Saint Augustine Essay, Research Paper
SAINT AUGUSTINE Bishop of Hippo, Doctor of the Church, (A.D. 430)Introduction “And Thou, O Lord, how long? How long? Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?”These words of repentance marked the beginning of Augustine’s newlife. A few years after he came in contact with God, he said, “Ourhearts, O Lord, were made for you, and they are restless until therest in you.”Saint Augustine is one of the greatest Fathers of the Church. Hewas an original thinker who became recognized as a remarkableleader of Christian faith. One of the guiding forces in SaintAugustine’s life was his Christian mother, Saint Monica. His Childhood and YouthSaint Augustine, who used commonly to be called Austin in English,was born on November 13, 354 at Tagaste, a small town of Numidia innorth Africa, not far from Hippo. His father, Patricius, was apagan and of a violent disposition; but through the example andprudent conduct of his wife, Saint Monica, he was baptized a littlebefore his death. As a child, Saint Monica instructed him in the Christian religionand taught him how to pray; falling dangerously ill, he desiredbaptism and his mother got everything ready for it: but he suddenlygrew better, and it was put off. His father wanted him to become a man of learning and cared verylittle about his character. In his writings, Augustine accuseshimself of often studying by constraint, disobeying his parents andmasters, not writing, reading, or minding his lessons so much aswas required of him; and this he did not for lack of wit or memory,but out of love of play. But he prayed to God with greatearnestness that he might escape punishment at school. He later ondid so well with his studies that he went to Carthage in 370 whenhe was still 17. He studied rhetoric with eagerness and pleasure;but his motives were vanity and ambition, and to them he joinedloose living. Years away from ChristAt Carthage, he entered into relations with a woman (to whom heremained faithful until he sent her away from him 15 years later). She bore him a son, Adeodatus, in 372. His father had died in 371,but he continued at Carthage and switched to philosophy and thesearch for the truth. He also studied the Scriptures but from asubjective attitude. He was offended with the simplicity of style,and could not relish their humility or penetrate their spirit. Thenhe fell into Manichaeism – a combination of pagan religions andphilosophy. The darkening of the understanding and clumsiness inthe use of the faculties helped to betray him into his company; andpride did the rest. “I sought with pride”, he says, “what onlyhumility could make me find. Fool that I was, I left the nest,imagining myself able to fly; and I fell to the ground.”For nine years he had his own schools of rhetoric and grammar inTagaste and Carthage, while his devoted mother, Saint Monica,spurred on by the assurance of a holy bishop that “the son of somany tears could not perish”, never ceased by prayer and gentlepersuasion to try to bring him to conversion and reform. In 383 he departed to Rome, secretly, lest his mother shouldprevent him from going to the big city. He opened a school orrhetoric, and then was appointed by the government as a teacher inMilan, where his mother, and his friend Alipius joined him. Saint’sMonica’s only ambition was to convert her son to Christianity. His RepentanceIn Milan, Saint Augustine came under the influence of Saint Ambrosethe bishop; he began to go to his sermons, not so much with anexpectation of profiting by them as to gratify his curiosity and toenjoy the eloquence. He found that the discourses more learned thanthe heresies he adopted and began to read the New Testamentespecially Saint Paul’s writings. In the same time, the mother ofAdeodatus his son left back to Africa leaving the child behind. Saint Augustine’s spiritual, moral and intellectual struggle wenton; he was convinced of the truth of Christianity, but his will wasweaker than the worldly temptations, and delayed his return toChrist for many months. “Soon, in a little while, I shall make upmy mind, but not right now” he kept telling himself. In his halfdesires of conversion he was accustomed to beg of God the grace ofchastity, but was at the same time in some measure afraid of beingheard too soon. He realized that his problem was a moral one. TheDivine truth for which he was seeking would never be his unless hefirst overcame his weakness. Soon after, Pontitian, an African, came to visit Saint Augustineand his friend Alipius; he told them about two men who had beensuddenly turned to the service of God by reading about the life ofSaint Anthony. His words had a powerful influence on the mind ofSaint Augustine. He was ashamed his will has been so weak and saidto Alipius: “What are we doing to let the unlearned seize Heaven by force, whilst we with all our knowledge remain behind, cowardly and
