St. Augustine Essay, Research Paper
Religion Code 8
12 December 2000
St. Augustine and Brigid of Kildare
St. Augustine and Bridgid of Kildare were two very influential people in the church during the fourth and fifth centuries. St. Augustine and Bridgid of Kildare were most famous for the monasteries that they founded. Both St. Augustine and Bridgid were devout Christians who contributed greatly to the growth of Christianity. Both of these people encouraged the spread of Christianity, the belief in a life of solitude, and inspired many to follow in their footsteps.
I admire both St. Augustine and Bridgid of Kildare greatly. They began a new way of religious life by providing a peaceful place where anyone could come to rest and reflect no matter what their station in life. In our busy society we rarely have time to sit down, clear our minds, and meditate on what is important to us. Somehow our modern society is unable to combine work, pleasure, and prayer. St. Augustine and Bridgid of Kildare founded several monasteries where the above three things were woven into each day. There were times for tending the fields, giving thanks to God, and relaxing. However, personal reflection has fallen by the wayside in today’s cultured. Many people have forgotten about the fulfillment that solitude and prayer can bring to one’s life. This is even true in my own life. I am so consumed with social activities, schoolwork, extra curricular activities, etc that I forget to stop and take the time to be present with God and my thoughts. I think that I would be a better person and Christian if I just took ten minutes out of my day to pray, meditate, or write in my journal. Spirituality is something that I have lost, but through the examples set by St. Augustine and Bridgid of Kildare I am going to make a conscious effort to be more prayerful and active in my religion.
Augustine was born in North Africa. Augustine’s father was a local Roman official and pagan, until he converted shortly before dying. Monica, Augustine’s mother, was a devout Christian and tried to raise her son as one also. Augustine was a natural born leader in school, but at the age of sixteen he was forced to leave because his father could no longer pay the tuition fees. Augustine turned to alcohol, gambling, and prostitutes. A year later Augustine was able to return to school and studied law. When his studies were completed at the age of eighteen he became a teacher.
Augustine, despite his mother’s wishes for him to be a Christian, became a Manichaean. Manichaeans believed that one god created good and another created evil, and that therefore no one was responsible for his or her sins. Monica fervently prayed for her son’s conversion, but he was stubborn and refused to do so. A year later, while teaching in Milan, Augustine met Plato and Bishop Ambrose.
Soon Manichaeism became increasingly dissatisfying for Augustine. He became fascinated with the teachings of Plato and was soon convinced that there was a single god. Augustine even began attending mass to hear Ambrose preach. It seemed as if Augustine was working to reform his life, but soon his “lust” took over and he reverted back to his previous ways. Augustine continued to teach, but his heart and soul felt empty.
One day while sitting outside he heard a group of children chanting. Suddenly inspired by their words, he picked up a bible and began to read. Augustine was so struck by what he read that he was later baptized by Ambrose at the age of thirty-three.
Augustine set up a small monastery in his hometown after his mother died. Shortly after, he became a priest, and four years later was elected bishop of Hippo. Augustine’s most famous contribution to the church is “The City of God”, which was written over a twelve-year period. In this piece of literature, Augustine addressed all those who blamed Rome’s downfall on the Christians. “The City of God” helped Christians to see that they were building something good, and that they had a purpose even though they lived amidst a crumbling empire.
Bridgid of Kildare was the daughter of chieftain, Dubthach, and his concubine Brocessa. Bridgid was a Christian just as her mother was. She was born around the year 450 in Faughart, Ireland. Bridgid lived with her mother in the home of a pagan priest. Around the age of ten, Bridgid returned to her father’s home. She was always found to be giving away the food and clothing of the household to the poor, which greatly upset others in her father’s house. Bridgid, even at an early age, had devoted herself entirely to God. When she was of marrying age she begged her father to let her remain a virgin. Bridgid was strong willed and her father finally backed down, letting her remain unmarried.
Even though no convents existed for women, Bridgid consecrated her life to God. Bridgid was also able to convince her Brocessa’s master to free her mother. Bridgid then found seven women who shared her same thoughts and approached a bishop by the name of Maccaile. He agreed to accept their vows as nuns. Around the year 469 Bridgid and her seven companions made their professions in Westmeath. Bishop Maccaile authorized Bridgid to head Ireland’s first convent, and as a present he gave her a place called Croghan Hill.
It was at Croghan Hill that Bridgid established her first convent. She and the other women farmed and kept busy with spinning yarn and embroidering. The convent also became an asylum to anyone who needed refuge. Bridgid soon found that she had to add more rooms to the convent to accommodate the growing interest in the monastic lifestyle. Bridgid also began to establish similar convents throughout Ireland.
Bridgid’s primary foundation at Kildare specialized in the production of manuscripts. To preserve learning pages of academic and religious texts were copied by hand. A school was also established at Kildare. Students from all over Europe came to attend the school where they studied liberal arts and religious studies. In addition to educating the population, Bridgid also tended to the needy. All guests were treated alike no matter what class they belonged to. While some people came for hospitality and rest others came for advice. One young man by the name of Finian learned how to organize a monastery by talking with Bridgid.
Bridgid’s monastery was flourishing; however, she decided she needed help. Bridgid called upon her friend Conleth and persuaded him to become a bishop so that he could provide her with the services that only a bishop can give. Conleth and a group of monks soon moved to a site adjacent to Bridgid’s convent. This created a double monastery.
Bridgid’s many contributions to the Christian church include helping to establish educations for laity throughout monastery schools. These schools developed into universities during the Middle Ages. Bridgid also gave the women of her country the opportunity to use their intellect and talents in ways that were previously not available to them.
Both Bridgid and Augustine contributed many things to the early Christian church. Augustine’s contributions were mainly in the form of literature, such as his famed “The City of God.” Bridgid chose to influence Christianity through reaching out to her community and working for the betterment of society. She provided education, refuge, advice, and a peaceful environment. Augustine was a man who had learned many things during his life, but he found he was truly content when he was present with God. Augustine influenced the church through his literature and sermons to his community. No matter how different each person’s contributions to Christianity may be they are still what shaped our faith. The contributions of Bridgid of Kildare and St. Augustine opened new doors for the church, and there will be people in this world that will follow in the footsteps of these two people and continue to encourage growth in our faith.