Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Fathers of the Church

Letter CCXIX


”Augustine’s correspondence, the mark and expression of the influential personality and apostolic zeal of the author, is rich in historical, philosophical, theological, exegetical, spiritual, literary, and autobiographical content” (Agostino Trapè). This letter concerns the repentance and restoration to communion of a man who had fallen into heresy regarding the Incarnation.


The extant correspondence of St. Augustine includes more than 270 letters, including well over 200 written by him. Those numbered 124-231 span the period from the conference between Catholic and Donatist bishops held in 411, and the rise of the Pelagian heresy, until Augustine’s death in 430.

by Augustine of Hippo in 426 | translated by J. G. Cunningham


1. When our son Leporius, whom for his obstinacy in error you had justly and fitly rebuked, came to us after he had been expelled by you, we received him as one afflicted for his good, whom we should, if possible, deliver from error and restore to spiritual health. For, as you obeyed in regard to him the apostolic precept, "Warn the unruly," so it was our part to obey the precept immediately annexed, "Comfort the feeble-minded, and support the weak." His error was indeed not unimportant, seeing that he neither approved what is right nor perceived what is true in some things relating to the only-begotten Son of God, of whom it is written that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," but that when the fulness of time had come, "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;" for he denied that God became man, regarding it as a doctrine from which it must follow necessarily that the divine substance in which He is equal to the Father suffered some unworthy change or corruption, and not seeing that he was thus introducing into the Trinity a fourth person, which is utterly contrary to the sound doctrine of the Creed and of Catholic truth. Since, however, dearly beloved and honourable brethren, he had as a fallible man "been overtaken" in this error, we did our utmost, the Lord helping us, to instruct him "in the spirit of meekness," especially remembering that when the "chosen vessel "gave this command to which we refer, he added, "Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted," — lest some, perchance, should so rejoice in the measure of spiritual progress as to imagine that they could no longer be tempted like other men, — and joined with it the salutary and peace-promoting sentence, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself."

2. This restoration of Leporius we could perhaps in nowise have accomplished, had you not previously censured and punished those things in him which required correction. So then the same Lord, our Divine Physician, using His own instruments and servants, has by you wounded him when he was proud, and by us healed him when he was penitent, according to his own saying, "I wound, and I heal." The same Divine Ruler and Overseer of His own house has by you thrown down what was defective in the building, and has by us replaced with a well-ordered structure what he had removed. The same Divine Husbandman has in His careful diligence by you rooted up what was barren and noxious in His field, and by us planted what is useful and fruitful. Let us not, therefore, ascribe glory to ourselves, but to the mercy of Him in whose hand both we and all our words are. And as we humbly praise the work which you have done as His ministers in the case of our son aforesaid, so do you rejoice with holy joy in the work performed by us. Receive, then, with the love of fathers and of brethren, him whom we have with merciful severity corrected. For although one part of the work was done by you and another part by us, both parts, being indispensable to our brother's salvation, were done by the same love. The same God was therefore working in both, for "God is love."

3. Wherefore, as he has been welcomed into fellowship by us on the ground of his repentance, let him be welcomed by you on the ground of his letter, to which letter we have thought it right to adhibit our signatures attesting its genuineness. We have not the least doubt that you, in the exercise of Christian love, will not only hear with pleasure of his amendment, but also make it known to those to whom his error was a stumbling-block. For those who came with him to us have also been corrected and restored along with him, as is declared by their signatures, which have been adhibited to the letter in our presence. It remains only that you, being made joyful by the salvation of a brother, condescend to make us joyful in our turn by sending a reply to our communication. Farewell in the Lord, most beloved and honourable brethren; such is our desire on your behalf: remember us.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (NPNF I/I, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.

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