Saint of the Day – 7 July – Saint Prosper of Aquitaine (c 390-c 465) Theologian, Married Layman, Writer, disciple and friend of St Augustine (354-430). St Prosper was the first continuator of St Jerome’s Universal Chronicle. Born in c 390 in Aquitaine, France and died in c 465 in Rome, Italy, of natural causes. Also known as – Tiro Prosper or Prosper Tiro.
Prosper was a native of Aquitaine, France and may have been educated at Bordeaux. By 417 he arrived in Marseilles as a refugee from Aquitaine, in the aftermath of the Gothic invasions of Gaul.
We first meet Prosper definitively around 425 as a participant in the Pelagian controversy which rocked the Church in southern France. Pelagian heretics minimised the role of grace in the first steps of becoming a Christian. Many vigorously opposed St Augustine’s strict views that special grace was required for salvation and thus, many were predestined to damnation. Prosper, a lay theologian, championed St Augustine. And in 428, a letter from Prosper prompted Augustine to write a major work on predestination.
Although a layman, Prosper threw himself with ardour into the religious controversies of his day, defending St Augustine and propagating orthodoxy. In his De vocatione omnium gentium – “The Call of all Nations,”, in which the issues of the call to the Gentiles is discussed, in the light of Augustine’s doctrine of Grace, Prosper appears as the first of the medieval Augustinians.
In 431, Prosper went to Rome and obtained a letter from Pope Celestine I that affirmed Augustine and his views and urged the French Bishops to quell the dispute peacefully. But it raged on. For several more years, Prosper wrote extensively, defending and popularising St Augustine’s teaching.
In The Call to All Nations, Prosper seems to have mellowed somewhat, allowing that God mercifully made the Grace of Salvation available to all human beings. In the following excerpt Prosper describes the interplay of grace and free will:
“When the Word of God enters the ears through the ministry of preachers, the action of the Divine Power fuses with the sound of the human voice. The soul passes from one will to another will. Although the will that is driven out lingers on for a while, the newborn will claims for itself, all that is better in human beings. Thus the law of sin and the law of God do not dwell in the same way and together in the same person. Then the tempter tries to ambush the person through external things but the mind, strong with God’s help, prevails. For there are occasions for struggle and these greatly benefit the faithful. Their weakness is buffeted so that their holiness may not yield to pride. All good things, especially those conducive to eternal life, are obtained, increased and preserved through God’s favour.”
Prosper spent the last part of his life in Rome where he served as secretary to St Pope Leo the Great. During that tim, he wrote the Chronicle, a universal history from Adam’s fall to the Vandal’s conquest of Rome in 455. He died in Rome around 465.
You will remember yesterday’s Saint Palladius of Ireland, knowledge of whose history, was greatly enhanced by his contemporary’s writings, St Prosper, who speaks of St Palladius, in particular in regard to the Pelagian heresy.
A reflection by St Prosper here: https://anastpaul.com/2021/10/27/one-minute-reflection-27-october-children-of-promise/