After finishing up in Turkey by visiting the Izmir Museum and finding the general location of the stadium where Polycarp was burned and stabbed and where his followers gathered up his bones as precious treasures, we went in search of some other bones.
We flew out of Turkey on Wednesday and arrived in Munich Germany for a 2 hour layover. Our next flight finally got us to our next destination â€“ Lyon France. This city was new to Janet and I so we took off the next morning with great vigor.
We were looking for the man who had a HUGE impact on my conversion to the Catholic Church. He was bishop here at the end of the second century and his bones are here â€“ well, they are supposed to be here — if it were not for the stupid Calvinists of the 16th century.
The bishop of Lyon — appointed by St. Polycarp of Smyrna and the one who had sat at the feet of the Apostle John â€“ was none other than St. Irenaeus. Irenaeus was the spiritual grandson of Jesus. What do I mean by that? Well, John was taught by Jesus; Polycarp was taught by John, and Irenaeus was taught by Polycarp. Imagine if you knew someone today who could claim that close of a connection to Jesus. Would you tend to trust his words and tradition more than the guy waving a Bible in some storefront or even in a huge modern â€œchurchâ€?Â I sure would â€“ and I did!
When I began researching the Catholic Church I was extremely interested in the first two centuries. The writings of Irenaeus hit me like a sledge hammer and convinced me, along with the writings of other Church Fathers, that these early men were distinctly Catholic. Irenaeusâ€™ words hit me right between the eyes and I have loved him and been grateful ever since.
For example, St. Irenaeus wrote,
â€œSince, however, it would be very tedious [or, too long], in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings;Â [we do this, I say,] 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; as 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 ChurchÂ should agree with this Church [of Rome],Â on account of its preeminent authority,Â that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.â€
Â Now I had a chance to visit Lyon where he was bishop and where he died and was buried. Some say he was a martyr, others say he was not. But as I research more deeply I will let you know in our Apostolic Fathers DVD which will be out in September 2007. We were excited to be on the hunt of one of my super heroes.
We jumped in our rental car and took off. We navigated the freeways, the roundabouts and the narrow brick streets until we saw the sign Lâ€™Inglesia Erenee. We pulled into a parking spot which is very rare to find (Janet said St. Polycarp provided it for us :-) and right there in living color was an old church in bad repair. It was the Church of St. Irenaeus and one of the oldest churches in France, in not the oldest.
We sat and pondered the site and asked this great saint to pray for us and the church today. I couldnâ€™t help but begin to sing the Litany of Saints we sing as the Easter Vigil â€“ it just spontaneously came out of my mouth. We took pictures of the stained glass to use in our documentary, collected all the history we could and made sure they had electrical outlets for when we come back with the filming crew and will need lights.
Then we saw the Crypt was locked. It is only opened once a week. But there was a phone number so I whipped out my cell phone and was soon talking to a marvelous priest. He ran over â€“ literally â€“ and took us into the crypt of the martyrs. He said some of the bones were there but he was not sure about the bones of Irenaeus. You see, during the â€œReformationâ€ or what I usually refer to as the rebellion, the Calvinists raided the crypt, took the bones of the martyrs and scattered them, even throwing them into the river. How stupid can you get? How disrespectful and pernicious. Supposedly only the scull of Irenaeus was reclaimed.
After being overwhelmed at the Church of St. Irenaeus, we went to the Archaeological Museum and walked among the ancient Roman ruins and the well preserved Roman theatre. Next was the gorgeous Church of Fourviere on a cliff overlooking the city and the two rivers. It was dedicated to Mary and typology was everywhere along with very useful artwork and stained glass. I was very glad to have a 1 gig memory card in my camera. Then the Cathedral.
Dinner at an outdoor crepe restaurant, viewing a few more churches and back to our hotel to begin planning the day tomorrow. We will again jump in the car and take off for La Sallette, an approved Marian apparition and then to a favorite place of ours â€“ Ars, the home of John Vianney. We will pray for all the priests and seminarians we know while in Ars.
But more about that later.