The life story of Saint Augustine is easily traced thanks to his many writings, in particular the Confessions. Augustinus Aurelius was born on November 13th, 354 in Thagaste, in the province of Numidia, in Roman Africa. He was the son of Patrice, a pagan who would become a catechumen, and Monica, a fervent Christian. The future Saint Monica had a great influence on her son, whom she educated in the Christian faith. In 365, he went to study grammar in Madaure, and then continued his studies in rhetoric in Carthage in 370. There, he lived in a cohabitation and had a son, Adeodatus, to whom he was very attached. Reading Cicero awakened the young man's love for wisdom and made him want to understand the Bible, but this first approach to Sacred Scripture is fruitless and, disappointed, the young man adhered to Manichaeism.
He became a professor in Carthage and then went to teach in Rome and Milan, where he met a bishop, St. Ambrose, whose preaching he listened to. These would enable Augustine to reconcile philosophy and the Bible in Jesus Christ, a difficulty that had once seemed insurmountable and which had blocked his progress towards Christianity. He read books by the Platonists and the Epistles of Saint Paul and in 386, Augustine saw a blazing conversion in the garden of Milan. After his concubine away, Augustine moved with his mother and son to Milan to prepare for baptism, adn he took a retreat at Cassiciacum. It was during this period that Augustine wrote the Dialogues and the Soliloquies.
On the night of Easter 387, Augustine was baptized by Saint Ambrose in the Cathedral of Milan, at the same time as Alypius and Adeodatus, his son. The same year, he saw the ecstasy of Ostia, but shortly after, his mother suddenly fell ill and died, and Augustine had his heart torn. Following this, he had a second stay in Rome and then left for Africa with the idea of leading a monastic life in the service of God. Beginning in 388, Augustine lived in a community in Thagaste and, in 391, he was ordained a priest in Hippo where he founded the garden monastery. With several companions, he divided his time between prayer, study and preaching.
In 396, he was appointed titular bishop of Hippo, a position he held for 35 years, exerting great influence in the conduct of the Roman African Catholic Church. Augustine proved to be an exemplary bishop. He preached several times a week while assisting the poor and orphans, he took care of the formation of the clergy and the organization of the female and male monasteries. At the same time, the bishop wrote his two most famous works. In 397, he began writing the Confessions and, in 413, The City of God.
Augustine participated in the councils at Carthage, then in 411, at the Carthage Conference between the Catholic and Donatist bishops. He also engaged in the struggle against Pelagius which ended in 416 with the Council in Mileve against the Pelagians. Thus, the bishop of Hippo faced deep-rooted heresies that were sources of division and asserted himself as one of the most important representatives of Christianity of his time. In 426, after appointing a successor, Augustine wrote the Revisions. In 429, the Vandals arrived in Africa and Hippo was besieged. It was in these circumstances that Augustine fell ill. His friend Possidius recounts that he had the penitential psalms displayed on the wall of his room and spent the last days of his life reading them while crying in tears. He died on August 28th, 430.
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Saint Augustine was canonized in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII. Considered one of the greatest Fathers of the Latin Church, he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church the year of his canonization. Celebrated on August 28, he is the patron saint of theologians. This particularly intelligent man, with an unusual spirit, has given posterity a teaching of exceptional wealth that has nourished myriads of Christians over the ages. He is also known to those who have little knowledge of Christianity, as his political, cultural and philosophical influence was so important. We remember his philosophical thoughts on time and on death in particular. But it is his spiritual influence that is most remarkable.
The catechisms of Benedict XVI on Saint Augustine are essential to understand the spirituality of the holy bishop of Hippo. Here are several essential points developed by Saint Augustine, beautiful quotations help to enlighten us:
Saint Augustine perceived this closeness with great intensity, he says in the Confessions: “You have made us for you, Lord, and our heart is without rest until it abides in You. "Give me the strength to look for you, who have allowed me to find you, and who have made me hope to find you more. ”
Saint Augustine advocated a return to spiritual inwardness to meet God. He says in his Sermons: “Return to your heart and from there go to God. The path will be short if you first come back to your heart… You let yourself be troubled by what is happening outside of you, and you get lost. " Saint Augustine invites us to remain silent to listen to the light breeze and t introspect because God is within us: “Do not confine yourself to the surface; descend into yourself, penetrate into the interior of your heart. Search your soul carefully ”(Sermons). This attention to the mystery of God behind the "I" is an extraordinary and unprecedented thing.
This theme is very important for Saint Augustine who, having received the faith as a child through his mother, then neglected it and failed to understand it in a reasonable way. After his conversion, which gave him great spiritual enlightenment, he often expressed this essential alliance between faith and reason: these are "the two forces that lead us to knowledge".
When he returned to Africa in 388, Saint Augustine established a community in Thagaste. For this, he drew up a rule, known today as the Rule of Saint Augustine. This served as a base for the regular Canons of Saint Augustine. Existing since the Middle Ages, these clerics live in community in a monastery while exercising a priestly and pastoral ministry within the parishes.
Saint Augustine is the Father of the Church who has left the greatest number of works; there are more than 1,000 publications: philosophical, apologetic, doctrinal, moral, monastic, exegetical, antiheretical writings. To these are added letters and homilies. Among these writings there are several exceptional works of great theological and philosophical scope.
“Do not cry if you love me. If you knew the gift of God and what Heaven is. If you could hear from here the singing of the Angels and see me in their midst. If you could see before your eyes the horizons and the eternal fields, the new paths where I walk! If, for a moment, you could contemplate like me the Beauty before which all beauties pale. What, you saw me, you loved me in the land of shadows and you could neither see me nor love me in the land of unchanging realities! Believe me, when death comes to break your bonds as it has broken those who chained me, and when one day God knows and has fixed, your soul will come into that heaven where mine preceded it, that day you will see me again, you will regain my purified affection. God pleases only entering into a happier life, unfaithful to the memories and true joys of my other life, I have become less loving. So you will see me again, transfigured in ecstasy and happiness, no longer waiting for death, but advancing moment by moment with you in the new paths of Light and Life. Wipe your tears and stop crying if you love me. ”
Prayer to Saint Augustine:
Blessed Saint Augustine, the Lord has chosen you to be the shepherd of his Church and has filled you with his Spirit of Wisdom and intelligence.
You have also been chosen to be the father and protector of our home.
Throughout your life, you have sought God with all the ardor of your heart.
In faith, trust, love and perseverance, since you are our Father, we pray to you:
Through the graces we desire, get us to be strengthened in faith, hope and love on the way of life, to be like you thirsty for God the source of true wisdom and to find our rest only in Him alone, the author of eternal love.