April 8, 2020

Saint Perpetuus, Bishop of Tours (+ 490)

St. Perpetuus of Tours (Feast Day - April 8)

Saint Perpetuus came from a senatorial family, and possessed very large estates in several provinces. He was made Bishop of Tours around 460, and guided the Church of Tours for thirty years. During this time his primary focus was to lead souls to virtue through prudent ordinances.

Soon after his accession he convened a synod at Tours to regulate ecclesiastical discipline and remedy abuse; four years later he summoned another at Vannes. He maintained a careful surveillance over the conduct of the clergy of his diocese, and mention is made of priests who were removed from their office because they had proved unworthy. The Saint further consecrated all the revenues from his estates to the service of the Church of Tours and the relief of those in need.

He commanded that all Wednesdays and Fridays be observed with a fast, except the week after Easter, from Christmas to Saint Hilary's day (Dec. 25 - Jan. 14), and from the Nativity of John the Baptist to the end of August (June 24 - Aug. 31). He added a third fast day of Monday to be added every week from the feast of Saint Martin until Christmas (Nov. 11 - Dec. 25), which shows the antiquity of the Nativity Fast. These regulations were all religiously observed one hundred and twenty years after, when Saint Gregory of Tours wrote his history.

Saint Perpetuus had a great veneration for the saints, and respect for their relics; adorned their shrines, and enriched their churches. He prescribed the manner of celebrating vigils before great festivals in the different churches in the city. As there was a continual succession of miracles at the tomb of Saint Martin, Perpetuus, finding the church built by Saint Britius too small for the gathering of people, directed its enlargement, causing it to be built one hundred and fifty-five feet in length, sixty in width, and forty-five in height. The erection of Perpetuus' church was, therefore, no ordinary occurrence, but an epoch-making event in the history of Western architecture. When the building was finished, the good bishop solemnized the dedication of this new church, and performed the translation of the body of Saint Martin on the 4th of July in 473.

Of his love for sacred reading, Apollinaris Sidonius writes to him (Letters 7, 8), saying: "Your ardor for religious books has given you a most intimate acquaintance with everything written for the Catholic faith, whether by the Canonical authors or by the controversialists." He calls him the true copy of the virtues of Saint Martin.

He made and signed his last will, which is still extant, on the 1st of March, 475, fifteen years before his death. By it he remits all debts that were owed to him; and having bequeathed to his church his library and several farms, and settled a fund for the maintenance of lamps, and the purchase of sacred vessels, as occasion might require, he declares the poor his heirs. It begins thus: “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. I, Perpetuus, a sinner, priest of the church of Tours, would not depart without a last will and testament, lest the poor should be neglected. You, my bowels, my most beloved brethren, my crown, my joy, my lords, my children, O poor of Christ, needy, beggars, sick, widows, orphans; you I declare, name, and make my heirs. Excepting what is above disposed of, whatever I am possessed of in goods, in fields, in pasturage, in meadows, in groves, in vineyards, in dwellings, in gardens, in waters, in mills, or in gold, silver, and garments, and other things, I appoint you my heirs. It is my will that as soon as possible, after my departure, they be sold, and the money divided into three parts; of which two shall be distributed among poor men, at the discretion of the priest Agrarius and Count Agilo: and the third among widows and poor women, at the discretion of the virgin Dadolena.” He adds exhortations to concord and piety; and bequeaths to his sister, Fidia Julia Perpetua, a little gold cross, with relics; he leaves legacies to several other friends and priests, to one a silver case of relics of saints, to others gold or silver crosses or chalices, begging of each a remembrance of him in their prayers.

He reposed on April 8, 490.