Fulgentius of Ruspe

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Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe
Fulgentius von Ruspe 17Jh.jpg
Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe
Abbot and Bishop
Born c. 465
Thelepte
Died 1 January 527(527-01-01) or 533
Ruspe
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church,
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 1 January and 3 January (Augustinian Order)[1]
Not to be confused with Saint Fulgentius of Cartagena and probably not to be confused with Fabius Planciades Fulgentius, the 5th-century African author of the Mythologies.

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (462 or 467 – 1 January 527 or 533) was bishop of the city of Ruspe, North Africa, in the 5th and 6th century and was canonized as a Christian saint. Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius[2] was born into a noble family of Carthage, which had been cut off from the Roman Empire some thirty years earlier by the Vandals.

Biography[edit]

His father died while Fulgentius was still quite young. His mother, Mariana, taught him to speak Greek and Latin. Fulgentius would become particularly good at the former, even speaking it like a native. He quickly gained wide respect for his conduct of the family affairs, as well as for the respect he showed his mother. This reputation helped him to acquire a post as a civil servant in the government of Rome, as a procurator of Byzacena. He quickly grew tired of the material life. This, together with his studies of religion, particularly a sermon of Augustine of Hippo on Psalm 36, which dealt with the transitory nature of the physical life, determined him to become a monk.

He applied to Faustus, a bishop who had been forced from his diocese by the Vandal king Huneric and later set up a monastery at Byzacena. Faustus had serious concerns about Fulgentius's physical weakness, which might make him a poor fit for the rigorous life of the monastery, and tried to dissuade the twenty-two-year-old Fulgentius from his request. As Fulgentius persisted, though, Faustus relented and admitted him on a trial basis.[3]

When learning of this, Mariana, who evidently had never been told of Fulgentius's wish, was very upset. She rushed to the gates of the monastery, demanding to know how a church which was supposed to protect widows could rob this widow of her only son. Her protestations were ineffective, however, and Fulgentius was ultimately confirmed to his vocation.[3]

Renewed attacks on the area forced Fulgentius to leave for another nearby monastery. The abbot there, Felix, gave Fulgentius the duty of managing the temporal affairs of the monastery, while he himself managed the spiritual affairs. The two of them worked quite well together, and, in 499, during another Arian persecution in the area, fled for Sicca Veneria. There they preached the Chalcedonian teaching regarding the dual nature of Jesus. Upon learning of this, a local Arian priest had them arrested and tortured.

Upon being released, Fulgentius planned to go to Alexandria, but changed his mind upon hearing the Arians had taken control of Egypt. He opted instead to go to Rome, where he prayed at the tombs of the apostles. He then returned to Byzacena, where he built a monastery, electing himself to live in an isolated cell. Fulgentius's reputation quickly spread, and he was frequently offered the post of bishop of one of the dioceses which had been vacated through the actions of the Arian king Thrasamund. He chose not to accept these offers, knowing Thrasamund had specifically ordered that only Arians be permitted to fill those sees.[3]

Bishop of Ruspe[edit]

Fulgentius was ultimately persuaded to take the post of bishop of Ruspe in Tunisia. He made a strong impression on the people of his new diocese with his obvious virtues, but was soon banished to Sardinia with some sixty other bishops who did not hold the Arian position. Pope Symmachus knew of their plight and sent them annual provisions of food and money.

While in Sardinia, Fulgentius turned a house in Cagliari into a monastery, and determined to write a number of works to help instruct the Christians of Africa. In 515, he returned to Africa, having been summoned there by Thrasamund for a public debate with his Arian replacements. His book An Answer to Ten Objections is supposed to have been collected from the answers he had made to their objections to the Chalcedonian position. Thrasamund was impressed by Fulgentius' knowledge and learning. Not wanting these very effective statements to fall in the hands of his Arian subjects, possibly creating social discord, he ordered that all Fulgentius' future statements be delivered only orally. Fulgentius responded with a rebuttal of the Arian position, now known as the Three Books to King Thrasamund. Thrasamund's respect for Fulgentius grew, leading him to allow Fulgentius to stay in Carthage, but then renewed complaints from the local Arian clergy caused him to banish Fulgentius back to Sardinia in 520. In 523, following the death of Thrasamund and the accession of his Chalcedonian son Hilderic, Fulgentius was allowed to return to Ruspe and try to convert the populace to the Chalcedonian position. He worked to reform many of the abuses which had infiltrated his old diocese in his absence. The power and effectiveness of his preaching was so profound that his archbishop, Boniface of Carthage, wept openly every time he heard Fulgentius preach, and publicly thanked God for giving such a great preacher to his church.[3]

Later, Fulgentius retired to a monastery on the island of Circinia, but was recalled to Ruspe, and served there until his death on 1 January, 533.

Writings[edit]

As a theologian, Fulgentius's work shows knowledge of Greek and a strong agreement with Augustine of Hippo. He wrote frequently against Arianism and Pelagianism. Some letters and eight sermons survive by Fulgentius. During the Middle Ages, he was conflated with Fabius Planciades Fulgentius and considered the author of the famous Mythologies, but this identification is now questioned.

Doctrine[edit]

Filioque[edit]

Fulgentius writes in his Letter to Peter on the Faith: "Hold most firmly and never doubt that the same Holy Spirit, who is the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeds from the Father and the Son. For the Son says, 'When the Spirit of Truth comes, who has proceeded from the Father,' where he taught that the Spirit is his, because he is the Truth."[4]

Veneration[edit]

His saint's day is January 1, the day of his death. His relics were transferred to Bourges in France around 714. They were later destroyed there during the French Revolution.[3]

Further reading[edit]

  • Fulgence de Ruspe, Lettres ascetiques et morales. Critical text by J. Fraipont. Introduction, translation, and notes by Daniel Bachelet. Paris: Cerf, 2004, Pp. 298. (Sources Chretiennes, 487).
  • "Fulgentius" in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, eds. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.
  • Catholic Encyclopedia article "St. Fulgentius"
  • Saint of the Day, January 1 at SaintPatrickDC.org
  • Burns, Paul. Butler's Lives of the Saints:New Full Edition. Collegeville, MN:The Liturgical Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8146-2377-8.
  • Gumerlock, Francis X. Fulgentius of Ruspe on the Saving Will of God: The Development of a Sixth-Century African Bishop’s Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:4 During the Semi-Pelagian Controversy. Edwin Mellen Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0773449350

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe". West Coast Augustinians, Province of St. Augustine. Retrieved 2007-02-28. 
  2. ^ Jones, Terry. "Fulgentius of Ruspe". Patron Saints Index. Retrieved 2007-02-28. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Burns, Paul. Butler's Lives of the Saints:New Full Edition. Collegeville, MN:The Liturgical Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8146-2377-8.
  4. ^ St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Letter to Peter on the Faith II. 54.

External links[edit]