« Gallus (11), abbat and apostle of Switzerland Gaudentius, bp. of Brescia Gaudentius (7), Donatist bp. of Thamugada »

Gaudentius, bp. of Brescia

Gaudentius, bp. of Brescia (Brixia), successor of PHILASTER (Philastrius) c. a.d. 387. Of the early life of Gaudentius nothing is known for certain. He was probably a native of Brescia; at any rate, he was well known there in his youth. From the language which he uses in reference to his predecessor he appears to have been intimately acquainted with him (though Tillemont is wrong in his interpretation of the words "ego . . . minima ejus pars"). He had a brother Paul, in deacon's orders ("frater carnis et spiritus germanitate carissime"—though his metaphorical use of similar language in speaking of St. 380Peter and St. Paul as "vere consanguinei fratres, . . . sanguinis communione germanos" makes the point somewhat doubtful). While still a young man he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as many of his contemporaries did (cf. Hieron. Epp. 44, 48). His way lay through Cappadocia. At Caesarea he made the acquaintance of two nieces of St. Basil, "mothers" of a convent there, who gave him some ashes of the famous Forty of Sebastia, which had been given to them by their uncle. These ashes, or rather the Forty themselves, he says, were his "faithful companions" on the rest of the journey; and at a later time he deposited them, with other relics which he had collected, in a basilica which he built at Brescia and called the Concilium Sanctorum. At Antioch, probably, he became acquainted with St. John Chrysostom, who never forgot the warmth of affection which he then shewed. Gaudentius was in the East when Philaster of Brescia died. The people of Brescia elected him to be their bishop. They were rash enough to bind themselves with an oath, so Gaudentius says, that they would have him and no other. A deputation of them was sent out to him, reinforced by urgent letters from St. Ambrose and other bishops of the province. Gaudentius resisted, but the Eastern bishops among whom he was sojourning went so far as to threaten to excommunicate him if he would not comply. At last his resistance broke down. He returned, and was consecrated to the vacant see, presumably by St. Ambrose himself. The address which was delivered on that day, according to custom, by the newly consecrated bishop has been preserved (Serm. xvi.). St. Ambrose was present at the delivery of it, and was expected to follow it up with an address of his own.

The episcopate of Gaudentius was not, so far as we know, eventful. But there was one remarkable adventure in the course of it. In the year 404 or 405 he was chosen, along with two other bishops and two Roman priests, to bear to the Eastern emperor Arcadius an epistle from his Western colleague Honorius, and from Innocent I. of Rome and the Italian bishops, urging that an oecumenical council should be convened, to examine the case of St. John Chrysostom, who had been deposed and banished from Constantinople. Palladius (Dial. c. 4), who accompanied the envoys and who gives us this information, does not, indeed, mention the see of the envoy Gaudentius; but no other bearer of the name is so likely to have been chosen as the bp. of Brescia. The mission was ineffectual, and such sufferings were inflicted upon the envoys as might well earn for Gaudentius his title of "Confessor." He received a warm letter of thanks from St. Chrysostom (Ep. 184) for his exertions on his behalf. The letter probably refers to exertions preparatory to the mission, or the reference to the fate of the mission would have been more explicit.

How long Gaudentius held his see is not certain. In his sermon on Philaster he mentions that it is the fourteenth time that he has pronounced his yearly panegyric; but as the date of his consecration to the episcopate is conjectural, this indication is not decisive. That he was still bishop in 410 appears from the fact that the learned Rufinus dedicated to him, in or about that year, his trans. of the Clementine Recognitions, in which he describes him as "nostrorum decus insigne doctorum," and says that every word that fell from him deserved to be taken down for the benefit of posterity. Rufinus refers particularly to his knowledge of Greek; and though he does not directly name the see which he held, the identification is aided by his statement that the Gaudentius to whom his work was dedicated was heir to the virgin Silvia—probably the Silvia, sister-in-law of Rufinus the wellknown praefectus orientis, to whom Gamurrini attributes, though probably without good reason, the Peregrinatio he discovered in 1884. This Silvia is known to have been buried at Brescia (Gamurrini, Peregrinatio, p. xxxvi; Butler, Lausiac Hist. i. p. 296, ii. pp. 148, 229). Gaudentius was buried in a church at Brescia, which is thought to be the same as his own Concilium Sanctorum.

