27.8.08

St Augustine of Hippo

I feel a sudden twinge down my spine as I remind one and all of the feast of St Auginstine which will be celebrated on the 28th of August.

Augustine, Saint (354-430), greatest of the Latin Fathers and one of
the most eminent Western Doctors of the Church.


Augustine was born on November 13, 354, in Tagaste, Numidia (now
Souk-Ahras, Algeria). His father, Patricius (died about 371), was a pagan (later converted to Christianity), but his mother, Monica, was a devout Christian who labored untiringly for her son's conversion and who was canonized by the Roman Catholic church. Augustine was educated as a rhetorician in the former North African cities of Tagaste, Madaura, and Carthage. Between the ages of 15 and 30, he lived with a Carthaginian woman whose name is unknown; in 372 she bore him a son, whom he named Adeodatus, which is Latin for "the gift of God."

Intellectual Struggle

Inspired by the philosophical treatise Hortensius, by the Roman
orator and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, Augustine became an
earnest seeker after truth. He considered becoming a Christian, but
experimented with several philosophical systems before finally
entering the church. For nine years, from 373 until 382, he adhered
to Manichaeism, a Persian dualistic philosophy then widely current
in the Western Roman Empire. With its fundamental principle of
conflict between good and evil, Manichaeism at first seemed to
Augustine to correspond to experience and to furnish the most
plausible hypothesis upon which to construct a philosophical and
ethical system. Moreover, its moral code was not unpleasantly
strict; Augustine later recorded in his Confessions: "Give me
chastity and continence, but not just now." Disillusioned by the
impossibility of reconciling certain contradictory Manichaeist
doctrines, Augustine abandoned this philosophy and turned to
skepticism.

About 383 Augustine left Carthage for Rome, but a year later he went
on to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric. There he came under the
influence of the philosophy of Neoplatonism and also met the bishop
of Milan, St. Ambrose, then the most distinguished ecclesiastic in
Italy. Augustine presently was attracted again to Christianity. At
last one day, according to his own account, he seemed to hear a
voice, like that of a child, repeating, "Take up and read." He
interpreted this as a divine exhortation to open the Scriptures and
read the first passage he happened to see. Accordingly, he opened to
Romans 13:13-14, where he read: "…not in revelry and drunkenness,
not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and
jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision
for the flesh, to gratify its desires." He immediately resolved to
embrace Christianity. Along with his natural son, he was baptized by
Ambrose on Easter Eve in 387. His mother, who had rejoined him in
Italy, rejoiced at this answer to her prayers and hopes. She died
soon afterward in Ostia.

Bishop and Theologian

He returned to North Africa and was ordained in 391. He became
bishop of Hippo (now Annaba, Algeria) in 395, an office he held
until his death. It was a period of political and theological
unrest, for while the barbarians pressed in upon the empire, even
sacking Rome itself in 410, schism and heresy also threatened the
church. Augustine threw himself wholeheartedly into the theological
battle. Besides combating the Manichaean heresy, Augustine engaged
in two great theological conflicts. One was with the Donatists, a
sect that held the sacraments invalid unless administered by sinless
ecclesiastics. The other conflict was with the Pelagians, followers
of a contemporary British monk who denied the doctrine of original
sin. In the course of this conflict, which was long and bitter,
Augustine developed his doctrines of original sin and divine grace,
divine sovereignty, and predestination. The Roman Catholic church
has found special satisfaction in the institutional or
ecclesiastical aspects of the doctrines of St. Augustine; Roman
Catholic and Protestant theology alike are largely based on their
more purely theological aspects. John Calvin and Martin Luther,
leaders of the Reformation, were both close students of Augustine.

Augustine's doctrine stood between the extremes of Pelagianism and
Manichaeism. Against Pelagian doctrine, he held that human spiritual
disobedience had resulted in a state of sin that human nature was
powerless to change. In his theology, men and women are saved by the
gift of divine grace; against Manichaeism he vigorously defended the
place of free will in cooperation with grace. Augustine died at
Hippo, August 28, 430. His feast day is August 28.

Works

The place of prominence held by Augustine among the Fathers and
Doctors of the Church is comparable to that of St. Paul among the
apostles. As a writer, Augustine was prolific, persuasive, and a
brilliant stylist. His best-known work is his autobiographical
Confessions (circa 400), exposing his early life and conversion. In
his great Christian apologia The City of God (413-26), Augustine
formulated a theological philosophy of history. Ten of the 22 books
of this work are devoted to polemic against pantheism. The remaining
12 books trace the origin, progress, and destiny of the church and
establish it as the proper successor to paganism. In 428 Augustine
wrote the Retractions, in which he registered his final verdict upon
his earlier books, correcting whatever his maturer judgment held to
be misleading or wrong.
His other writings include the Epistles, of which 270 are in the Benedictine edition, variously dated between
386 and 429; his treatises On Free Will (388-95), On Christian
Doctrine (397), On Baptism: Against the Donatists (400), On the
Trinity (400-16), and On Nature and Grace (415); and Homilies upon
several books of the Bible.

Jhesu+Marie
de Brantigny

2 comments:

Elisa said...

St. Augustine is the patron saint of my undergrad! (The college was founded by members of the Order of St. Augustine) During my first semester at college, we had an afternoon Mass in his honor in the collegiate chapel.

de Brantigny said...

One of theings I regreat that have gone by the way side is a parish celebration of patron saints. Oh we might say "remeber that tomorrow is the feast of so and so", but the actual take the day off go to Mass have a picnic or potluck fellowhsip, etc. Non...

Thanks for your comments.

Richard