Friday, 28 August 2009

Saint Augustine of Hippo, Bishop & Doctor

Augustine was born in AD 354 in Thagaste (present-day Souk Ahras, Algeria), in North Africa. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian, and his father, Patricius, a pagan. At an early age was sent to school at Madaurus noted for its pagan climate. There he became familiar with pagan beliefs. When seventeen years old he went to Carthage to continue his education. As a youth, Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle and developed a stable relationship with a young woman in Carthage, who would be his concubine for over thirteen years and who gave birth to his son, Adeodatus.
Disturbed by the unruly behaviour of the students in Carthage, in 383 he moved to establish a school in Rome, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practiced. However, Augustine was disappointed with the Roman schools.
At age thirty, Augustine had won the most visible academic chair in the Latin world, at Milan. There his life changed. Falling under the spell of the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, and supported by the fervent prayers of his mother Monica, Augustine became a Christian. St Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son, Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan, and soon thereafter in 388 he returned to Africa. On his way back to Africa his mother died, as did his son soon after, leaving him alone in the world without family. This was a very difficult process for Augustine and he did not know how he would do on his own.
Upon his return to North Africa he sold his possesions and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba, in Algeria). Five years later ne became bishop of Hippo. He remained in this position until his death in 430. He left a rule for his monastery that has led him to be designated the "patron saint of regular clergy", that is, clergy who live by a monastic rule.
Shortly before Augustine's death, Roman Africa was overrun by the Vandals, plundering private citizens and churches and killing many of the inhabitants. The Vandals arrived in the spring of 430 while Augustine endured his final illness.
Possidius gives a first-hand account of Augustine's death, which occurred on August 28, 430. Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. Shortly after his death, the Vandals raised the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long thereafter and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine's cathedral and library, which they left untouched.
Augustine was a bishop, priest, and father who remains a central figure, both within Christianity and in the history of Western thought. May this Doctor of the Church who in his humility enabled the Holy Spirit to shine through him the eternal truth help the Church in this dark and confused time to see through the murk of sin and confusion that Eternal Truth which is beauty so old and yet so new!

Some of my favourite quotes from St Augustine:
* You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
* Too late I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Too late I loved you!
* Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether
thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.
* So give to the poor; I’m begging you, I’m warning you, I’m commanding you, I’m ordering you.
* He who sings prays twice.
* He who created you without you will not justify you without you.
* But it isn’t just a matter of faith, but of faith and works. Each is necessary. For the demons also believe –you heard the apostle- and tremble (Jas 2:19); but their believing doesn’t do them any good. Faith alone is not enough, unless works too are joined to it: Faith working through love (Gal 5:6), says the apostle.
* God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails.

* If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have still suffered and died for

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