Honoring the Saints in the Church Fathers

This is a compilation of passages from the Church Fathers where they talk about honoring the saints. I wanted to make this page as a resource to respond to people who say that the early Christians didn’t honor the holy people who died before them, since I think they did. Some of these quotes are also about how they treated relics of the saints, since that is a closely related topic. BTW I’d love to add to this, do any of you know any other quotations from the Church Fathers that show us that they did honor the saints who died before them?

Honoring the Saints in the Fathers of the Church

107 A.D. - The Martyrdom of St. Ignatius - “[O]nly the harder portions of [Ignatius’s] holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr.” (The Martyrdom of St. Ignatius Chapter 6)

And: “Having ourselves been eye-witnesses of these things, and having spent the whole night in tears within the house…[and] falling into a brief slumber…some of us saw the blessed Ignatius suddenly standing by us and embracing us, while others beheld him again praying for us…standing by the Lord. When, therefore, we had with great joy witnessed these things, and had compared our several visions together, we sang praise to God, the giver of all good things, and expressed our sense of the happiness of the holy [martyr].” (The Martyrdom of Ignatius Chapter 7)

And: “[We] have made known to you both the day and the time [of his death], [so] that, assembling ourselves together according to the time of his martyrdom, we may have fellowship with the champion and noble martyr of Christ, who trod under foot the devil, and perfected the course which, out of love to Christ, he had desired, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ibid.)

138 A.D. - The Passion of St. Symphrosa and Her Seven Sons - “[T]he persecution [by Emperor Hadrian] ceased for a year and a half, in which period the holy bodies of all the martyrs were honoured, and consigned with all care to [tombs] erected for that purpose, and their names are written in the book of life. The [birth] day, moreover, of the holy martyrs of Christ, the blessed Symphorosa and her seven sons…is held on the 18th July.” (The Passion of St. Symphorosa and Her Seven Sons Chapter 4)

155 A.D. - The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp - “[T]he Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master… [When Polycarp died] we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place… [As] opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp Chapters 17-18)

~178 A.D. - Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Epipodius and St. Alexander - “Into [a] cavern their venerable bodies were, with religious forethought, cast, because the fury of the Gentiles, denying the last rites of burial, raged even against the bodies of the dead. [Later] the reverence of religious men preserved that place, and a reverence transmitted [it] through their posterity… [One] woman…preserved [a] sandal of the martyr…[and]did not deny that, by the mercy of God, she had cured very many by means of the relic…” (Acts of the Martyrdom of SS. Epipodius and Alexander, in Ruinart, Acta Primorum Martyrum Sincera et Selecta Chapter 13, as translated in The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 250-251)

198 A.D. - Gaius - “I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church.” (Disputation with Proclus, in Eusebius, Church History Book 2 Chapter 25)

202 A.D. - The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity - “The [martyr] Saturus…[said] to the soldier Pudens…Farewell, and be mindful of my faith; and let not these things disturb, but confirm you. And at the same time he asked for a little ring from [the] finger [of Pudens], and returned it to him bathed in his wound, leaving to him an inherited token and the memory of his blood.” (The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity Chapter 6 Paragraph 4)

~258 A.D. - Deacon Pontius of Antioch - “as [St. Cyprian] sat moistened after his long journey with excessive perspiration (the seat was by chance covered with linen, so that even in the very moment of his passion he might enjoy the honour of the episcopate), one of the officers…who had formerly been a Christian, offered him his clothes, as if he might wish to change his moistened garments for drier ones; and he doubtless coveted nothing further in respect of his proffered kindness than to possess the now blood-stained sweat of the martyr going to God.” (Life and Passion of St. Cyprian Chapter 16)


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