Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.

St. Ignatius was a disciple of St. John, one of the original 12 apostles. Among other things, St. Ignatius “coined” the term “Catholic” for the one, true church of Jesus Christ, and first wrote of it, shortly after the beginning of the 2nd century.

Regarding bishops, he said this:

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you 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.

Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for you are worthy. You have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. You have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while you endure all things, you shall attain unto Him.

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Priest Explains: All Catholics are Christian … but not all Christians are Catholic.

The early Church Fathers describe the Church as Catholic. In the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch (110 A.D.), the word “Catholic” is used to distinguish the Church of Jesus Christ, from heretical (non-Christian) teachings. Ignatius was the first to document the term “Catholic” in its current form, to describe the Universal Church. In the 4th Century, the Catholic Church defined the “Trinity” and fought against the heresy of “Arianism”, which stated that Jesus was not “fully God” and not “fully human.”

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Jesus, God Man

Jesus working with Saint Joseph

In the very first chapter of his Gospel, the apostle John tells us nearly everything we need to know about Jesus, the God Man.

To avoid confusion: We are speaking here primarily of the Apostle John, not John the Baptist. The Baptist was a prophet and the cousin of Jesus, six months his senior. King Herod beheaded John the Baptist a short time after the baptism of our Lord.

The Baptist is a primary figure in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, so people often get the two mixed up. The Apostle John, known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, became the last of the Apostles, the sole survivor, elder “churchman” and the world’s only remaining eyewitness for Christ.

He spoke of his closest friend, a marvelous, Spirit-filled man who was God Himself, come down from heaven in the flesh, to save mankind: Jesus, the Lamb, the risen Christ. John spoke also of their mother, Mary. After all, it was Jesus Himself, who, moments before He died, entrusted His mother to John’s care (and empowered His mother to care for all of us.)

John 19:25 – 27  Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.

Many who heard him believed. John was powerful in the Holy Spirit.

The Romans didn’t like what he preached, so they tried to kill him by boiling him in oil, but John emerged from the ordeal unharmed. Not willing to risk the public embarrassment of another failed execution, they sent him into exile on the Aegean island of Patmos. From his meager base there, John worked tirelessly to share his unique, personal knowledge of Jesus with the budding Church.

One of the original Twelve (the only one with the courage to stand at the foot of the cross) and a Bishop personally ordained by Jesus, John’s authority and credentials were unquestionable. Those who were able would come to visit from all over the known world. Wouldn’t you?

The Epistles of St. Ignatius tell us much about what John’s friend and disciple, St. Polycarp, learned at John’s side. The Church (then, already known as “Catholic”) benefited immensely from these living links with the last Apostle.

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Before there ever was a canon of the New Testament, there was a Church. And its paper trail is Catholic.


Read “Remembering the Early Church”