Saint Augustine of Hippo, Bishop (354-420)

This week’s Saint of the Week, Saint Augustine of Hippo, is a giant even among the lofty world of Saints.  He is one of Church Fathers, those defined as “influential theologians, bishops or scholars whose writings explained key Scriptural principles in the early Church”.  He is also a Doctor of the Church, “which is an official designation that is bestowed by the Pope in recognition of the outstanding contribution a person has made to the understanding and interpretation of the sacred Scriptures and the development of Christian doctrine”. But more importantly, Saint Augustine represents hope for all of us who took the scenic route from living worldly lives to truly living our Catholic faith.  

Saint Augustine was born to a wealthy Roman family in Algeria, on the North coast of Africa in the 4th century.  His mother, Saint Monica was a devout, pious Catholic Christian, but his father was not a believer until converting near the end of his life.  

In his teenage years, Saint Augustine ran with a group of wild youths who called themselves “the destructors”.  In his famous work, “The Confessions”, he accounts in detail a story about how they stole some fruit from a pear tree of one of his neighbors.  They didn’t steal the fruit because they were hungry, in fact, Saint Augustine didn’t even like pears.  They stole the fruit just to steal it, because it was wrong and ended up just tossing their ill begotten bounty to some pigs. The fact that he remembered this seemingly insignificant teenage discretion with such regret and remorse later in life underscores the total conversion of heart he had upon finally converting to the Catholic faith.

Later, while still in his late teen age years he had an affair with a woman from Carthage, and fathered a child out of wedlock.  Saint Augustine was known to wrestle with the concept of chastity in his early life and famously acknowledged it in his Confessions, writing, “Grant me chastity and continence . . . but not yet.”

Saint Augustine actively sought worldly fame and acclaim.  He was educated in the best schools in his native Algeria and Carthage and became a teacher in rhetoric. All the while, Saint Augustine continued to reject the religion of his birth and even became a practitioner of the heretical Manichaean religion that arose in 3rd Century Persia.  This religion combined elements of paganism, Gnosticism and Christianity and preached two gods; one good and one evil, that were constantly struggling for supremacy with humanity caught in the cross hairs.

Eventually he attained a position as professor of rhetoric at the Imperial Court in Milan, Italy.  It was in Milan that he became influenced by the Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. The preaching of Saint Ambrose opened Saint Augustine’s mind and heart to the religion of his youth and eventually led to his conversion to the faith.  The well known, unceasing prayers of his holy mother, Saint Monica, no doubt had significant influence on his conversion as well.  

Saint Augustine may have taken the slow boat to re-conversion to the Catholic faith, but he got on the fast-track once he finally converted to Christianity.  He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Hippo at the age of 31 and Bishop at age of 41.  He served in that position for 39 years and until his death on August 28th, 420 AD.  

Another famous quote from his great work, Confessions, succinctly summarizes the short lived satisfaction many of us experience in worldly pursuits,  “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you”.  As Bishop, he led a saintly life that gained him the renown he sought so desperately in his early years.  His saintly reputation has endured through the centuries because he was working for the kingdom of God rather than his own vanity.  Saint Augustine was an influential preacher, and condemned the errors of his former religion, Manichaeism. He was a prolific writer and his works, Confessions, which I refer to twice in this reflection, and City of God, remain among the most popular works in Christian literature to date.

Patron Saint of: Printers, theologians, brewers.   

Feast Day:  August 28th

Prayer to Saint Augustine of Hippo

We humbly supplicate and beseech thee, O thrice-blessed Augustine, that thou wouldst be mindful of us poor sinners this day, daily, and at the hour of our death, that by thy merits and prayers we may be delivered from all evils, of soul as well as body, and daily increase in virtue and good works; obtain for us that we may know our God and know ourselves, that in His mercy He may cause us to love Him above all things in life and death; impart to us, we beseech thee, some share of that love with which thou so ardently glow, that our hearts being all inflamed with this divine love, happily departing out of this mortal pilgrimage, we may deserve to praise with thee the loving heart of Jesus for a never-ending eternity.

Saint Augustine of Hippo, pray for us!

You Might Also Like