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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IV: April. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

April 6

St. Prudentius, Bishop of Troyes, Confessor

HE was by birth a Spaniard; but fled from the swords of the infidels into France, where in 840, or 845, he was chosen bishop of Troyes. He was one of the most learned prelates of the Gallican church, and was consulted as an oracle. By his sermon on the Virgin St. Maura, we are informed that, besides his other functions and assiduity in preaching, he employed himself in hearing confessions, and in administering the sacraments of the holy eucharist and extreme unction. In his time Gotescalc, a wandering monk of the abbey of Orbasis, in the diocess of Soissons, advanced, in his travels, the errors of predestinarianism, blasphemously asserting that reprobates were doomed by God to sin and hell, without the power of avoiding either. Nottinge, bishop either of Brescia or Verona, sent an information of these blasphemies to Rabanus Maurus, archbishop of Mentz, one of the most learned and holy men of that age, and who had, whilst abbot of Fulde, made that house the greatest nursery of science in Europe. 1 Rabanus examined Gotescalc in a synod at Mentz in 848, condemned his errors, and sent him to his own metropolitan Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, a prelate also of great learning and abilities. 2 By him and Wenilo, archbishop of Sens, with several other prelates, the monk was again examined in a synod held at Quiercy on the Oise, in the diocess of Soissons, a royal palace of King Charles the Bald, in 849. Gotescalc being refractory, was condemned to be degraded from the priesthood, and imprisoned in the abbey of Haut-villiers in the diocess of Hincmar. By the advice of St. Prudentius, whom Hincmar consulted, he was not deprived of the lay-communion till, after some time, Hincmar, seeing his obstinacy invincible, fulminated against him a sentence of excommunication, under which this unhappy author of much scandal and disturbance died, after twenty-one years of rigorous confinement, in 870. Some suspected Hincmar of leaning towards the contrary Semipelagian error against the necessity of divine grace; and Ratramnus of Corbie took up his pen against him. St. Prudentius wrote to clear up the point, which seemed perplexed by much disputing, and to set the Catholic doctrine in a true light, showing on one side a free will in man, and that Christ died for the salvation of all men; and on the other, proving the necessity of divine grace, and that Christ offered up his death in a special manner for the salvation of the elect. When parties are once stirred up in disputes, it is not an easy matter to dispel the mist which prejudices and heat raise before their eyes. This was never more evident than on that occasion. Both sides agreed in doctrine, yet did not understand one another. Lupus Servatus, the famous abbot of Ferrieres, in Gatinois, Amolan, archbishop of Lyons, and his successor St. Remigius, wrote against Rabanus and Hincmar, in defence of the necessity of divine grace, though they condemned the blasphemies of the predestinarians. Even Amolan of Lyons and his church, who seem to have excused Gotescalc in the beginning, because they had never examined him, always censured the errors condemned in him: for the divine predestination of the elect is an article of faith; but such a grace and predestination as destroy free-will in the creature, are a monstrous heresy. Neither did St. Remigius of Lyons, nor St. Prudentius, interest themselves in the defence of Gotescalc, which shows the inconsistency of those moderns, who, in our time, have undertaken his justification. 3 In 853, Hincmar and other bishops published, in a second assembly at Quiercy, four Capitula, or assertions, to establish the doctrines of free-will, and of the death of Christ for all men. To these St. Prudentius subscribed, as Hincmar and the annals of St. Bertin testify. The church of Lyons was alarmed at these assertions, fearing they excluded the necessity of grace: and the council of Valence, in 855, in which St. Remigius of Lyons presided, published six canons, explaining, in very strong terms, the articles of the necessity of grace, and of the predestination of God’s elect. St. Prudentius procured the confirmation of these canons by Pope Nicholas I., in 859. Moreover, fearing the articles of Quiercy might be abused in favour of Pelagianism; though he had before approved them, he wrote his Tractatoria to confute the erroneous sense which they might bear in a Pelagian mouth, and to give a full exposition of the doctrine of divine grace. He had the greater reason to be upon his guard, seeing some, on the occasion of those disputes, openly renewed the Pelagian errors. John Scotus Erigena, an Irishman in the court of Charles the Bald, a subtle sophist, infamous for many absurd errors, both in faith and in philosophy, 4 published a book against Gotescalc, On Predestination, in which he openly advanced the Semipelagian errors against grace, besides other monstrous heresies. Wenilo, archbishop of Sens, having extracted nineteen articles out of this book, sent them to his oracle St. Prudentius, who refuted the entire book of Scotus by a treatise which is still extant. This saint, having exerted his zeal also for the discipline of the church, and the reformation of manners among the faithful, was named with Lupus abbot of Ferrieres, to superintend and reform all the monasteries of France; of which commission he acquitted himself with great vigour and prudence. He died on the 6th of April, 861, and is named in the Galilean martyrologies, though not in the Roman. 5 At Troyes he is honoured with an office of nine lessons, and his relics are exposed in a shrine. 6 See Ceillier, t. 19. p. 27. Clemencez, Hist. Liter. de la France, t. 5. p. 240. Also Les Vies de S. Prudence de Troyes, et de S. Maure, Vierge, à Troyes, 1725. With an ample justification of this holy prelate: and Nicolas Antonio, Bibliotheca Hispanica Vetus, l. 6. c. 1. an. 259. ad 279. which work was published at Rome by the care of Card. D’Aguirre in 1696.  1