heartless, wallowing in our sins? Because they have outstripped us and gone before, are we ashamed to follow them? Is it not more shameful not even to follow them?”He rused to the garden, greatly upset; tears filling his eyes, hethrew himself on the grass under a fig tree and reproached himselfbitterly crying out: “And Thou, O Lord, how long? How long? Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?”As he spoke these words he heard a child’s voice singing “Tollelege! Tolle lege!” (Take up and read! Take up and read!). He couldnot remember any childhood game he played with any such words. Heremembered that Saint Anthony was converted from the world byhearing a single verse. He took up Saint Paul’s epistles and readthe first chapter that met his eyes: “Let us walk honestly, as inthe day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering andwantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord JesusChrist, and make not provision for the flesh, fulfil the luststhereof.” (Romans 13:13-14)When he told Alipius what he had experienced, Alipius took the bookand read, he found the next words to be: “Him that is weak in thefaith receive ye” and applied them to himself and joined his friendin his resolution. This high point in the conversion of Saint Augustine took place inthe September of 386, when he was 32 years old. He, his sonAdeodatus and Alipius were baptized by Saint Ambrose at Easter thefollowing year in the presence of saint Monica. She knew that herprayers were answered and died shortly after. Saint Augustineprayed: “Too late, have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved Thee! Thou wast with me, and I was not with Thee; I was abroad, running after those beauties which Thou hast made; those things which could have no being but in Thee kept me away from Thee. Thou hast called, Thou hast cried out, and hast pierced my deafness. Thou hast enlightened, Thou hast shone forth, and my blindness is dispelled. I have tasted Thee, and am hungry of Thee. Thou hast touched me, and I am afire with the desire of thy embraces.”A Priest and then a BishopFrom that time, Saint Augustine went back to Tagaste, his nativecity, and lived for three years with his friends and shared a lifeof prayer, study and poverty. All things were in common and weredistributed according to everyone’s needs. He had no idea ofbecoming a priest, but in 391 he was ordained as an assistant toValerius, Bishop of Hippo, and he had to move to that city. He established a sort of monastery in his house, living with SaintAlipius, Saint Evodius, Saint Possidius and others according to therule of the holy Apostles. Valerius who had ann impediment inspeaking appointed Saint Augustine to preach in his own presenceand he has not interrupted the course of his sermons until hisdeath (nearly 400 sermons). He vigorously opposed the Manicheansand the Donatists. In 395 he was consecrated bishop as coadjutor to Valerius, andsucceeded him in the see of Hippo on his death soon after. Heestablished regular and common life in his episcopal residence, andrequired all the priests, deacons, and subdeacons to renounceproperty following the regular mode of life recognized by the earlyChurch as instituted by the Apostles. He founded a community of religious women and on the death of hissister, the first “abbess”, he addressed a letter on the generalascetic principles of the religious life; this letter is known asthe “Rule of Saint Augustine”. He employed the revenues of his church in relieving the poor and inredeeming the captives. Like another Moses or Saint Paul, he saidto his people: “I do not want to be saved without you. What shallI desire? What shall I say? Why am I a bishop? Why am I in theworld? Only to live in Jesus Christ: but to live in Him with you. This is my passion, my honor, my glory, my joy and my riches.”There is a god example of Saint Augustine’s modesty and humility inhis discussion with Saint Jerome over the interpretation of a textof Galatians. Owing to the miscarriage of a letter Saint Jerome,not an easily patient man, deemed himself publicly attacked. SaintAugustine wrote to him: “I entreat you again and again to correctme confidently when you perceive me to stand in need of it; forthough the office of a bishop be greater than that of a priest, yetin many things Augustine is inferior to Jerome.”Through his 35 years as a bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine had todefend the faith against one heresy or another. He opposed theDonatists, the Pelagians, and the Alarians. In order to finish hisvaluable writings, and to provide against a troublesome electionafter his death, he proposed to his clergy and people to choose forhis coadjutor Heraclius, the youngest among his deacons, and hiselection was confirmed by acclamation in 426. Saint Augustine calmly resigned his spirit into the hands of God onAugust 28, 430, after having lived 76 years and spent almost 40 ofthem in the labors of the ministry. Among his greatest work is the15 volume “On the City of God” which took him 30 years to write,and his “Confessions”. May the prayers and supplications of the great Saint Augustine bewith us. Amen.