Saint of the Day – 1 January – Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (c 462 – 533) Abbot, Bishop of the city of Ruspe, Roman province of Africa, North Africa in modern day Tunisia, Theologian, Writer- known as “The Pocket Augustine” – born Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius in c 462 at Carthage, North Africa (modern Tunis, Tunisia) and died on 1 January 533 in Ruspe of natural causes. He is venerated today and on 3 January by the Augustinians.
He was born to a Roman senatorial family, and was well educated. His father Claudius, died while Fulgentius was still quite young. His mother, Mariana taught him to speak Greek and Latin. He became so good at Greek, that he spoke it like a native and committed all of Homer to memory. He was also well trained in Latin literature.
As he grew older, he managed his house wisely in subjection to his mother and Fulgentius quickly gained wide respect for his conduct of the family affairs. This reputation helped him to acquire a post as a civil servant in the government of Rome, as a procurator of Byzacena.
He quickly grew tired of the provincial life. This, together with his studies of religion, particularly a sermon of Saint Augustine of Hippo on Psalm 36, led to his being attracted to a religious life and he entered a monastery, became a monk, then was Ordained and became Abbot.
At the time, the Arian persecutions had ceased but the election of Catholic bishops was forbidden. In 508 it became necessary to defy the law when bishops were consecrated, Fulgentius being chosen for Ruspe (modern Kudiat Rosfa, Tunisia). He was exiled with 60 other bishops to Sardinia. There they built a monastery and continued to write, pray, and study.
Fulgentius was invited back to Carthage by the Arian king Thrasimund to hold a debate with his Arian replacement around 515 and so successfully refuted his Arian opponents that he was exiled again in 518.
King Hilderic succeeded Thrasimund in 523 and permitted the exiles to return. Peace finally being restored to the African church, Fulgentius returned to his Diocese. He would have preferred to return to his monastery and resume his studies but he was such a popular preacher, he was kept busy in the pulpit until his death.
As a Bishop, he followed Augustine’s example in living in community with the clergy of his Diocese. He founded several other monasteries in Africa. When he was exiled to Sardinia, not wanting to be away from the monastic community life, he even founded monasteries there.
Various letters and eight sermons survive. Fulgentius’s work shows his vast knowledge of Greek and a strong influence and agreement with Saint Augustine, so much so, that he is known as “The Pocket Augustine.” He wrote frequently against Arianism and Pelagianism.
Saint Fulgentius died of natural causes in 533 at Ruspe. Some of his relics are located at Bourges, France.
St Fulgentius truly aimed to live a life in conformity with St Augustine’s precept:
“Everything outside of us fluctuates with the storms and temptations of this age. But we need an interior desert, where we gather ourselves and live of our faith.” … (Sermo 47,25)