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a passionate repentance

1) I have continually given the greatest pains and diligence to…

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may God stand
1) I have continually given the greatest pains and diligence to
inquiring, from the greatest possible number of men outstanding in
holiness and in doctrine, how I can secure a kind of fixed and, as it
were, general and guiding principle for distinguishing the true catholic
faith from the degraded falsehoods of heresy. And the answer that I
receive is always to this effect; that if I wish, or indeed if anyone
wishes, to detect the deceits of heretics that arise and to avoid their
snares and to keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with
the Lord's help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly, that
is, by the authority of God's Law, then by the tradition of the catholic
(2) Here, it may be, someone will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is
complete, and is in itself abundantly sufficient, what need is there to
join to it the interpretation of the Church? The answer is that because
of the very depth of Scripture all men do not place one identical
interpretation upon it. The statements of the same writer are explained
by different men in different ways, so much so that it seems almost
possible to extract from it as many opinions as there are men. Novatian
expounds in one way, Sabellius in another, Donatus in another, Arius,
Eunomius and Macedonius in another, Photinus, Apollinaris and
Priscillian in another, Jovinian, Pelagius and Caelestius in another,
and latterly Nestorius in another. Therefore, because of the intricacies
of error, which is so multiform, there is great need for the laying down
of a rule for the exposition of Prophets and Apostles in accordance with
the standard of the interpretation of the catholic Church .
(3) Now in the catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold
that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all (quod ubique,
quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est). That is truly and properly
'catholic,' as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which
comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if
we follow universality, antiquity, and consent. We shall follow
universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole
Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart
from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and
fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following
the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops
and doctors alike.
(4) What then will the catholic Christian do, if a small part of the
Church has cut itself off from the communion of the universal Faith? The
answer is sure. He will prefer the healthiness of the whole body to the
morbid and corrupt limb. But what if some novel contagion try to infect
the whole Church, and not merely a tiny part of it? Then he will take
care to cleave to antiquity, which cannot now be led astray by any
deceit of novelty. What if in antiquity itself two or three men, or it
may be a city, or even a whole province be detected in error? Then he
will take the greatest care to prefer the decrees of the ancient General
Councils, if there are such, to the irresponsible ignorance of a few
men. But what if some error arises regarding which nothing of this sort
is to be found? Then he must do his best to compare the opinions of the
Fathers and inquire their meaning, provided always that, though they
belonged to diverse times and places, they yet continued in the faith
and communion of the one catholic Church; and let them be teachers
approved and outstanding. And whatever he shall find to have been held,
approved and taught, not by one or two only but by all equally and with
one consent, openly, frequently, and persistently, let him take this as
to be held by him without the slightest hesitation.

St. Vincent of Lérins, Commonitorium 2.4-8 (c. 434 AD)
commemorated 24 May
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