Vincent of Lérins

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Vincent of Lérins
Died c. 445
Lérins, France
Honored in Roman Catholic Church[1]
Eastern Orthodox Church[2]
Anglican Communion
Feast 24 May

Saint Vincent of Lérins (died c. 445) (in Latin, Vincentius) was a Gallic author of early Christian writings. His feast day is May 24.


Vincent was born in Toulouse in Gaul.[3] In earlier life he had been engaged in secular pursuits, whether civil or military is not clear, though the term he uses, "secularis militia," might possibly imply the latter. He entered the monastery of Lérins (today Isle St. Honorat), where under the pseudonym of Peregrinus he wrote his "Commonitorium" (434).[4] He refers to the Council of Ephesus, held in the summer and early autumn of 431, as having been held some three years previously to the time at which he was writing "ante triennium ferme." Vincent defended calling the holy Virgin Theotokos, "she who gave birth to God," in opposition to the teachings of Nestorius which were condemned at the Ephesus.[3] Eucherius of Lyons calls him a holy man, conspicuous for eloquence and knowledge.

Gennadius says that Vincentius died, "Theodosio et Valentiniano regnantibus." Theodosius died, leaving Valentinian still reigning, in July, 450. Vincentius' death, therefore, must have occurred in or before that year. His relics are preserved at Lerins.[5]

Baronius places his name in the Roman Martyrology, Tillemont doubts whether with sufficient reason. He is commemorated on the 24 May.


Vincent's object in the Commonitory[6] is to provide himself, as he states, with a general rule whereby to distinguish Catholic truth from heresy; and he commits what he has learnt, he adds, to writing, that he may have it by him for reference as a Commonitory, or Remembrancer, to refresh his memory.

"The Vincentian Canon"[edit]

The Commonitorium emphasizes the primacy of scripture as the ground of truth.[7] In the Commonitorium, Vincent offers three tests of accurate scripture interpretation: universality, antiquity, and consent.[3]


Semi-pelagianism was a doctrine of grace advocated by monks of Southern Gaul at and around Marseilles after 428. It aimed at a compromise between the two extremes of Pelagianism and Augustinism, and was condemned as heresy at the Œcumenical Council of Orange in 529 after disputes extending over more than a hundred years. [8]

Augustine wrote of prevenient grace, and expanded to a discussion of pre-destination. A number of monastic communities took exception to the latter as it seemed to nullify any of the value of the asceticism practiced under their Rules. John Cassian felt that Augustine's stress on predestination ruled out any need for human cooperation or consent.

Vincent has been charged with Semipelagianism. Whether he actually held the doctrine which was afterwards called by that name is not clear. Certainly the express enunciation of it is nowhere to be found in the Commonitory. But it is extremely probable that at least his sympathies were with those who held it. When it is considered that the monks of Lérins, in common with the general body of the churchmen of Southern Gaul, were strenuous upholders of Semipelagianism, it will not be thought surprising that Vincentius should have been suspected of at least a leaning in that direction. Tillemont, who forbears to express himself decidedly, but evidently inclines to that view. It is also possible that Vincentius held to a position closer to the Eastern Orthodox position of today, which they claim to have been virtually universal until the time of Augustine, and which may have been interpreted as semipelagian by Augustine's followers.

Vincent was one who upheld tradition, and seemed to have objected to much of what Augustine wrote as "new" theology. He shared Cassian's reservations re Augustine's views on the role of grace. In the Commonitorium Vincent listed theologians and teachers who had in his view made significant contributions to the defense and spreading of the Gospel. He omitted Augustine's name from that list. Some commentators have viewed Cassian and Vincent as "semi-Augustinian" rather than "semi-pelagian".

It has been matter of question whether Vincentius is to be credited with the authorship of the "Objectiones Vincentianae," a collection of Sixteen Inferences alleged to be deducible from St. Augustine's writings, which has come down to us in Prosper's Reply.

Its date coincides so nearly with that of the Commonitory as to preclude all doubt as to the identity of authorship on that score, and it must be confessed that its animus and that of the 70th and 86th sections of the Commonitory are too much in keeping to make it difficult to believe that both are from the same pen.


Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas G. Guarino, Vincent of Lerins and the Devolopment of Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

External links[edit]