February 5, 2020

Saint Avitus, Bishop of Vienne (+ 525)

St. Avitus of Vienne (Feast Day - February 5)

Saint Avitus was a Gallo-Roman born at Vienne in Dauphine in the middle of the fifth century. His father was Hesychius, Bishop of Vienne, where episcopal honors were informally hereditary. Saint Apollinaris, Bishop of Valence, was his brother, and his sister Fuscina became a nun. Saint Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, baptized him.

He entered a monastery near the city in order to devote himself to God alone, but in 490 he was called to succeed his father as Bishop of Vienne. Devout, humble and peace-loving, Avitus constantly sought the triumph of charity and unity in the Church during his episcopate, by reconciling sinners and heretics to God, by restoring amity between feuding brethren, and by gentle correction of those who neglected their duties.

His reputation as a wise and learned interpreter of the true faith and as an enlightened pastor extended throughout Christendom. In 499 Vienne was captured by Gundobad, king of the Burgundians, who was at war with Clovis, king of the Franks, where he came to the attention of that king. He was held in high regard by King Gundobad the Bergundian, and by King Clovis of the Franks, to whom he wrote a letter of congratulations and advice on the occasion of his Baptism. Although the Arian Gundobad did not become an Orthodox Christian, Saint Avitus succeeded in converting Sigismund his eldest son.

Thanks to his support, provincial synods were held, which condemned Arianism as well as regulating other matters of Church order. He also struggled against the other heresies which infested the Church at that time. He gave vigorous support to the rightful Pope Symmachus against the antipope Laurence: he wrote to Emperor Anastasios, refuting the errors of Eutyches, the promoter of Monophysitism, and later cooperated with Pope Hormisdas to resolve the schism of Akakios in Constantinople. In his day he was the greatest luminary of the Church of Gaul.

Towards the end of his life, besides writing homilies and poetic works, he was devoted to governing his diocese, patiently correcting the Germanic customs which were widespread among the people and promoting in their stead a way of life consonant with the Holy Gospel. Saint Avitus gave his soul to God on February 5th around the year 525 at the age of seventy-four. Upon his death, Avitus was buried in the Monastery of Saints Peter and Paul at Vienne.