Nov 1, 2008

Who was St. Vincent of Lerins?

Church and monastery of the Lérins Abbey

St. Vincent was a fifth century monk who resided at the monastery of Lerins in Gaul, the region we know as modern day France. He is famous for a treatise he wrote entitled "A COMMONITORY" which means a calling to remembrance. His stated purpose for writing this treatise is to provide himself with a general rule whereby to distinguish Catholic truth from heresy. The word Catholic here is best understood in the words of the Vincentian Canon itself. Catholic means "universal." So the Catholic Faith is that which has been believed "everywhere" meaning every region where the undivided Church has been extended; "always" meaning during the entire span of time while the Church remained undivided; "by all" meaning the entire populace of the undivided Church. In other words Catholic means universal with respect to geography, time and people. The following is a selection from St. Vincent's Commonitory to put my comments in context:

[3.] But now, in the Lord’s name, I will set about the object I have in view; that is to say, to
record with the fidelity of a narrator rather than the presumption of an author, the things which our
forefathers have handed down to us and committed to our keeping, yet observing this rule in what
I write, that I shall by no means touch upon everything that might be said, but only upon what is
necessary; nor yet in an ornate and exact style, but in simple and ordinary language, so that the
most part may seem to be intimated, rather than set forth in detail. Let those cultivate elegance and
exactness who are confident of their ability or are moved by a sense of duty. For me it will be
enough to have provided a COMMONITORY (or Remembrancer) for myself, such as may aid my
memory, or rather, provide against my forgetfulness: which same Commonitory however, I shall
endeavor, the Lord helping me, to amend and make more complete by little and little, day by day,
by recalling to mind what I have learnt. I mention this at the outset, that if by chance what I write
should slip out of my possession and come into the hands of holy men, they may forbear to blame
anything therein hastily, when they see that there is a promise that it will yet be amended and made
more complete.

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