saint fulgentius of ruspe

Saint Fulgentius was probably the best theologian of his time, an able adversary of Arianism and a skillful exponent of Augustine’s doctrine on grace.

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe by Mario Ferrari, Rome, Italy.Fulgentius was born about the year 462 at Telepte, Tunisia, North Africa, of a distinguished senatorial family. He was provided with a very good education, after which he served as procurator or tax collector in the Vandal administration of Telepte. Upon reading Saint Augustine’s commentary on Psalm 36, however, he decided to enter monastic life. After several failed attempts to fulfill this wish in Africa due to persecution by the Vandals, he decided to join a hermit group in Egypt. On his way he stopped in Sicily and was dissuaded from going further when he learned of heretical influences on Egyptian monastic life. Later, when the persecutions had slackened in his own country, he returned there to direct a monastery which he founded on the principles of Augustine’s own communities. Much enamored of the ideal of monastic life, he founded several communities not only in Africa, but also later in Sardinia.

In 507 or 508 Fulgentius was named bishop of the small coastal town of Ruspe, an appointment he accepted with great reluctance. Not long afterwards he and more than 60 other Catholic bishops were exiled to Sardinia by the Vandal king. Later recalled by the same king to offer counsel on certain doctrinal questions, he remained in Africa for several years, but in 519 was banished once again, owing to the Arian controversy. Finally, in 523, he and his fellow bishops were permitted to return to their native land, where, after ten more years of pastoral activity, Fulgentius died on 1 January 533.

Fulgentius was very much drawn into the Arian controversy, concerning himself especially with the topics of grace and predestination. He is sometimes referred to as “Augustine in short” or “the pocket Augustine” because he has echoed Augustine’s doctrine on these two subjects in great detail.

The Augustinian Family celebrates his memory on 3 January.