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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren

The seventeenth century was the century of Saint Augustine. In 1695, Louis Sébastien, Le Nain de Tillemont, finished volume 13 of his Mémoires ecclésiastique, entitled La vie de saint Augustin. The volume consisted of approximately 1200 pages wherein Louis Sébastien gathered from the works of Augustine and elsewhere all extant passages relevant to the biography of Augustine of Hippo. Completed in 1695, the biography was published posthumously in 1700. The work lies in the tradition of Jansenism from Port-Royal and the Leuven. Though an ascetic recluse on the family estate for the last twenty years of his life, he was in touch with important French scholars and the ecclesiastical movements of his time. Louis’ work is the first modern biography of Augustine and the most comprehensive of all Augustinian biographies, even today. Modern authors consult him and frequently adopt his theories without citation. His method exercises influence on contemporary Parisian scholarship on Augustine. This English translation has been divided into three volumes covering three time periods: part 1: birth to episcopal consecration (354–396); part 2: the Donatist controversy (396–411); part 3: the Pelagian controversy (411–430).
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Article 237: Demetriada and Augustine

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ARTICLE 237

Demetriada and Augustine

Augustine first came to know Proba and Juliana through their letters1 and later he met them. In them he saw religious Catholics and genuine members of the body of Christ. No doubt these meetings took place in 411 during his trips to Carthage. He spread the seed of salutary instruction from divine inspiration in their hearts. They received it not as the word of man but the word of God himself, as in fact it was.

Through the grace of God Augustine’s exhortations produced fruit in that house. Shortly after he left Carthage, Demetriada profited from his instruction and professed virginity. She preferred a chaste and heavenly union with Christ to the earthly spouse selected for her. Augustine speaks for himself and Alypius when he says they had exhorted Demetriada to embrace virginity. Augustine’s reward is not diminished in sharing it with his intimate friend.

Jerome reports details of Demetriada’s activity.2 He had spiritually formed the family of distinguished and holy ladies. These ladies were obliged to leave Gaul because of the havoc instigated apparently by the Goths who entered Gaul in 412. They settled in Jerusalem. They passed through Africa where they saw Demetriada. Jerome writes of Demetriada’s frame of mind from the time God touched her heart through Augustine’s exhortations:

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