A doctor and bishop to his church, St. Augustine is best known for his autobiography Confessions. The term augustinianism evolved from his great influence during his day and ours.
As a boy, Augustine had no idea where his rebellion would lead him. On the 13 November, 354 AD, in Tagaste (modern day Algeria), Augustine was born. Patricius, Augustine’s father, while holding a position as an official in the city, remained a pagan until converting on his deathbed. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, was a devout Christian who regularly prayed for the faith of her son. After years of prayer, St. Monica was successfully able to sign St. Augustine was with the cross and enrol him among the catechumens. However he refused to be baptised. St. Monica was devastated. When St. Augustine grew dangerously ill, he finally agreed to be baptised, only to remove his consent upon recovery and denounce the Christian faith. Unfortunately, his parent’s contradicting beliefs and his own rebellious intellect, were leading him in two completely different directions.
As Augustine grew, he continued to be surrounded by Christian influences. His mother encouraged him to attend a school of religious education in Tagaste (an important part of the Roman Empire) and Madura until he was sixteen. He accepted. After his education, he left for Carthage where he fell to the pleasures of the half-pagan city’s theatres and was re-educated by his insubordinate fellow students. Finally, after a time, he confessed to his mother that he had been living sinfully with a woman of whom he had had a son, Adeodatus, which means Gift of God, born in 372 AD. Although, Augustine had been immersed in a Christian environment, he still continued to rebel.
Augustine had not given religion up yet. He was still seeking. While he was still a student, Augustine possessed a fervent longing to focus yet again the investigation of his faith, and in 373 AD he became a confirmed Manichaean. Because of his interest in natural sciences, the promise of free philosophy appealed to him. Although he enjoyed this subject, the desire to come to terms with what he believed did not disappear. As his intellect attained full maturity, he returned to Tagaste and then to Carthage where he became popular in the teaching of rhetorics. After nine years of disagreement with the Manichaean belief’s cosmology and an unsatisfactory meeting with the renowned Manichaean bishop, Faustus of Mileve, his spiritual journey led him away from the Manichaean faith. Already in his thirties, and after leaving yet another religion would he continue to seek for more?
Augustine’s spiritual grief would soon lead him to salvation. During another period of spiritual struggle, he departed to Italy in 383 AD where he studied Neo-platonic philosophy. Seeing the kindness and generous heart of Ambrose, Augustine became his pupil. At the age of thirty-three, he finally had a moment of sudden realisation and clarity of his purpose, which came to him thorough an immense outpouring of tears as he lay exhausted underneath a fig tree. In 387 he was baptised by Ambrose. Thankfully his mother could experience this euphoric news before she died, shortly thereafter. “Nothing is far from God,” she wrote. The death of his mother led to some of his deepest and most exquisite writings on love and grief. Although Augustine’s grief was great, his spirit was finally at peace.
After Augustine’s incredible transformation, his way of life changed dramatically. Returning to Tagaste, he devoted his time to the quasi-monastic lifestyle where he prayed and studied sacred letters. He also spent his time finding the answer to the philosophical questions that had plagued his mind and his faith in Christ Jesus. In 391 St. Augustine was ordained priest. Not only had the work of God in Augustine affected his own life but it would begin to change many other lives throughout history.
Augustine’s ministry was fruitful. For the next five years, Augustine aided in the administration of the church while he also tended to the poor, and acted as a judge in civil and ecclesiastical matters. He was always an adamant defender of the truth and a compassionate shepherd of souls. Becoming the coadjutor-bishop at the age of forty-two, he ruled the diocese alone from 396-439. Gradually the Roman Empire began collapsing and near the time of Augustine’s death, the Vandals were found at the gates of Hippo. On the 28 August, 430 AD at the age of 76, Augustine developed a fatal illness. After he died, King of the Lombards translated St. Augustine’s relics from Sardinia to Pavia. Although, Augustine’s earthly ministry was over, his writings would continue to change the hearts of many and portray a man whose own heart had been changed by God. The cult of St. Augustine rapidly spread throughout the world. Augustine’s feast is celebrated on the 28th of August. “Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” This famous quote of St. Augustine reflects his life’s struggles and how he came to find rest through his conversion and ultimately, in his death.