Note: The names in red print are considered rebels (at least from the perspective of the Catholic Church)

Peter: First Father of the Church. Simon Peter was the Rock on whom Jesus built the Church. In his native language of Aramaic, Jesus named Simon "Rock" ("Kepha" in Aramaic (Jn 1:42) or "Peter" in English). Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and the awesome power to bind and loose on Earth. Bible: And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  (Mt 16:17-19). Peter was chief shepherd of the Church. Jesus told Peter three times: "Feed my sheep." (Jn 21:17) After the Resurrection,  Peter was the first Apostle to whom Jesus appeared (Lk. 24:34). Pope Benedict XVI is the 264th successor of St. Peter. His tomb was uncovered in Rome in 1941.

Paul: The Apostle who helped Peter found the most glorious church in Rome. Jesus appeared to Paul while he was riding his horse on the way to persecute Christians in Damascus and changed his name from Saul to Paul. Notable quotes by Paul: For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Rom 2:5-8) and Their end will correspond to their deeds (2 Cor 11:15) and For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body (2 Cor 5:10) and "Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off." (Rom 11: 22). In 2005, archeologists uncovered St. Paul's tomb in Rome.

Linus and Anacletus: These bishops of Rome were the second and third popes. Linus took Peter's position  in 67 A.D. Anacletus took the chair in 76 A.D.

Clement of RomeHe was the fourth pope (88-97 A.D.) and direct successor St. Peter. While some Apostles were still alive, Clement wrote about the teaching that bishops should have successors. Regarding bishops, he wrote that the Apostles "added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry" (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [80 A.D.]).

Ignatius of Antioch: This priest and third bishop of Antioch was the first to refer to the Church of all Christians as the "Catholic Church" around 105 or 107 A.D. He knew the Apostles personally.  Notable quotes by Ignatius concerning the glorious Church in Rome:  "Ignatius . . . to the church also which holds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father" (Letter to the Romans 1:1 [110 A.D.]).

"You [the church at Rome] have envied no one, but others you have taught. I desire only that what you have enjoined in your instructions may remain in force" (Letter to the Romans 3:1 [A.D. 110 A.D.])).

Polycarp: (69-155 A.D.) This martyred priest was appointed Bishop of Smyrna by the Apostles. After he died, his relics were said to be "more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold" [Martyrdom of Polycarp, 156 A.D.]

Irenaeus: (born between 115 and 125 A.D.) This priest and Bishop of Lyons was a Father of the Church. He was a follower of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John. When heretics popped up, St. Irenaeus defended the Catholic Church by showing its leaders were direct successors of Apostles.

Notable quote by Irenaeus: "And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about" (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [189 A.D.]). St. Irenaeus knew that only the Church that possessed succession from the apostles had received the gift of infallible truth.

Irenaeus wrote:  "It is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the infallible charism of truth." (Against Heresies 4:26:2 [189 A.D.]).

Irenaeus wrote: "But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition" (Against Heresies 3:3:2 [189 A.D.]).

Justin Martyr: (100 A.D.-165 A.D.) Church Father and martyr. His literary works include "Apologies" and "Dialogue." He taught a regenerative Baptism and literal flesh and blood in the Eucharist, referring to "the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

St. Cyprian of Carthage: (baptized c. 246 A.D.) A Church Father, Bishop and Martyr. Notable quote by Cyprian: "There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering" (Letters 43[40]:5 [A.D. 253]).

Eusebius of Caesaria (born 260 A.D.) This bishop of Caesaria was known as the "Father of Church History " This renowned early Church historian wrote: "But the brightness of the Catholic Church proceeded to increase in greatness, for it ever held to the same points in the same way, and radiated forth to all the race of Greeks and barbarians the reverent, sincere, and free nature, and the sobriety and purity of the divine teachings as to conduct and thought."  (Ecclesiastical History, 4, 7, 13 4th century).

Jerome: (c. 340-420 A.D.) Ordained a priest at Antioch, Jerome led a life devoted to asceticism and celibacy. Jerome, who is known as Doctor of Biblical Science, said he would follow no man who was not in communion with the Chair of Peter (office of pope) and successors of the Apostles. He wrote: "Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these clergy who, in succession from the apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians" (Letters 14:8 [396 A.D.]). Jerome also wrote: Meanwhile, I keep crying: He that is joined the chair of Peter is accepted by me!" [Letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus, 374/379 A.D.] Meanwhile, Jerome defended the life-long virginity of the Blessed Mother, the gift of life-long celibacy as superior to the gift of marriage, and the difference between mortal and venial sin. Jerome also confirmed that a person whose spouse cheats may live alone but may not remarry while the cheater is alive.

Augustine: (354-430 A.D.)  This priest, monk and Bishop of Hippo is regarded as perhaps the greatest of all the Church Doctors throughout Christianity. His two most important works were City of God and Confessions. The most important work about St. Augustine is "Life of St. Augustine." St. Augustine founded a convent of nuns and was himself devoted to a monastic life of poverty and chastity. St. Augustine defended the lifelong virginity of Mary and the superiority of celibacy over marriage. He taught that prayers for the dead aided the souls not yet in heaven. He taught a regenerative (saving) Baptism, the literal flesh and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, the possibility of losing one's salvation, and the important of doing penance as punishment for sins, and the difference between venial and mortal sins.

