Adapted by Dan Leo (Assistant Professor of Comparative Religions, Olney Community College) from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler.
illustrated by rhoda penmarq.
FABIUS CLAUDIUS GORDIANUS FULGENTIUS was the descendant of a noble senatorian family of Carthage: but much decayed in its splendour by the invasion of the Vandals. His prudent circumspection in all the affairs he transacted, his virtuous conduct, his mild carriage to all, and more especially his deference for his mother, without whose express orders or approbation he never did any thing, caused him to be beloved and admired wherever his name was known.
He was chosen procurator, that is, lieutenant-governor, and general receiver of the taxes of Byzacena. But it was not long before he grew disgusted with the world; and being justly alarmed at its dangers, he armed himself against them by pious reading, assiduous prayer, and rigorous fasting.
His visits to monasteries were frequent; and happening, among other books of spiritual entertainment, to read a sermon of St. Austin on the thirty-sixth psalm, in which that father treats of the world and the short duration of human life, he felt within him strong desires of embracing the monastic state.
Huneric, the Arian king, had driven most of the orthodox bishops from their sees. One of these, named Faustus, had erected a monastery in Byzacena. It was to him that the young nobleman addressed himself for admittance; but Faustus immediately objecting the tenderness of his constitution, discouraged his desires with words of some harshness: “Go,” said he, “and first learn to live in the world abstracted from its pleasures. Who can well suppose, that you on a sudden, relinquishing a life of softness and ease, can take up with our coarse diet and clothing, and can inure yourself to our watchings and fastings?”
The saint, with downcast eyes, modestly replied: “He, who hath inspired me with the will to serve him, can also furnish me with courage and strength.” This humble, yet resolute answer, induced Faustus to admit him on trial. The saint was then in the twenty-second year of his age.
The news of so unthought of an event both surprised and edified the whole country; many even imitated the example of the governor. But Mariana his mother, in transports of grief, ran to the monastery, crying out at the gates: “Faustus! restore to me my son; to the people, their governor; the church always protects widows; why then rob you me, a desolate widow, of my son?”
She persisted several days in the same tears and cries. Nothing that Faustus could urge was sufficient to calm her, or prevail with her to depart without her son. This was certainly as great a trial of Fulgentius’s resolution as it could well be put to; but the love of God having the ascendant in his breast, gave him a complete victory over all the suggestions of nature; Faustus approved his vocation, and accordingly recommended him to the brethren.
The saint having now obtained all he wished for in this world, made over his estate to his mother, to be discretionally disposed of by her in favour of his brother, as soon as he should be arrived at a proper age.