Prosper of Aquitaine, St.
PROSPER OF AQUITAINE, ST.
Lay theologian and papal secretary; b. apparently Limoges, France, c. 390; d. probably Rome, Italy, after 455. Nothing is known of Prosper's background other than that he had an excellent classical education, was married, and read deeply in theology. He spent some time with the monks at Marseilles and proved himself a strong opponent of semipelagianism. With his friend Hilary he wrote to augustine in Africa (428–429) concerning the opposition to Augustine's doctrine on grace among the monks (Aug. Epist. 225). Augustine wrote his De praedestinatione sanctorum and De dono perseverantiae in reply.
With Hilary, Prosper journeyed to Rome in 431 to obtain a favorable judgment of Augustine's doctrine from Pope celestine i. In Rome he seems to have modified the strict Augustinian doctrine by insisting on God's universal, salvific will and to have participated in the formulation of the Roman document called the Capitula Caelestiana sent to the bishops of Gaul. After 440 he was associated with Pope leo i and aided the pope with his correspondence and theological writings against the nestorians, and particularly with Leo's tome to Flavian (Gennadius, Vir. ill. 48).
Adopting the technique used by St. Augustine in his anti-Donatist hymns for popular chanting, Prosper wrote a 1,102 hexameter poem De ingratis (On Those without Grace); Poema conjugis ad uxorem (Poem of a Husband to His Wife) in 16 anacreontic verses and 53 distichs found among the works of paulinus of nola (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 30:341–344) is probably Prosper's. The De providentia divina in 876 hexameters and 48 distichs is almost certainly not authentic, as it appears to have been written c. 417. A series of epigrams, including three against the Semipelagians and an ironic Epitaphium Nestorianae et Pelagianae haereseos, seem to be of his composition. Another series of Epigrammata ex sententiis s. Augustini represent a summa of Sententiae ex operibus s. Augustini. Prosper also wrote a defense of Augustine against vincent of lÉrins and two Genoan priests (Pro Augustino responsiones ); a Contra collatorem, against John cassian; and a Psalmorum a C ad CL expositio after the Council of Ephesus. Although the authorship of a Confessio and the Letter to Demetrias have been questioned, the second is most probably authentic.
His Epitoma chronicorum is a synthesis of the chronicles of jerome (to a.d. 378), sulpicius severus, and orosius (to 433), but appears to reflect his own experience from 433 to 455. It was reedited and added to by cassiodorus and paul the deacon.
In De vocatione omnium gentium, Prosper tried to modify Augustine's views on predestination. He considered the problem of the great mass of mankind who have no certain knowledge of salvation in Christ and asked how this fact can be reconciled with the scriptural statement that God wills the salvation of all. Augustine held that God predestined a part of mankind and simply refrained from selecting others. Since man has free will but needs specific graces to achieve salvation, the nonpredestined are damned. Prosper threw the mystery of damnation back to God's foreknowledge. He insisted on the gratuitousness of grace and of human freedom and on God's salvific will for all. Although he did not solve the problem, he softened the Augustinian rigidity and left room for later development. The Letter to Demetrias is one of several received by this Roman lady from contemporary Church leaders in reference to her vocation to an ascetic way of life.
Feast: June 25.
Bibliography: De vocatione, ed. and tr., p. de letter, Ancient Christian Writers, v. 14 (1952). Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Auctores antiquissimi (Berlin 1826–) 9.1:341–499. c. t. huegelmeyer, ed. and tr., "Carmen de ingratis," Catholic University of America Patristic Studies 95 (1962). m. k. c. krabbe, ed. and tr., "Epistula de Demetriadem de vera humilitate," ibid. 97 (1965). m. cappuyns, Revue Bénédictine 39 (1927) 198–226, "De vocatione," ibid. 41 (1929) 156–170, "Capitula coelestiana" Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 1 (1929) 309–337. g. de plinval, Recherches Augustiniennes 1 (1958) 339–355. g. bardy, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 (Paris 1903–50) 13.1:846–850. l. pelland, S. Prosperi Aquitani doctrina de praedestinatione (Montreal 1936). j. gaidioz, Revue des sciences religieuses 23 (1949) 270–301. v. grumel, Revue des études augustiniennes 2 (1956) 59–66. j. plagnieux, ibid. 391–402. j. j. young, "Studies on the Style of De vocatione omnium gentium," Catholic University of America Patristic Studies 87 (1952). r. helm, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 23.1 (1957): 80–897. r. lorenz, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschicte 73 (1962) 217–252. b. altaner, Patrology (New York 1960) 535–537. s. muhlberger, The Fifth-Century Chroniclers: Prosper, Hydatius, and the Gallic Chronicler of 452 (Leeds 1990). a. elberti, Prospero d'Aquitania: teologo e discepolo (Rome 1999).
[f. x. murphy]