Saint Augustine: Theologian, Bishop, and Doctor
By Jean M. Heimann
August 28th is the feast of Saint Augustine, a Western Father of the Church whose conversion to Christianity is well-known as one of the most important events in the history of the Church. He was an illustrious theologian, a brilliant bishop, and a great Doctor of the Church. Saint Augustine is the patron of theologians, brewers, printers, and sore eyes.
Saint Augustine was born in Tagaste, Africa in 354 to Patricius, a pagan Roman official, and to Monica, a devout Christian. Monica raised Augustine in the Christian faith, but when he went to college to study law in Carthage, he turned away from his Christian beliefs and led a life of immorality and hedonism.
At age 15, he took a took a mistress who bore him a son, Adeodatus, which means “the gift of God,” and at age 18, he and his friend, Honoratus became members of the Manichaean heretical sect, which accepted the dual principle of good and evil and promoted a lax moral code.
The late Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen explained his attraction to the heresy: “The conflict between flesh and spirit in him was resolved by the heresy of Manichæanism because it enabled him to pursue a voluptuous life without ever being held accountable for it. He could say that the evil principle within him was so strong, so deep, and intense that the good principle could not operate.”
Augustine turned away from his pursuit of law to literary endeavors and won poetic tournaments and made a name for himself in the world of philosophy. Augustine made plans to teach in Rome, but instead went to Milan, where he had planned to promote paganism.
When he arrived in Milan, he learned of the scholarship and the oratorical skills of Ambrose, the Bishop. Out of admiration for the bishop’s oratorical gifts, Augustine frequently listened to the eloquent homilies of Ambrose. Later on, Augustine spent hours in his company, discussing philosophy. He also borrowed books from the bishop’s personal library to read.
Through the persistent prayers of his mother, St. Monica, and the help of Saint Ambrose of Milan, Augustine finally left the Manicheans and converted to Christianity. On Holy Saturday in 378, both Augustine and his illegitimate son were baptized into the Church by Saint Ambrose.
St. Monica died in Ostia (modern Italy) and Saint Augustine remained in Italy, for a time, praying, studying and writing, before returning to Tagaste, Africa, where he sold all his possessions and distributed the money to the poor. He was ordained as a priest in 391. He was later made bishop of Hippo at the age of 41 and became one of the four great founders of religious orders and a Doctor of the universal Church. Saint Augustine of Hippo died on August 30, 430.
God has no need of your money, but the poor have. You give it to the poor, and God receives it. – Saint Augustine
The honors of this world, what are they but puff, and emptiness and peril of falling? – Saint Augustine
What do you possess if you possess not God? – Saint Augustine
Unhappy is the soul enslaved by the love of anything that is mortal. – Saint Augustine
The love of worldly possessions is a sort of bird line, which entangles the soul, and prevents it flying to God. – Saint Augustine
This very moment I may, if I desire, become the friend of God. – Saint Augustine
God bestows more consideration on the purity of the intention with which our actions are performed than on the actions themselves. – Saint Augustine
I will suggest a means whereby you can praise God all day long, if you wish. Whatever you do, do it well, and you have praised God. – Saint Augustine
This is the business of our life. By labor and prayer to advance in the grace of God, till we come to that height of perfection in which, with clean hearts, we may behold God. – Saint Augustine
God in his omnipotence could not give more, in His wisdom He knew not how to give more, in His riches He had not more to give, than the Eucharist. – Saint Augustine
Our life and our death are with our neighbor. – Saint Augustine
Conquer yourself and the world lies at your feet. – Saint Augustine
Prayer of Saint Augustine
Breathe in me O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy; Act in me O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy; Draw my heart O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy; Strengthen me O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy; Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.