ST. HONORATUS, ARCHBISHOP OF ARLES
FEAST DAY January 16
350 Northern Gaul
Died January 6, 429 Arles, France
Saint Honoratus (French: Saint Honorat or Saint Honoré; ca. 350 – January 6, 429) was Archbishop of Arles.
There is some disagreement concerning his place of birth, and the date of his death is still disputed, being according to certain authors, January 14 or January 15. It is believed that he was born in the north of Gaul and that he belonged to an illustrious pagan family. Converted to Christianity with his brother Venantius, he embarked with him from Marseilles about 368, under the guidance of a holy person named Caprasius, to visit the holy places of Palestine and the lauræ of Syria and Egypt. But the death of Venantius, occurring suddenly at Methone, Achaia, prevented the pious travellers from going further. They returned to Gaul through Italy, and, after having stopped at Rome, Honoratus went on into Provence and, encouraged by Leontius, bishop of Fréjus, took up his abode in the wild Lérins Island today called the Île Saint-Honorat, with the intention of living there in solitude.
Numerous disciples soon gathered around him, including Lupus of Troyes, Eucherius of Lyon, and Hilary of Arles. Thus was founded the Monastery of Lérins, which has enjoyed so great a celebrity and which was during the fifth and sixth centuries a nursery for illustrious bishops and remarkable ecclesiastical writers. Honoratus's reputation for sanctity throughout the southeastern portion of Gaul was such that in 426 after the assassination of Patroclus of Arles, Archbishop of Arles, he was summoned from his solitude to succeed to the government of the diocese, which the Arian and Manichaean beliefs had greatly disturbed. He appears to have succeeded in re-establishing order and orthodoxy, while still continuing to direct from afar the monks of Lérins. However, the acts of his brief pontificate are not known. He died in the arms of Hilary, one of his disciples and probably a relative, who was to succeed him in the See of Arles.
His various writings have not been preserved, nor has the rule which he gave to the solitaries of Lérins. John Cassian, who had visited his monastery, dedicated to him several of his "Conferences"
He was of a consular Roman family, then settled in Gaul, and was well versed in the liberal arts. In his youth he renounced the worship of idols and gained his elder brother, Venantius, to Christ, whom he also inspired with a contempt of the world. They desired to renounce it entirely, but a fond Pagan father put continual obstacles in their way: at length they took with them St. Caprais, a holy hermit, for their director, and sailed from Marseilles to Greece, with the design to live there unknown, in some desert. Venantius soon died happily at Methone; and Honoratus, being also sick, was obliged to return with his conductor. He first led an eremitical life in the mountains, near Frejus. Two small islands lie in the sea near that coast; one larger, at a nearer distance from the continent, called Lero, now St. Margaret's; the other smaller and more remote, two leagues from Antibes, named Lerins, at present St. Honore, from our saint, where he settled; and being followed by others, he there founded the famous monastery of Lerins, about the year 400: Some he appointed to live in community; others, who seemed more perfect, in separate cells, as anchorets. His rule was chiefly borrowed from that of St. Pachomius. Nothing can be more amiable than the description St. Hilary has given of the excellent virtues of this company of saints, especially of the charity, concord, humility, compunction, and devotion which reigned among them, under the conduct of our holy abbot. He was, by compulsion, consecrated archbishop of Arles in 426, and died, exhausted with austerities and apostolical labors, in 429. The style of his letters was clear and affecting: they were penned with an admirable delicacy, elegance, and sweetness, as St. Hilary assures. The loss of all these precious monuments is much regretted. His tomb is shown empty under the high altar of the church which bears his name at Arles; his body having been translated to Lerins in 1391, where the greatest part remains. See his panegyric by his disciple, kinsman, and successor, St. Hilary of Arles; one of the most finished pieces extant in this kind. Dom Rivet