School of Alexandria

From Rock of the Apostles

When the emperor Septimius Severus decided to launch a military campaign in the province of Africa in 202, macriusQuintus Maecius Laetus, the prefect of the province of Egypt, supported the effort by demanding public worship of pagan gods by Christians on penalty of death. This action went well beyond the decree issued by the emperor five years earlier. Severus had forbidden conversions to Christianity or Judaism. The decree did not originally affect those already Christians or Jews or their offspring, only non-Christian catechumens.

In order to identify which Christians were actually obeying this demand, Laetus decided that Christians must worship Roman gods in public. This would calm the non-Christian population and reduce the number of riots in Alexandria. As a result, many Christians refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and were martyred. Among those martyred was Origen’s father, Leonides. This proved to be important because Origen became the director of the famous Catechetical School of Alexandria, the primary teacher of Christianity in the world. Origen would do more for the Living Tradition of the Church than any Christian theologian up to that time and some might say up to the present.

My upcoming text book, Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of the Catholic Church, will have many instances such as this as to why the Church makes the decisions it does.