Notable quotes of Augustine: “A man cannot have salvation, except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can have everything except salvation. He can have honor, he can have Sacraments, he can sing alleluia, he can answer amen, he can possess the gospel, he can have and preach faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; but never except in the Catholic Church will he be able to find salvation.” (Augustine, Discourse to the People of the Church at Caesarea, A.D. 418)

Augustine also wrote: "There are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house" (Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 4:5 [397 A.D.]).

Augustine also wrote: "Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands" (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [405 A.D.]).

Augustine also wrote: "When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance" (Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 [395 A.D.]).

Augustine also wrote: Yet those who do penance in accord with the kind of sin they have committed are not to despair of receiving God’s mercy in the Holy Church, for the remission of their crimes, however serious. In the penitential action, however, where the crime committed was such that he who committed it is separated from the body of Christ, it is not so much the length of time as the depth of sorrow that is to be considered.” (Augustine, Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love, A.D. 421)

Augustine also wrote: “We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for heretics and schismatics call their own congregations churches.”

Augustine also wrote: “The Catholic Church is the work of Divine Providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Inc arnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints…. When, then, we see so much help on God’s part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For starting from the apostolic chair down through successions of bishops, even unto the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the CROWN OF TEACHING AUTHORITY.” (emphasis mine)  (Augustine, “The Advantage of Believing 35…392 A.D.)

On Apostolic authority, Augustine wrote: “What the universal Church holds, not as instituted by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority.” (Augustine, “Baptism” 4, 24, 31)

Augustine also wrote: “I would not believe the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not compel me.”

Augustine wrote: " . . . names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God (17), where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended.” [Augustine, Sermons inter 391-430 A.D.]


St. Patrick: (387-c.460 A.D.) This great Catholic saint, priest and bishop was the first to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation in Ireland. He was the second bishop of Ireland, where he performed many miracles. He willingly endured painful and prolonged penances so that many souls in Ireland would be saved.

St. Francis of Assisi (died 1226 A.D.) Great Catholic saint devoted to lifelong poverty and celibacy. His severe penances aimed at saving souls including walking barefoot through snow and rock, wearing scratchy hair shirts, and prolonged fasts. Although he was devoted to poverty himself, it was very important to Francis that priests used only the finest garments and chalices during Mass because it was truly the Lord and Savior they were handling. After begging God to share in His suffering even more, Francis received the stigmata (crucifixion wounds of Christ) from a great celestial being with wings that came out of the sky. A first-hand account of this event was written up by one of the friars who had accompanied him up the mountain.

Thomas Aquinas: (1225-1274 A.D.) Perhaps the greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church after St. Augustine. Summa Theologica is considered the masterpiece of this great Catholic saint and priest. Aquinas, a brilliant theologian in the scholastic tradition, taught all the basic Catholic doctrines - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the literal Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Eucharist, a regenerative Baptism, Seven Sacraments, Church must be led by direct successor of St. Peter (pope), Church authority, celibate priesthood, purgatory, mortal and venial sins. Notable quote: "I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church."

Bonaventure: (1221-1274) This great Catholic saint was a Doctor of the Church. This Scholastic devoted his life to celibacy and managed a house of friars. St. Bonaventure wrote that the intercession of St. Francis saved his life as a child. Miracles were attributed to Bonaventure even during his life. In 1434, when Bonaventure's remains were transported, it was discovered that his head and tongue (which was bright red) had been perfectly preserved, incorruptibly. Bonaventure founded the Society of the Gonfalone in honor of the Blessed Mother. St. Thomas Aquinas once visited Bonaventure in his cell only to find Bonaventure in ecstasy. The pope attended Bonaventure's funeral.

Peter Lombard   (1555-1625 A.D.) Priest, Bishop of Paris, and Scholastic theologian devoted to lifelong celibacy. His famous book was the "Book of Sentences." He wrote a smaller piece on the administration of the Sacrament of Confession. He emphasized the Seven Sacraments.

Anselm: (died ll09 A.D.) This great Catholic saint, priest, and monk was Archbishop of Canterbury and a Doctor of the Church. He was devoted to penance and mortifications, and was most known for his profound Christian love and charity towards everyone around him. Founder of Scholasticism. He encouraged devotion to English saints. He was famous for his devotion to the Heart of Mary. Notable quote by Anselm: "There is no salvation except Him Whom you, O Virgin, have brought forth." 

