Jesus Christ Savior | St. Augustine was a living example of God’s grace that transformed nature. He died August 28, 430, during the sack of Hippo by the Vandals.
St. Augustine (354-430 AD) was the greatest of the Latin Fathers of the Church and a foundational figure to Western Christian civilization. He was born in Tagaste, near Hippo, in north Africa. His mother, St. Monica, was a devout Christian and taught him the faith. However, when he studied rhetoric in Carthage, he began living a worldly life.
He obtained a post as master of rhetoric in Milan, accompanied by an unnamed woman and child Adeodatus, born out of wedlock in 372. The woman soon left him and their son, and Monica joined them in Milan. Under the incessant prayers of his mother, and the influence of St. Ambrose of Milan, he eventually converted at age 32 in 386 AD. Perhaps the most eloquent examination of conscience is found in The Confessions of St. Augustine, where he describes his moment of conversion in the garden reading St. Paul to the Romans 13:14, But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.
Both his mother and son died soon afterwards and he returned in 388 to his home in Tagaste. He was ordained a priest in 391, and became Bishop of Hippo in 395. Augustine was people-oriented and preached every day. Many of his followers lived an ascetic life. He had a great love for Christ, and believed that our goal on earth was God through Christ himself, “to see his face evermore.” Our goal in life should be to please God, not man.
Augustine was one of the most prolific writers in history, and his writings show an evolution of thought and at times a reversal of ideas, as seen in his Retractations. His Scriptural essays on Genesis and Psalms remain starting points for modern Biblical scholars. His commentary on the Sermon on the Mount is still read today. Perhaps most debated are his views on predestination.
St. Augustine is the doctor of grace. In his book Grace and Free Will, he explained simply why he believed in free will. If there was no free will, then why did God give us the Ten Commandments, and why did he tell us to love our neighbor? Augustine’s arguments against the Pelagian heresy set the doctrine of grace for the Catholic Church to the present day. Pelagius thought that man could achieve virtue and salvation on his own without the gift of grace, that Jesus was simply a model of virtue. This of course attacks the Redemption of man by Christ! If man could make it on his own, then the Cross of Christ becomes meaningless! But Augustine saw man’s utter sinfulness and the blessing and efficacy of grace, disposing man to accept his moment of grace, and hopefully ultimate salvation. Grace raises us to a life of virtue, and is the ground of human freedom. “When I choose rightly I am free.” The Council of Orange enshrined Augustine’s teaching on grace and free will in 529 AD.
Perhaps one of his greatest works was The City of God, which took 13 years to complete, from 413 to 426. History can only be understood as a continued struggle between two cities, the City of God, comprised of those men who pursue God, and the City of Man, composed of those who pursue earthly goods and pleasures. He refers to Cain and Abel as the earliest examples of the two types of man. The Roman Empire was an example of the city of man (which had just been sacked by Alaric in 410 and was the occasion of the book).
St. Augustine was a living example of God’s grace that transformed nature. He died August 28, 430, during the sack of Hippo by the Vandals. August 28 is celebrated as his Feast Day in the liturgical calendar.
Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.