Note 1. Rabanus Maurus was archbishop of Mentz from the year 847 to 856, in which he died, on the 4th of February, on which his name occurs in certain private German Martyrologies, though he has never been publicly honoured among the saints. See Bolland. Febr. t. 1. p. 511. and Mabillon, t. 6. Act. SS. Bened. p. 37. His works were printed at Mentz, in 1626, in six tomes. They consist of letters, comments on the holy scriptures, and several dogmatical and pious treatises. The principal are his Institution of the Clergy, and On the Ceremonies or Divine Offices, in three books; and his Martyrology, which he compiled about the year 844. Dom. Bernard Pez published his pious discourse on the Passion of Christ. Anecdot. t. 4. part. 2. p. 8. His poems, which fall short of his prose writings, were published by F. Brower with those of Fortunatus. The Veni Creator is found among his writings, and in none more ancient; whence some ascribe to him that excellent hymn. He quotes the Gloria, laus et honor; which is known to be the work of Theodulph, bishop of Orleans, who died in 821, and left us Capitulars and other works in prose, and some in verse, collected by F. Sirmond in 1646. See Opera P. Sirmundi. Venetiis, 1728. t. 2.
  Hincmar, a monk of St. Denis, chosen archbishop of Rheims in 845, died in 882. His letters are much better written than his other works, nor is the style so lax and diffusive. Sirmond published his works in two vols. folio, in 1645. F. Cellot added a third volume in 1658.
  Lupus, abbot of Ferrieres in Gatinois, (whom all now agree to have been the same person with Lupus Servatus, as F. Sirmond and Baluze have demonstrated against Mauguin,) died in 862. His letters and his famous treatise on the Three Questions (relating to Predestination) are written in a nervous and elegant style. The most accurate editions are those of Baluze, in 1664, at Paris, and with additions at Leipsic in 1710 (the title page says falsely at Antwerp).
  Amolon succeeded Agobard in the see of Lyons in 840, and died in 852. In the Library of the Fathers, t. 13 and 14. and in an appendix to the works of Agobard by Baluze, we have his works on Grace and Predestination, and his letter to Theutlaald, bishop of Langres, in which he orders him to remove out of the church, and bury decently certain doubtful relics, according to the practice of St. Martin, and the decree of pope Gelasius. As to certain pretended miracles of women falling into convulsions, and being seized with pains before them, he commands them to be rejected and despised: for true miracles restore often health, but never cause sickness in such circumstances.
  St. Remigius of Lyons, Amolon’s successor, died on the 28th of October, 875, and is named among the Saints in the private calendars of Ferrari and Saussay. On his writings, on Grace and Predestination, see Mabillon, Suppl. Diplom. p. 64. et in Analectis, p. 426. and F. Colonia, Hist. de Lyons, t. 2. p. 139.
  Florus, deacon of Lyons, and a learned professor, author of additions to Bede’s Martyrology, wrote both against Gotescalc and John Scotus Erigena. See t. 15. Bibl. Patr. and Baluze, t. 2. op. Agobardi. Append. [back]
Note 2. T. 5. Concil. Harduin, p. 15, 16. Annal. Fuldens. ad. an. 848. [back]
Note 3. Bishop Usher, Jansenius, and Mauguin are advocates for the Predestinarians; consequently suspected persons in this history. Their vindication of Gotescalc is confuted by the Cardinal de Laurea, Opusc. l. c. 7., Nat. Alexander, F. Honoratus of St. Mary, and Tournely, in accurate dissertations on that subject. F. Ziegelbaver in the Hist. Liter. Ord. S. Bened. t. 3. p. 105. gives us both Card. Noris’s Apology for Gotescalc, and the Jesuit Du Mesnil’s history of his heresy. [back]
Note 4. See a catalogue of some of his errors and absurdities in Witasse’s Tr. de Euchar. t. 1. p. 414. and in Mu. Paris, Diss. at the end of the Perpétuité de la Foi, art. 4. Had Dr. Cave lived to read these authors, or Mabillon, sæc. 4. and 6. Bened. or Nat. Alexander, Hist. sæc. 9 and 10. Diss. 14. p. 359. t. 6. &c. he would not have confounded this John Scotus Erigena with John Scotus, abbot of Ethelinge, king Alfred’s master, and one of the first professors at Oxford: nor is it likely he would have suppressed his errors, or the disgrace with which, by an express order of pope Nicholas I., he was expelled France. Hist. Liter. t. 5. p. 36. [back]
Note 5. It is strange that Baillet should imagine this to be the Prudentius named in the Roman Martyrology, as bishop of Tarracona, on the 28th of April; who, by the report of Tamayo and Lubin, was bishop of that see in 586, and his relics are shown there to this day. [back]
Note 6. The Bollandists, p. 531, on the 6th of April, with Lewis Cellot, Hist. Gotescalci, l. 3. c. 9. charge Prudentius of Troyes with errors in doctrine, and with opposing Hincmar out of jealousy and revenge, because the archbishop had seemed to infringe the rights of his church, according to the author of the Annales Britannici, who wrote within twenty years after his death. But this seems only a slander propagated by some of his adversaries. His writings, which are extant, t. 15. Bibl. Patr. p. 467. are understood in an orthodox sense by most learned Catholic theologians: at least we cannot doubt but he submitted them to the judgment of the Church. See Cacciari, Monitum in S. Leonis, ep. 136. t. 2. p. 452.
  The works of St. Prudentius, see t. 15. Bibl. Patr. His letter to his brother, who was a bishop, probably in Spain, is published by Mabillon, Analecta, p. 418. His panegyric on St. Maura, a virgin at Troyes, is extant in Surius; and translated into French, and defended against Daillé, by Abbé Breyer, canon at Troyes, at the end of his Défense de l’Eglise de Troyes, at Paris, 1725. [back]