Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sulpicius of Bourges

translation copyrighted property of Sarah Brush (nee Hamilton)

Vita Sulpicii Episcopi Biturgi, ed. B. Krusch, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum IV pp. 364-380.


From the beginning of time and in all periods of history throughout the world, I believe that men elected by God – in whom the grace of the Holy Spirit shines back and who, through signs of the Lord’s miracles, are themselves seen to show consolation and provocation of those seeking – have not been wanting. Indeed in modern times He deemed it worthy to show many amazing wonders through his one bishop, Sulpicius, to whose life my sermon is worthily dedicated. Concerning this work, I have been ordered by the brothers that I ought to write down the things which I know in order to leave it for future posterity. Indeed, I know myself to be unequal to the task of this work to which I have been enjoined and I know that I am not able to note down the great virtues of the man of God which he worked from the beginning of his adolescence with fitting words, as it would be proper to pour forth. However, so as not to refuse their injunction insolently and because I saw him little, I have taken care to bind together information both from the relation of those who ministered to him from his adolescence to his old age and decrepitude and that of many more faithful people who saw and noted not a little.

1. Therefore the holy and most blessed Bishop Sulpicius remained in the house of his parents, while he lived a worldly life. Being devoted to good works, he was seen to do nothing else but construct a monastery or build a church or to keep himself tirelessly busy in mercy for the poor. He was seen to express the bond of marriage with his love of chastity and when the Lord deigned to satisfy his prayers and good intentions, with his hair cut off from the crown of his head, he received the burden of clerical office. He succeeded the steps of ecclesiastical dignities until he ascended to the burden of the bishopric by election of the people and with the support of the clergy in the city of Bourges. Thus it was done with the help of God. No-one else persisted in that office, according to the church law, more than he did. He endeavoured to care for the poor with such great effort that they always had nourishments and were covered with some form of clothing and he imparted to them whatever was useful or necessary.

2. After some time, a noble man from the palace of the king, by the name of Theudogisilus then compelled his cause to the Lord and was seen to seek the memorable Pontiff Sulpicius. Being accustomed to love, Sulpicius received him joyfully and called out his entertainment. Since it was the time of winter and the ministers seemed to suffer from the cold, they arranged a great heaped fire. While no-one was paying attention to the fire, by chance it happened that it nearly consumed his house. A great flame from the fire began to grow so that the feasters and others were struck with fear. They were thinking of nothing else than to proceed by swift running out of the house. When they got up, the fire grew greater and greater. The blessed bishop lifted up his eyes to heaven and imposed the sign of the cross with his hand. The fire ceased that very moment. All those who saw this divine miracle gave thanks. After this the pontiff drew his hand to himself. It was just as if the fire was put out by the coming of a multitude of much water over it.

3. After a short space of time, a certain man brought his adolescent son – about the age of ten – whose tongue, from his birth, had never formed any speech. In this state, his parents made him come to the aforementioned bishop. Indeed that man held his hands and eyes, which were full of tears, to heaven. He prayed to God that he might deign through his mercy to open the boy’s mouth. After the priest had made his oration, he rose from the dust and touched the tongue of the boy. By the interceding mercy of Christ, at once, he spoke.

4. I have not yet thought of setting down a description of that time when he, the holy man gave leave for no-one, neither heretic, gentile or Jew, to live in the city of Bourges without the grace of baptism. For the Jews were seen to be present in the aforesaid city at that time. They frequently spoke to him with fawning and he would speak the divine word to them just as it is said in the Gospel, because whoever is not renwed by water and by the Holy Spirit shall not possess the kingdom of God. By day and by night he prayed earnestly for their conversion by the Lord’s mercy and that, at first a few, then all of them should submit to him and come together to the grace of baptism in the church. Having been baptised by the bishop himself, they are indeed seen to live under the Christian tradition.

5. Who out of the clergy, in comparison with the blessed man, could be thus able to maintain a vigil for continual nights or to fast for a month? He endured the whole night at the church for the sake of singing psalms not going out from there unless he had performed all the psalms up to the last number.

