Vincent of Lérins

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Saint Vincent of Lérins (died c. 445) (in Latin, Vincentius) was a Gallic author of early Christian writings.

In earlier life he had been engaged in secular pursuits, whether civil or military is not clear, though the term he uses, "secularis militia," might possibly imply the latter. He refers to the First Council of Ephesus, held in the summer and early autumn of 431, as having been held some three years previously to the time at which he was writing "ante triennium ferme." This gives the date of the Commonitory 434. Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, was still living. Sixtus the Third had succeeded to the See of Rome; his predecessor, Celestine, having died in 432. Gennadius says that Vincentius died, "Theodosio et Valentiniano regnantibus." Theodosius died, leaving Valentinian still reigning, in July, 450. Vincentius' death, therefore, must have occurred in or before that year.

Baronius places his name in the Roman Martyrology, Tillemont doubts whether with sufficient reason. He is commemorated on the 24 May.

Vincentius has been charged with Semipelagianism. Whether he actually held the doctrine which was afterwards called by that name is not clear. Certainly the express enunciation of it is nowhere to be found in the Commonitory. But it is extremely probable that at least his sympathies were with those who held it. For not only does he omit the name of St. Augustine of Hippo, who was especially obnoxious to them, when making honorable mention at any time of the champions of the faith, but he denounces his doctrine, though under a misrepresentation of it, as one of the forms of that novel error which he reprobates. Indeed, whoever will compare what he says in of the heresy which he describes but forbears to name, with Prosper's account of the charges brought against Augustine by certain Semipelagian clergymen of Marseille, will have little doubt that Vincentius and they had the same teacher in view, and were of the same mind with regard to his teaching. Be this however as it may, when it is considered that the monks of Lérins, in common with the general body of the churchmen of Southern Gaul, were strenuous upholders of Semipelagianism, it will not be thought surprising that Vincentius should have been suspected of at least a leaning in that direction. Tillemont, who forbears to express himself decidedly, but evidently inclines to that view, says "L'opinion qui le condamne et l'abandonne aux Semipelagiens passe aujourd'hui pour la plus commune parmi les savans." It is also possible that Vincentius held to a position closer to the Eastern Orthodox position of today, which they claim to have been virtually universal until the time of Augustine, and which may have been interpreted as semipelagian by Augustine's followers.

It has been matter of question whether Vincentius is to be credited with the authorship of the "Objectiones Vincentianae," a collection of Sixteen Inferences alleged to be deducible from St. Augustine's writings, which has come down to us in Prosper's Reply.

Its date coincides so nearly with that of the Commonitory as to preclude all doubt as to the identity of authorship on that score, and it must be confessed that its animus and that of the 70th and 86th sections of the Commonitory are too much in keeping to make it difficult to believe that both are from the same pen.

The Commonitory

Vincentius's object in the Commonitory is to provide himself, as he states, with a general rule whereby to distinguish Catholic truth from heresy; and he commits what he has learnt, he adds, to writing, that he may have it by him for reference as a Commonitory, or Remembrancer, to refresh his memory.

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