Wednesday, May 23, 2012


 Sulpicius 'Severus,'

 FEAST DAY : January 29
Disciple of St. Martin
 Born in Aquitaine; died 591. There was a great writer named Sulpicius Severus, not numbered among the saints, who authored the Life of Saint Martin of Tours. This is not he, though his moniker has often caused confusion. Saint Sulpicius, bishop of Bourges from 584 until his death, was born into a wealthy and illustrious Roman family. He was highly learned in secular literature and the law, which he practiced for a time. Sulpicius began to consider the religious life following the death of his beloved wife, from whom he inherited even greater wealth. For a time he continued to live in the same household as his pious mother-in-law, Bassula, with whom he shared a mutual affection. Her example and exhortations confirmed the resolution of Saint Sulpicius to turn his life over to Christ unreservedly. His conversion at about age 32 occurred during the same year of Saint Paulinus of Nola's conversion about 392. (Some of what we know about Saint Sulpicius comes from the testimony of the latter saint.)
  In a letter to Aurelius the deacon, he relates that one night in a dream he saw St. Martin ascend to heaven in great glory, and attended by the holy priest Clarus, his disciple, who was lately dead: soon after, two monks arriving from Tours, brought news of the death of St. Martin. He adds, that his greatest comfort in the loss of so good a master, was a confidence that he should obtain the divine blessings by the prayers of St. Martin in heaven. St. Paulinus mentions this vision in an inscription in verse, which he made and sent to be engraved on the marble altar of the church of Primuliacus.  St. Sulpicius wrote the life of the incomparable St. Martin, according to Tillemont and most others, before the death of that saint: but De Prato thinks that though it was begun before, it was neither finished nor published till after, his death. The style of this piece is plainer and more simple than that of his other writings. An account of the death of St. Martin, which is placed by De Prato in the year 400, is accurately given by St. Sulpicius, in a letter to Bassula, his mother-in-law, who then lived at Triers. The three dialogues of our saint are the most florid of all his writings. In the first Posthumain, a friend who had spent three years in the deserts of Egypt and the East, and was then returned, relates to him and Gallus, a disciple of St. Martin, (with whom our saint then lived under the same roof,) the wonderful examples of virtue he had seen abroad. In the second dialogue Gallus recounts many circumstances of the life of St. Martin, which St. Sulpicius had omitted in his history of that saint. In the third, under the name of the same Gallus, several miracles wrought by St. Martin are proved by authentic testimonies. The most important work of our saint is his abridgment of sacred history from the beginning of the world down to his own time in the year 400. The elegance, conciseness, and perspicuity with which this work is compiled, have procured the author the name of the Christian Sallust, some even prefer it to the histories of the Roman Sallust, and look upon it as the most finished model extant of abridgments.  His style is the most pure of any of the Latin fathers, though also Lactantius, Minutius Felix, we may almost add St. Jerom, and Salvian of Marseilles, deserve to be read among the Latin classics. The heroic sanctity of Sulpicius Severus is highly extolled by St. Paulinus of Nola, Paulinus of Perigueux, about the year 460, Venantius Fortunantus, and many others down to the present age. Gennadius tells us, that he was particularly remarkable for his extraordinary love of poverty and humility. After the death of St. Martin, in 400, St. Sulpicius Severus passed five years in that illustrious saint’s cell at Marmoutier. F. Jerom De Prato thinks that he at length retired to a monastery at Marseilles, or in that neighbourhood; because in a very ancient manuscript copy of his works, transcribed in the seventh century kept in the library of the chapter of Verona, he is twice called a monk of Marseilles. From the testimony of this manuscript, the Benedictin authors of the new treatise On the Diplomatique,  and the continuators of the Literary History of France,  regard it as undoubted that Sulpicius Severus was a monk at Marseilles before his death. Whilst the Alans, Sueves, and Vandals from Germany and other barbarous nations, laid waste most provinces in Gaul in 406, Marseilles enjoyed a secure peace under the government of Constantine, who, having assumed the purple, fixed the seat of his empire at Arles from the year 407 to 410. After the death of St. Chrysostom in 407, Cassian came from Constantinople to Marseilles, and founded there two monasteries, one for men, the other for women. Most place the death of St. Sulpicius Severus about the year 420, Baronius after the year 432; but F. Jerom De Prato about 410, when he supposes him to have been near fifty years old, saying that Gennadius, who tells us that he lived to a very great age, is inconsistent with himself. Neither St. Paulinus nor any other writer mentions him as living later than the year 407, which seems to prove that he did not survive that epoch very many years. Guibert, abbot of Gemblours, who died in 1208, in his Apology for Sulpicius Severus, testifies that his festival was kept at Marmoutier with great solemnity on the 29th of January. Several editors of the Roman Martyrology, who took Sulpicius Severus, who is named in the calendars on this day, to have been this saint, added in his eulogium, Disciple of St. Martin, famous for his learning and merits. Many have proved that this addition was made by the mistake of private editors, and that the saint originally meant here in the Roman Martyrology was Sulpicius Severus, bishop of Bourges;  and Benedict XIV. proves and declares 20 that Sulpicius Severus, the disciple of St. Martin, is not commemorated in the Roman Martyrology. Nevertheless, he has been ranked among the saints at Tours from time immemorial, and is honoured with a particular office on this day in the new Breviary used in all that diocess. See his works correctly printed, with various readings, notes, dissertations, and the life of this saint at Verona in 1741, in two volumes folio, by F. Jerom De Prato, an Italian Oratorian of Verona: also Gallia Christiana tum Vetus tum Nova: Tillemont, t. 12. Ceillier, t. 10. p. 635. Rivet, Hist. Litér de la France, t. 2. p. 95.   2

 He was venerated by Saint Gregory of Tours

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