St. Cyprian of Carthage—Letter to Donatus
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“While I was lying in darkness and in the obscure night, and while, ignorant of my real life, I was tossing about on the sea of a restless world wavering and doubtful in my wandering steps… I thought it indeed difficult and hard to believe... that divine mercy was promised for my salvation.”
Born at the beginning of the 3rd century to a wealthy, pagan family in Carthage, Cyprian initially rose to prominence as an orator. After a youth spent in dissipation, Cyprian converted and was baptized at around 35 years old. His bishop became so impressed with him that after only one year, Cyprian was made first a deacon, and then a priest; when that same bishop died only one year later, Cyprian was chosen to succeed him! As bishop, Cyprian would shepherd the church in Carthage through many storms—including persecution, a pandemic, and schism.
The Letter to Donatus, however, came before all of that; it is, in fact, the earliest of Cyprian’s treatises, written very shortly after his conversion. In it Cyprian writes to his friend, Donatus, who is also a recent Christian initiate. He describes elements of his own conversion, including details about the miserable state to which his sins had reduced him.
Cyprian writes with characteristic eloquence and power, and he concludes his letter with a rousing exhortation to Christian life. The Letter to Donatus remains as compelling today as it was in 246 A.D.
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Translation courtesy of Catholic University of America Press: https://verbum.com/product/46612/st-cyprian-treatises
Alternate Translation at CatholicCulture.org: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=1733
Way of the Fathers, Ep. 18—The Short, Happy Life of Cyprian of Carthage: https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/ep-18-short-happy-life-cyprian-carthage/#
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Theme music: 2 Part Invention, composed by Mark Christopher Brandt, performed by Thomas Mirus. ©️2019 Heart of the Lion Publishing Co./BMI. All rights reserved
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