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Sulpicius Severus (363-425), was a Christian writer and native of Aquitania, in modern-day France. He is known for his chronicle of sacred history, as well as his biography of Saint Martin of Tours. He was imbued with the culture of his time and of his country, a center of Latin letters and learning, and became a lawyer. He married the daughter of a wealthy consular family, who died young, leaving him no children.
At this time Severus came under the powerful influence of Saint Martin, bishop of Tours, by whom he was led to devote his wealth to the Christian poor, and his own powers to a life of good works and the contemplative vision of God. He was ordained a priest, but is said to have been led away in his old age by Pelagianism. He later repented of the heresy and inflicted long-enduring penance on himself. The chief work of Severus is the Chronicle(Chronica, Chronicorum Libri duo or Historia sacra, c. 403), a summary of sacred history from the beginning of the world to his own times, with the omission of the events recorded in the Gospels and the Acts, “lest the form of his brief work should detract from the honour due to those events”. The book was a textbook, and was used as such in the schools of Europe for about a century and a half after the editio princeps was published by Flacius Illyricus in 1556.
- On the Life of St. Martin
- Sacred History
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Quotes and Excerpts:
“Then truly the tyrant stormed on hearing such words, declaring that, from fear of the battle, which was to take place on the morrow, and not from any religious feeling, Martin withdrew from the service. But Martin, full of courage, yea all the more resolute from the danger that had been set before him, exclaims; ‘If this conduct of mine is ascribed to cowardice, and not to faith, I will take my stand unarmed before the line of battle tomorrow, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, protected by the sign of the cross, and not by shield or helmet, I will safely penetrate the ranks of the enemy.’” -Life of St. Martin Chapter 4 (Written 403 A.D.)
“From that time quitting military service, Martin earnestly sought after the society of Hilarius, bishop of the city Pictava, whose faith in the things of God was then regarded as of high renown, and in universal esteem. For some time Martin made his abode with him. Now, this same Hilarius, having instituted him in the office of the diaconate, endeavored still more closely to attach him to himself, and to bind him by leading him to take part in Divine service.” -Life of St. Martin Chapter 5
“Further, Arborius, an ex-prefect, and a man of a very holy and faithful character, while his daughter was in agony from the burning fever of a quartan ague, inserted in the bosom of the girl, at the very paroxysm of the heat, a letter of Martin which happened to have been brought to him, and immediately the fever was dispelled. This event had such an influence upon Arborius, that he at once consecrated the girl to God, and devoted her to perpetual virginity.” -Life of St. Martin Chapter 19
“I had in my mind a great desire to go to Carthage, to visit those localities connected with the saints, and, above all, to worship at the tomb of the martyr Cyprian.” -Dialogue I: Chapter 3
“There [in Alexandria] we found a disgraceful strife raging between the bishops and monks, the cause or occasion of which was that the priests were known when assembled together often to have passed decrees in crowded synods to the effect that no one should read or possess the books of Origen. He was, no doubt, regarded as a most able disputant on the sacred Scriptures. But the bishops maintained that there were certain things in his books of an unsound character; and his supporters, not being bold enough to defend these, rather took the line of declaring that they had been inserted by the heretics. They affirmed, therefore, that the other portions of his writings were not to be condemned on account of those things which justly fell under censure, since the faith of readers could easily make a distinction, so that they should not follow what had been forged, and yet should keep hold of those points which were handled in accordance with the Catholic faith.” -Dialogue I: Chapter 6
“Martin, then, clothed in this garment, proceeds to offer the sacrifice to God. And then on that very day — I am about to narrate something wonderful — when he was engaged in blessing the altar, as is usual, we beheld a globe of fire dart from his head, so that, as it rose on high, the flame produced a hair of extraordinary length.” -Dialogue II: Chapter 2
“Blessed is such beauty and worthy of God; for nothing is to be compared with virginity. Thus, then, those who set marriage side by side with fornication grievously err; and those who think that marriage is to be placed on an equal footing with virginity are utterly wretched and foolish. But this distinction must be maintained by wise people, that marriage belongs to those things which may be excused, while virginity points to glory, and fornication must incur punishment unless its guilt is purged away through atonement.” -Dialogue II: Chapter 10
“Being accustomed to eat fish at the time of Easter, he [St. Martin of Tours] enquired a little before the hour for refreshment, whether it was in readiness.” -Dialogue III: Chapter 10
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