Gaudentius was not a writer. The most modest of men, he thought it enough if he might instruct the flock committed to him by word of mouth (Praefatio ad Benivolum). But there was a leading magistrate of Brescia named Benivolus, who had formerly (in 386) thrown up his situation in the imperial service rather than abet the attacks of Justina upon St. Ambrose. This man, one year, was hindered by sickness from attending the Easter services. He begged Gaudentius to write down for him the addresses which he had failed to hear. Gaudentius complied. In addition to the eight discourses on the directions in Exodus concerning the Passover and two on the Marriage at Cana, which had been delivered during that Eastertide, he sent also four on various Gospel texts, and a fifth on the Maccabean martyrs. Besides these fifteen sermons sent to Benivolus, four occasional sermons of his are in existence, taken down in shorthand and published (apparently) without his consent. They were delivered respectively on the day of his own consecration, at the dedication of his new basilica, at Milan by desire of St. Ambrose on the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, and on the anniversary of his predecessor's death. To these sermons are added two expository letters, one to a man named Serminius on the Unjust Steward, the other to his brother Paul on the text "My Father is greater than I."

Gaudentius felt himself bound, like others of his time to give "spiritual," i.e. allegorical, interpretations of his texts. These are often in the highest degree fantastic, and have drawn upon their author the severe criticism of Du Pin (Bibl. eccl. siècle v. pt. i.). But Gaudentius generally prepares for them by a literal interpretation, and when he does so, the exegesis is usually marked by good sense. Gaudentius is interested in textual criticism, and more than once remarks on the correspondence or conflict between the Latin text, as he knows it, and the Greek. He is an independent interpreter himself (Serm. xix., "Ego tamen pro libertate fidei opportunitatem dictorum secretus traxi ad," etc.), and vindicates the like freedom for others (Serm. xviii. "Nulli praejudicaturus, qualiter interpretari voluerit"). When dealing with moral 381subjects there is a fine elevation in his utterance. As a theologian he has a firm grasp on the Nicene doctrine as taught by St. Ambrose. Arianism is a defeated foe (Serm. xxi. "Furentem eo tempore Arianam perfidiam"), but one that still needs vigorous refutation. In regard to other doctrinal points, it may be observed that, however strongly Gaudentius expresses himself about the Holy Eucharist in the terms of his age (Serm. ii. 244), he insists characteristically that the Flesh and Blood of Christ are to be spiritually understood (ib. 241, "Agni carnes, id est, doctrinae ejus viscera"). He puts much faith in the intercessions of the saints, though he does not directly speak of invoking them (Serm. xvii. xx. xxi. ad fin.). He dwells with emphasis on the supernatural character of our Lord's birth, not only of His conception (e.g. Serm. viii. 270, ix. 281). His style is easy; his sentences often admirably terse and pointed (e.g. Praef. 227, "Si autem justus es, nomen quidem justi praesumere non audebis; Serm. vii. 265, "Quod Deus majorem causam tunc ulciscendi habeat, si in exiguis rebus, ubi nulla difficultas est observandi, pervicaci tantum spiritu contemnatur"). His sermons preserve a good many interesting notes of the life of the time (e.g. Serm. xiii., the beggars at the church door; the dread of the barbarian invasions, the landowner who leaves his labourers to be supported by the church, the horses and mules adorned with gold and silver, the heathen altar allowed to remain on a Christian man's estate). His vocabulary is rather interesting; he uses popular words (e.g. brodium) on the one hand, and recherche words (e.g. peccamen, victorialis) on the other. It has been made the subject of a special study by Paueker (Zeitschr. f. d. österreich. Gymnasien., xxxii. pp. 481ff.).

The chief ed. of his works is that of Paolo Gagliardi (Galeardus), canon of Brescia, pub. at Padua in 1720, or rather the second and improved ed. of 1738, printed at Brescia. This is reprinted in Migne's Patr. Lat. vol. xx. Accounts of Gaudentius and his works will be found in Tillemont, t. x. pt. 2; in Nirschl, Lehrbuch d. Patrologie (Mainz, 1883), ii. pp. 488ff.; in Hauck-Herzog Realencycl. vi. (by Leimbach); and in Wetzer and Welte, Kirchenlex. v. (by Hefele).


« Gallus (11), abbat and apostle of Switzerland Gaudentius, bp. of Brescia Gaudentius (7), Donatist bp. of Thamugada »
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