About John Lilburne







1029 Tue 28 Aug 2001

Today is the feast day of Saint Augustine (354-430). I have been reading his autobiography "Confessions". In tomorrow's class I expect to be giving a three minute talk on Victorinus, who Augustine tells us about in Book 8 of Confessions.

Augustine knew Victorinus as a translator of works by Platonist philosophers. He describes him as "at one time rhetor in the city of Rome, who had, I had heard, died a Christian". He learns more about him from the priest, Simplicianus, who had known Victorinus intimately in Rome.

Victorinus had told the priest that he was already a Christian. The priest replied:

"I shall not believe that or count you among the Christians unless I see you in the Church of Christ". Victorinus laughed and said: "Then do walls make Christians?" He used frequently to say "I am a Christian already", and Simplicanus would give the same answer, to which he equally often repeated his joke about walls. He was afraid to offend his friends ...

Suddenly and unexpectedly he said to Simplicanus ... "Let us go to the Church; I want to become a Christian."

Augustine describes how he had the option of making the "profession of faith" in private.

But he preferred to make profession of his salvation before the holy congregation. For there was no salvation in the rehetoric which he had taught; yet his profession of that had been public. ... When he mounted the steps to affirm the confession of faith, there was a murmur of delighted talk as all the people who knew him spoke his name to one another.

Augustine concludes:

As soon as your servant Simplicanus told me this story about Victorinus, I was ardent to follow his example. He had indeed told it to me with this object in view. (Confessions: A new translation by Henry Chadwick, Oxford University Press, 1991, page 139).

Last night I had a class for "The Church in Asia" about Japan. In 1549 Francis Xavier started preaching there leading to about 300,000 converts. In 1597 there were 26 Christians crucified on a hill in Nagasaki. In 1614 the Tokugawa regime issued an edict banishing Christianity and were serious about doing it.

Rather than producing mayrters, the process was to make apostates - those who would publicly renounce the faith, demonstrating this by stepping on a crucifix or icon. High profile people did this, including the head of the Jesuites in Japan. Today 0.35% of the Japanese population are Catholics (according to the1995 Harper-Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, page 688).

I am trying to convey the importance of publicly doing the correct thing. It damaged the Catholic Church when Archbishop Milingo "got married". It strengthens the Roman Rite when ceremonies are done correctly, according to the liturgical laws.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 28 August 2001.