostles to those who have recently fallen asleep, are contemporary since they continuously live in Christ…For the Orthodox Christian these are more real than many of his contemporaries.”

    - St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ

    To the Orthodox “those-who-have-gone-before” are STILL with us and help us with their prayers when we call upon them.

  5. Nitsuj on July 25th, 2006 10:40 am

    Marcion, Arius, Pelagius

  6. Justin on July 25th, 2006 10:42 am

    I don’t have any sample quotes from them but I would add Tertullian, Anselm, and John Chrysostom to the list

  7. Van S on July 25th, 2006 1:01 pm

    “Nitsuj”…if that IS your real name ;)
    Do you had these to your list because you feel that have something to teach us, or because it is kinda funny to include “heretics” to the list. By the way, I just learned that Northumbria Community actually celebrates Pelagius on the Feast Day of St. Augustine. These days, some find it cool to be pro-pelagius. I’m not on that page, however. I do find Marcion to be an interesting character. I wonder what he actually taught. All we really seem to know is the anti-Marcion position.

  8. Nitsuj on July 26th, 2006 11:49 am

    I mainly find it funny to include “heretics” on a list of patron saints.

    They may not get a lot of airtime but they definately influenced the early church community more than the “orthodox” would have liked.

    Pelagius seems like the least heretical of them all and some have argued that Wesley’s theology (which I agree with for the most part) was influenced by Pelagius.

  9. Van S on July 26th, 2006 12:21 pm

    I’d venture that Marcion was less of a heretic. Perhaps not. It is so hard to tell, since the victors win the right to write history.

    While I don’t agree with any of the folks you listed, I do think that it is a shame that Augustine wasn’t a bit more Pelagian. In other words, “heretics” and their opponents often present polarities that are both errors, though the orthodox may have been in error :)

  10. Nitsuj on July 26th, 2006 5:15 pm

    I agree. We (the church) would be better off if the “heretics” and the “orthodox” were not so extremely opposite of one another. Compromise does not have to be a bad thing.

  11. Van S on July 26th, 2006 5:21 pm

    That’s not exactly what I mean. Orthodox believers are fine. Its just that some of the defenders of orthodoxy overshoot (folks like Augustine or evangelical Calvinists today).

  12. blorge on July 31st, 2006 10:15 am

    I know that this is kind of late, but i just read about the Russian Orthodox church, so I’d like to add Cyril and Methodius because they translated the Bible and the liturgy into Slavonic instead of making the Slavs learn Greek.

    There were Germanic missionaries to the Slavs as well and they were from the Latin/Roman Church and they tried to make the Slavs do the liturgy and Bible reading in Latin.

    Cyril and Methodius went to Rome and a council was convened that ultimately decided that they could evangelize in Slavonic, but the Germanic folk still resisted. Cyril died shortly thereafter and eventually Methodius was imprisoned.

    They never saw the real fruits of their works, but eventually their disciples went from the Balkans up to Russia.

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