John Wyclif (1324-1384): After 1300 years of Christianity constantly upholding the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ Jesus in the Eucharist, Wyclif dared to deny it. He suffered a stroke while saying Mass and died three days later. Wyclif's notion of the Eucharist was still closer to the Lutheran or Catholic position than it would be to some other Protestant denominations. It should be noted that his doctrines clashed with Luther's faith-alone theology. Protestants sometimes dub him the "Morning Star of the Reformation" and praise him for his attacks on monks, clergy, and the papacy. The problem with Wyclif was not his insistence that the Bible was the rule of faith, but rather his interpretations of the Bible which clashed with historic Christian interpretations of the Bible. Regarding his Bible translation, the Catholic Encyclopedia explains: "Wyclif was reputed "to have translated the whole of the Bible, and two "Wyclifite" versions are in existence. Abbot Gasquet has disputed the genuineness of this authorship ("The Old English Bible", London, 1897), and F.D. Matthew has defended the traditional view (Eng. Hist. Rev., 1895). This much, at any rate, is certain: that the Bible was familiar even to laymen in the fourteenth century and that the whole of the New Testament at least could be read in translations.

William Tyndale: 16th century priest and Protestant Reformer who translated Bibles and hung out with Martin Luther. His doctrines earned him a reputation as a heretic by both the Catholic Church and the Church of England. His translations of Holy Scripture, which contained heresy-laced notes and comments, were condemned by the Church and by Henry VIII. Not to mention, in the words of Jimmy Akin, "His text included a prologue and notes that were so full of contempt for the Catholic Church and the clergy that no one could mistake his obvious agenda and prejudice." Henry VIII of the Church of England had him captured. Regrettably, he was burned at the stake at the hands of secular authorities in 1536.

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Uhlrich Zwingli: These men were Protestant Reformers of the 16th century. They started out Catholic, but then separated themselves from the original Church. They abandoned apostolic authority, the Chair of Peter (pope), the succession of the bishops, and from many of the historic Christian sacraments and doctrines. Although the first 1500 years of Christianity held that a true Christian could indeed lose one's salvation, these guys declared that not even the most vile sins could separate a true Christian from salvation for even one moment. On the other hand, they laudably believed that a saving faith would generally be followed by good works, which is something that Catholics also believe. These men may have started out with good intentions (they wanted to restore a Church plagued with many hypocritical clergy members), but they wound up getting rid of the Holy Mass, the priesthood, and in some cases, the historic literal interpretation of the Gospel of John, (6:35-71) (concerning the importance of eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Christ for our salvation) and the historic literal interpretation of a saving Baptism (John 3:5, 1 Pet 3:21, Acts 22:16, etc.). They rejected the Church authority that had been a Christian doctrine for 1500 years (ever since Jesus granted his authority to "bind and loose" on Earth) and replaced it with private judgment (private interpretation) as the final interpretation of Scripture.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri, St. Vincent De Paul, St. Frances De Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Charles Borromeo These men were the Catholic Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries. Like the Protestant Reformers, they wanted to restore the former holiness of the Catholic Church and its clergy. They dedicated themselves to intense prayer, fasting,  and poverty and were able to reinvigorate the Church with sanctity. They did not break off the Church, start a new church, or denounce Church authority.

Disclaimer: Many thousands of  pages have been written about each of the above individuals. I only had room to include a paragraph or two on each, and purposely chose to include some facts that many Protestants are less familiar with. My best suggestion for studying the Early Church Fathers is to read their original letters and treatises.


Books on Early Church History: The Faith of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons,  Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons (Rod Bennett),   The Catholic Controversy by Catholic Reformer St. Francis de Sales,   The Faith of the Early Fathers: Volumes 1, 2, 3 (William A. Jurgens….this is a compilation of passages from Pre-Nicene and Nicene Christian writings…..jam-packed with quotes) ,   Upon this Rock: St Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church by Stephen K. Ray, The Mass of the Early Christians (Mike Aquilina) , How the Reformation Happened by Hilaire Belloc,  One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic: The Early Church was The Catholic Church (Kenneth D. Whitehead),  Early Christian Writings by Maxwell Staniforth, The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina

Books on Bible History: Where we got the Bible: Our debt to the Catholic Church (by Henry G. Graham)

Related Web Sites: Theology from the Patristic Age to the Reformation and Beyond, Tyndale's Heresy, Church Fathers on the Church and Papacy, Church Fathers on Salvation, Baptism and Mortal Sin, Church Fathers on the Sacraments, Church Fathers on Scripture and Tradition, The Counter-Reformation, Papacy, Respected Protestant scholars on Peter, Petra and Petros   More on Peter, "Petra" and "Petros"    Debate on "Petra" "Petros" and "Peter"    Peter the Rock     The Pebble Argument Goes Down    Peter, Aramaic and Greek    Scott Hahn on the PapacySt. Paul's Tomb Discovered in Rome

Other notable Early Church FathersSt. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386 A.D.) Bishop and Doctor of the Church **** St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Cyprian of Carthage **** St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397 A.D.) **** Bishop and Doctor of the Church **** St. Basil the Great (329-379 A.D.) Bishop and Doctor of the Church **** St. Clement of Alexandria (died 215 A.D.) ****   St. John Chrysostom 347-407 A.D. Doctor of the Church **** Athanasius 296-393 A.D. Bishop of Alexandria and Doctor of the Church **** Pope Leo the Great (died 461 A.D.) ****



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