« Fabiola, a noble Roman lady Faustus (11), sometimes called the Breton Felicissimus, deacon of Carthage »

Faustus (11), sometimes called the Breton

Faustus (11), sometimes called "the Breton," from having been born in Brittany, or (as Tillemont thinks) in Britain, but more generally known as Faustus of Riez from the name of his see. Born towards the close of the 4th cent., he may have lost his father while he was young, for we only hear of his mother, whose fervid piety made a great impression on all who saw her. Faustus studied Greek philosophy, but in a Christian spirit; mastered the principles of rhetoric, and may have pleaded for a time at the bar.

While still youthful (probably c. 426 or a little later) he entered the famous monastery of Lerins, then presided over by St. Maximus. Here he became a thorough ascetic and a great student of Holy Scripture, without, however, giving up his philosophic pursuits. Here he probably acquired the reputation, assigned to him by Gennadius, of an illustrious extempore preacher. He became a presbyter, and c. 432 or 433 succeeded Maximus as abbat of Lerins. His tenure was marked by a dispute with his diocesan Theodore, bp. of Fréjus, concerning their respective rights. The third council of Arles was convened by Ravennius, bp. of Arles, for the sole purpose of settling this controversy. The decision left considerable ecclesiastical power in the hands of the abbat. The epistle of Faustus to a deacon named Gratus (al. Gratius or Gregorius), who was heretical on the union of the two natures in the Person of Christ, belongs also to this period.

Faustus next succeeded St. Maximus in the episcopate of Riez in Provence. Baronius places this as late as 472, but Tillemont (Mém. vi. p. 775) as early as 462 or even 456. Faustus continued as bishop the stern self-discipline which he had practised as monk and abbat. He often retired to Lerins, becoming known throughout and beyond his diocese as one who gave succour to those sick whether in body or mind. He seems to have taken a stern view of late repentances, like those so prevalent at an earlier period in the church of N. Africa. In the councils of Arles and of Lyons a presbyter named Lucidus, accused of having taught fatalism through misunderstanding Augustine, was induced to retract; and Leontius, bp. of Arles, invited Faustus to compose a treatise on grace and free choice.

Faustus appears from Sidonius to have had some share in the treaty of 475 between the emperor Nepos and Euric king of the Visigoths, which Tillemont and Gibbon agree in regarding as discreditable to the Roman empire. It wrested Auvergne and subsequently Provence from an orthodox sovereign, and gave them to an Arian. This was unfortunate for Faustus, who c. 481 was banished, probably because of his writings against Arianism. His banishment is naturally attributed to king Euric, on whose death in 483 he returned to Riez. His life was prolonged until at least a.d. 492, possibly for some years later.

His writings have not come down to us in a complete and satisfactory condition. The following are still accessible:—

(1) Professio Fidei.—He opens with a severe attack on the teaching of Pelagius as heretical, but expresses a fear of the opposite extreme, of such a denial of man's power as a free agent as would virtually amount to fatalism.

(2) Epistola ad Lucidum Presbyterum.—Here, too, he anathematizes the error of Pelagius; but also any who shall have declared that Christ did not die for all men, or willeth not that all should be saved.

(3) De Gratia Dei et Humanae Mentis libero Arbitrio.—After again censuring Pelagius, the writer argues strongly on behalf of the need of human endeavour and co-operation with the Divine aid. In his interpretation of passages of Holy Scripture (e.g. Ex. iv. 21; vii. 13; Rom. ix. 11-26) which favour most Augustinianism, he is most extreme and least successful. Many passages might almost have come from the pen of some Arminian controversialist at the synod of Dort. In cap. x. of bk. ii., which is entitled Gentes Deum Naturaliter Sapuisse, Faustus calls attention to the language 363of Daniel towards Nebuchadnezzar and his censure of Belshazzar, as a heathen recognition of God (Dan. iv., and v.). He also appeals for the same purpose to the first chapter of Jonah, the repentance of the Ninevites (Jon. iii.) and the language of Jeremiah (xviii. 7-10). Perhaps the famous expression in the apology of Tertullian, O testimonium animae naturaliter Christianae, might be considered to favour the view of heathendom here taken by Faustus.

(4) Ad Monachos Sermo.—The tone of this short letter resembles that of his other writings. He refers to excommunication as a terrible weapon only to be used in the last resort. It is sad to see monks go back to the world, especially if, after doing so, they retain their monastic dress. As usual, he is energetic in his appeals to the human element in religion. "Use your will. Resist the devil. Cherish all graces, especially obedience and humility."

(5) De Ratione Fidei Catholicae.—The former part is a brief statement of the case against Arianism. It explains the distinction between Persona and Natura in reference to our Lord's Incarnation, and appears to be addressed to an orthodox but perplexed friend, whom the author treats as a superior. The second portion is metaphysical, and discusses the nature of the soul, which Faustus seems to pronounce material. Claudius Mamertus, in his de Statu Animae, wrote against Faustus on this point. Faustus may, however, not have meant to do more than draw a marked distinction between the Creator and the creature; arguing, as he does, nihil credendum incorporeum praeter Deum.

(6) Homilia de S. Maximi Laudibus.—A eulogy of his predecessor.

(7) Epistolae.—Two have already been described. The other 17 epistles touch upon problems of metaphysics and theology.

Faustus was of unimpeachably good character; of an earnest, active, ascetic life; orthodox on the central doctrine of the Christian faith and suffering exile for it as a confessor; but stigmatized as a semi-Pelagian, and consequently by many authorities, both ancient and modern, denied the title of saint. But his own flock at Riez, deeply moved by his life and preaching, and warmly attached to his memory, insisted on giving him a local canonization as Sanctus Faustus Reiensis; they erected a basilica, dedicated in his name, and kept Jan. 18 as his festival. The first complete ed. of his works was pub. by A. Engelbrecht in Corpus Script. Eccl. Lat. vol. xxi.; cf. other publications of Engelbrecht on the same subject.


« Fabiola, a noble Roman lady Faustus (11), sometimes called the Breton Felicissimus, deacon of Carthage »
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