Today is the feast day of Saint Prosper of Aquitaine. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Prosper was born in the Roman province of Aquitaine in the year 403. He is known chiefly through his writings. In his youth he had applied himself to all branches both of sacred and secular learning. Because of the purity and sanctity of his manners, the writers of his time testify that he was a holy and venerable man. (1)
By 428, he was a layman living with monks at Marseilles, who disagreed with Augustine’s theology of grace and predestination. To strengthen his arguments, Prosper wrote to Augustine, who responded with On the predestination of the Saints and On the gift of perseverance. He became known as “the best disciple of Augustine.”
Prosper seems to have labelled anyone who disagreed with Augustine “semi-Pelagian,” and the list included John Cassian, Hilary of Arles, and Vincent of Lérins. The enemies of Saint Augustine turned against Saint Prosper also, publishing fifteen errors which they attributed to the latter, then sixteen propositions supposedly clarifying Augustine’s true sentiments, and spread them widely. The Saint with gentleness answered all these writings without acrid reprisals. In 431, the year after Augustine’s death, Proper and a friend named Hilary travelled to Rome to ask Celestine I, who had praised Augustine, to proclaim the truth of his teachings.
Saint Prosper was not an ecclesiastic. Saint Leo the Great, when chosen Pope in 440, invited him to Rome, made him his secretary, and employed him in the most important affairs of the Church. It was primarily Saint Prosper who finally crushed the Pelagian heresy definitively, when it was raising its head in the see of Peter. Its complete overthrow is said to be due to his zeal, learning, and unwearied endeavors. The date of his death remains uncertain, but he was still living in 455, the date at which his Chronicle concludes. But, Prosper’s history ends with the Vandal sack of Rome (455).
Works by St. Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455
The Church pleads before God everywhere, not only for the saints and those regenerated in Christ, but also for all infidels and all enemies of the Cross of Christ, for all worshippers of idols, for all who persecute Christ in His members, for the Jews whose blindness does not see the light of the Gospel, for heretics and schismatics who are alien to the unity of faith and love.
But what does she beg for them, if not that they leave their errors and be converted to God, that they accept the faith, accept love, that they be freed from the shadows of ignorance and come to the knowledge of the truth? (The Call of All Nations, 1.12) (4)
Let us consider the sacraments of priestly prayers, which having been handed down by the Apostles are celebrated uniformly throughout the whole world and in every Catholic Church so that the law of praying might establish the law of believing. (Patrologia Latina 51:209-210) (4)
Like ointment on the head, which ran down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron…(Ps. 133.2) By the priest Aaron, that Priest is indicated who alone fulfills the sacrament of the true High Priest, not with a victim of another kind, but in the oblation of His own body and blood: same Priest, same Victim, Propitiator and Propitiation, the One who effects all the mysteries for which He was announced. Who died, was buried, and rose again, He ascended into heaven, exalting human nature above every other name, and sending the Holy Spirit, whose unction would penetrate every Church. (Explanation of the Psalms) (4)