St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

January 2nd

St. Fulgentius was born as Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius at Thelepte, (now called Medinet-el-Kedima), Tunisia, in the year 462A.D. He was born into a family of senatorial rank in Carthage in North Africa and as such, received an excellent education. After the death of his father, Fulgentius assisted his widowed mother in managing the family estate and gained notice and praise for his faithfulness to her and his ability to manage the estate. Because of this he was appointed procurator of his native town and tax receiver of Byzacena.

A follower of St. Augustine’s ideal of community life, and already a student of St. Augustine’s theological teachings, at age 22 he gave up this post to enter a monastery of the Augustinian Rule there governed by an orthodox bishop, Faustus, who had been driven from his see by Arian King Huneric. St. Fulgentius’s mother, distraught by his decision to embrace the monastic life, caused such a vociferous uproar with her objections to Bishop Faustus’ accepting her son into the monastery that the good bishop was obliged to leave, and St. Fulgentius also left. He then withdrew to a nearby monastery where the abbot, Felix, insisted that he rule equally with him. Thereafter his life was one of extreme austerity and simplicity, lived according to the Rule of Our Holy Father, Saint Augustine.

These two holy monks governed the monastery together for six years until in 499 they were forced to flee invading Numidians and went to Sicca Veneria. There, upon the demand of a heretical Arian priest, they were arrested, scourged, and tortured, but refused to apostatize from their orthodox observance of the Faith. They were eventually released.

Saint Fulgentius then planned to set out to visit the monks in the Egyptian desert but he changed his mind when he learned that Egyptian monasticism had fallen under the influence of theological errors. He went instead, to the city of Rome on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles. He returned to Byzacena soon after, built a monastery of the Augustinian Rule of which he was abbot and lived as a hermit in a cell nearby.

In 507, he was elected bishop of Ruspe (Kudiat Rosfa, Tunisia) against his will, but he used his influence to begin another Augustinian monastery there in which to continue his orthodox and austere Religious Life. The Arian Vandals occupied NorthAfrica at this time, and the noble “monk-bishop” Fulgentius had hardly taken over his see when, with scores of other catholic bishops, he was banished to Sardinia. Encouraged by the prayers, supplies and financial support of Pope Saint Symmachus, these orthodox bishops remained steadfast in their orthodox observance of the Catholic faith. Saint Fulgentius then founded an Augustinian monastery at Cagliari and became spokesman for the exiled bishops.

During his exile at Cagliari, our beloved saint, Fulgentius devoted himself to study and prayer. He wrote several treatises, including his Answer to Ten Objections, a reply to questions raised against orthodoxy by the Vandal king, Thrasimund. His writings attracted the king’s attention and, in 515, Fulgentius was brought to Carthage for discussions with the Arian clergy. St. Fulgentius also wrote Three Books to King Thrasimund, a refutation of Arianism. The writings of St. Fulgentius gained such influence over the Arian clergy that, in 518 or 520, he was sent back to Sardinia, where he built another Augustinian monastery near Cagliari.

Thrasimund’s successor, Hilderic, finally released the orthodox Catholic Bishops, letting them return to their respective sees in 523. Nearly half of Saint Fulgentius’ episcopate was spent in the suffering of exile. Upon his return he set about reforming the abuses that had crept into his see during his absence. About 532 he attempted to retire to a monastery on the island of Circinia, but he was so beloved by his flock that they prevented him from passing his last years in seclusion. Later that same year he returned to Ruspe, where he died.

Because of his devotion to the Augustinian ideal of community life and his knowledge of Augustine’s writings, especially on the topic of Grace, Fulgentius was known as the Pocket Augustine. St. Fulgentius died at Ruspe on January 1, 533.

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