6. At that same time, being filled with longing, King Dagobert ordered his general, his man Lollonus, who was without any vestige of mercy, that the people of Bourges should at once be placed under law and under him and should live and serve the king’s command. At this affliction, all the people of that region came in a crowd to the memorable man of God in such a multitude of lamenting, with moaning being raised up in a confused voice, imploring the man of God that he should come down to him. However, having been moved by piety and not holding up to their wailing and tears, he demanded God’s mercy through the imposition of a fast. The clergy and people fasted for three days so that they might be brought to remembrance and might be relieved of their affliction. He sent a certain man from his clergy, one Ebargisilus by name to the most glorious King Clovis. He was commissioned to beg him, with all humility and lamentation and tears, that he should send goodness into the kingdom which had been invaded by wickedness. Indeed by this fact, the king was scared off and at once, he informed the people that they were freed of that census. He ordered the assessment which had been made for presentation to be returned. Indeed, having been relieved from affliction, those people remain in total liberty up to this present day.

7. The memorable pontiff saw himself seriously encumbered with such a great task between the care of the church and the care for the poor as well as the business of the whole community that he asked the king for a partner to support this burden. The king offered his approval to this. That which he had sought was given and thus it was done. Indeed, because of his humility, that man who cared first for the poor was then seen to give help more and more to the defence of the poor. Indeed, some drew away from him because he had left the episcopate and handed it over to another. He took pleasure in the multiplication of others becoming dedicated to God but he persisted in the work undertaken and fleeing human praise and shunning the boasting of vanity, he persisted always in this work so that he might relieve the poor from need everywhere.

8. However, after the span of his life was completed, he went to the Lord full of days. When he was carried from the church to his tomb, such a multitude of poor people who were in mourning came together in the same place, so that all the streets were crowded. They raised a disorderly voice up into the air so that such a cracking was heard just as if great thunder was seen to strike that place. Indeed, among the beating voices nothing was heard except all those shouting, “Good Shepherd why do you desert us? Or to whom do you leave us today? In your death all of us die.” He came to the basilica which he himself had previously ordered to be built. When his body had been carried into the sepulchre, the poor could not sustain his absence. They lay like cadavers in the church in such a great multitude that the clerics were not free or able to ministrate in the church and carry out the offices.

9. There was no delay, in a few days, a certain disabled man, whose limbs had been withered for a long time with a contraction of the sinews so that he could not walk by himself, persisted in prayer in that place. At once, he received health so that he returned to the city without a sustaining stick and going by himself.

10. What more can I say? The venerable lord abbot and his monks were seen to devote themselves so much to the office of God and to vigils continually day and night, in the aforesaid basilica, that therein, by the grace of the Holy Spirit they swept away, so they say, many diverse infirmities from the great multitude of mourning people that came to that same place. For there, sight might be returned to the blind, hearing to the deaf, walking to the lame and those who might be seen to be inflicted with the atrocious cruelty of malign spirits – which are believed to be the cause of many sicknesses – all joyfully received health by the intercession of the aforesaid blessed man and returned home. Many of those who came into the city who, they said, had been struck with blindness for a long time were seeing clearly and many others were brought to health from divers infirmities.

11. Indeed, when the Lord saw fit to show in him the miraculous power of healing, not only did his fame fill the neighbourhood of the city, indeed, it flew also to distant areas of the region so that uncountable multitudes of mourning people flowed together in divers vehicles to the place of the tomb of the aforesaid man so that the capacity of his basilica was almost not able to receive such a multitude, but for the providence of that aforesaid abbot who had extended a great part of the building. From this multitude, many of the sick, having received health in that place and blessing the mercy of the Lord, returned to their homes joyfully.

12. What shall I say of that lamp which is before his tomb which they say was once full and overflowing with such a great amount of oil which fell over onto the ground? Many who were anointed with this oil were healed from infirmity.

13. With the Lord working there, the blind were given illumination, demons were sent out fleeing, the infirm were also healed and there, praise be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all, for ever and ever. Amen.

[Version 2 only:
13. Indeed it would be too long to describe everything which the Lord deigned to demonstrate with signs of health. Nor may such things be described in a letter because, thus far, these pages have described how many people depressed with diverse illnesses became well. These things briefly may suffice.

14. That place, the basilica, where the memorable man of God is buried, is called Navis, because the port of ships is seen to be there. It is a most lovely place between two rivers with pastures and woods and vineyards in great number, with fields and rivers flowing between huge plains so that there, the inhabitants may be seen to possess the image of paradise. In that place, the grace of the Lord deigns to preserve the health of human kind, being himself present, who lives in perfect Trinity and reigns, one God, eternal and without end, remaining unchangeable for ever and ever, Amen.

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