August 28, 2008
Thursday
volume 19, no. 241

Saint Augustine



"The Doctor of Grace"


    The tenth Doctor in this chronological series on the Doctors of the Church was the brilliant author of the City of God, the wise and inspirational Saint Augustine. His greatness for Holy Mother Church can be attributed to the combined efforts of two saints; two who had the greatest effects on the life of Augustine of Hippo. For indeed his conversion and eventual triumphs were due to his mother Saint Monica working behind the scenes, so to speak, in praying relentlessly for bringing him back to the Faith and Saint Ambrose, the mighty Doctor of the Church who was on the front line with the fiesty Augustine, unafraid to take on the challenges of this great skeptic.

    Augustine was born in Tagaste in what is today Algeria on November 13, 354. By the time he was 30 he was preaching rhetoric, interspersed with Manichean heresy, at the university of Milan. It was there he met St. Ambrose and sat in on his lectures where he was enthralled with Ambrose's explanation of Sacred Scripture.

    Two years later, in 356 Augustine heard a voice while he was embroiled in abandoned tears of helplessness searching for answers. The child-like voice chanted, "Take and read." Without thinking Augustine opened the Bible to the words of Saint Paul in Romans 13:13-14 which said, "Let us walk becomingly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its lusts." He was so moved that he asked Ambrose if he could be baptized and then immediately told his mother Monica that he wanted to be baptized. Both she and Ambrose were delighted beyond belief. Monica firmly insisted that in order to be in full union with the Church he had to abandon his Manichean beliefs and forsake living with his girl friend and their three children illegitimately conceived. Augustine agreed, and on Holy Saturday evening in 387 he was baptized. Monica's long-suffering prayers had been answered and, later that year, while waiting to sail back to Northern Africa from Ostia in Italy, Monica's everlasting ship came in and carried her off to the eternal seas of the Beatific Vision. Augustine buried his beloved mother and returned to Africa where he settled in Hippo, selling all his possessions which he gave to the poor and desolate and founded a monastery in Tagaste, the place of his birth.

    His son Adeodatus died in 389 and two years after that the populace, inspired by vox populi acclaimed the ordination of this former sinner. Augustine dutifully became a priest at the age of 36 and, while helping others and preaching, and seeking to live the monastic life - his first love, he dedicated full time to righting and writing the wrongs he had wrought to so many through his Manichean ideas. Like Paul who had been Saul, Augustine became a crusader against the heresies of the times, most notably Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.

    At the young age of 41 Augustine was consecrated the Bishop of Hippo where he preached and served the people for the rest of his life, defending the Church against all types of heresies. Even though a bishop, he still lived in community with fellow priests and wrote constantly beginning with his major works Confessions which was basically a catechism for all catechumens along with his great work De Doctrina Chrisiana - "Of Christian Doctrine."

    In 410, as the Goth Alaric was laying siege to Rome, Augustine wrote his most famous opus - City of God, the history of Christian philosophy which has stood the test of time in influencing Western Culture both in the Church and the world. His great words, "Too late have I loved You, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in You" show how God became the end-all and be-all in his life which ended at the age of 76 on August 28, 430 as the Vandals were storming the gates of Hippo.

    To preserve his body from the Vandals, the Augustinians stole him away to Sardinia where he was laid to rest, and later transferred to Pavia. Though Augustine's works were appreciated during his lifetime, it wasn't until after his death that his words really took root and was celebrated as a Doctor of the Church from the eighth century on, becoming official in the eleventh century. Some of his other noted works are Enchiridion and De Trinitate.

    Other than the Angelic Doctor Saint Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine is considered the greatest single intellect ever in Holy Mother Church. St. Monica and St. Ambrose realized the treasure God had provided in this man who first turned his back on Our Lord until he realized only too well that he would remain restless, totally restless, until he rested and trusted solely in God.

    Today St. Augustine is revered as one of the greatest and learned scholars of the Church and is given the title the "Doctor of Grace." His conversion proves the power of God's love and the power of the Word of God.

Note: [editor's bold, brackets and italicized for emphasis]


Doctors of the Church
August 28, 2008
volume 19, no. 241