St. Augustine of Hippo (Feast: August 28)
Augustine was born on November 13, 354 at Tagaste, on the northern coast of Africa, in what is now Algeria. He was raised as a Christian by his mother, Monica, despite his father, Patricius, being a pagan. His mother’s example of fervent faith was a strong influence on the young boy, one that would follow him throughout his life.
Although he had been enrolled amongst the catechumens in his youth and had received a Christian education in Tagaste, Augustine had nevertheless deferred the reception of Baptism, and was as yet unbaptized when the question of his advanced studies arose. Proud of his son’s academic prowess and prospects, Patricius was determined to send Augustine to Carthage, but had not the means available and thus it was that his eldest son spent his sixteenth year in an idleness that proved fatal to his virtue.
Having thrown himself wholeheartedly into the pursuit of pleasure and gradually given up the practice of prayer, by the time Augustine reached Carthage late in the year 370, he was easily won over by the seductions of the half-pagan city.
When his father died in 371, soon after he arrived in Carthage, Augustine became the nominal head of the family and set up a household with a concubine, the mother of his son, Adeodatus, born about 372.
At the university Augustine studied literature and poetry, Latin, public speaking, and rhetoric. A terrible crisis of faith followed close upon his moral dissipation and Augustine fell into the snares of the Manichæans, a heretical sect that believed all flesh and matter to be evil, denied free will and attributed the commission of a crime to a foreign principle. Once he was won over by the sect, Augustine devoted himself to it with all the vehemence of his ardent nature and drew into it a number of friends by his proselytizing. Over time Augustine became disenchanted with the irresolvable contradictions he observed in the teachings of the Manichæans, but it took nine years for the illusion to die completely.
At the age of twenty-nine, Augustine set off secretly for Rome, resorting to subterfuge to avoid being followed by his mother, Monica. After a brief sojourn in Rome, he applied for a vacant professorship in Milan, where he was soon joined by his mother.
His meeting with St. Ambrose so impressed him that he became a regular attendant at the bishop’s sermons. Cicero’s work Hortensius was also instrumental in Augustine’s final conversion, inspiring him with the desire to seek the truth. His passions, however, were to enslave him for another three years. Finally, through the reading of the Holy Scriptures light penetrated his mind. Grace soon followed and the thirty-three-year-old Augustine resigned his professorship, put aside a prospective marriage arranged by his mother, and retired to a country estate to devote himself entirely to the pursuit of true philosophy, now inseparable in his mind from Christianity.
With his son, and the friends who had accompanied him into retirement, he was baptized on Easter Sunday in 387 by St. Ambrose. His ordination to the priesthood in 391 was followed by his consecration as Bishop of Hippo four years later. His priestly and episcopal ministries were both admirably fruitful: he fought heresy with lion-like tenacity, challenged heretics to public debates, attended Church councils, and was a prodigious writer and zealous preacher.
One of the greatest theologians of all time, among his extant works can be found more than 300 sermons, 500 letters, and numerous other writings on a wide variety of topics. Whilst refuting a Pelagian heretic, Augustine was stricken with a fatal illness.
For three months he suffered with unconquerable patience amid continuous prayer, and died on August 28 in the year 430.
DAILY QUOTE for January 24, 2021
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. Francis de Sales
Many centuries ago, three young nuns lived together in a convent. Day after day, they took their meals together, they went to chapel together, and they prayed and sang together.