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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 314: De cura pro mortuis gerenda



De cura pro mortuis gerenda

In Retractationes, Augustine places De cura pro mortuis gerenda after Enchiridion.2 Paulinus provides the occasion for this work. Doubtless he had cultivated Augustine’s friendship over the years though no sign of it had appeared for some time.

Cynegus, a faithful young man, had been baptized and later died.3 His mother asked and obtained burial in the church of St. Felix. Flora, an African widow, had lost her son who apparently had lived near Nola. She requested he be interred in a church dedicated to a saint. Paulinus wrote to console her and apparently granted her wish. He mentioned Cynegus. Paulinus himself had previously interred his own son in Spain near martyrs.4 Chapels for prayers and burial of the dead existed in the church of St. Felix.5 The young man had earlier been baptized there. Ambrose had a similar devotion.

Paulinus wrote Flora and used the occasion to write Augustine.6 He asks Augustine’s opinion of burial in a church dedicated to a saint. Paulinus apparently thinks such burial useful since several good people had requested it. The customary prayers offered for the dead confirmed him in this belief. On the other hand, these practices are difficult to accord with Paul assuring us that each person will receive recompense for what he had done in this life.7 The modest doubt of an illustrious and prudent bishop differs greatly from a rash condemnation of prayers for the dead...

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