St. Augustine Summary

imagesBackground of St. Augustine:

Born in 354 in Thagaste, Numidia (modern day Souk Ahras, Algeria) into an upper-class family. His father—Patricius—was a pagan, though he converted to Christianity on his deathbed. His mother – St. Monica. Augustine became bishop of Hippo Regius (present day Annaba, Alergia) located in the Roman province of Africa. Augustine died August 28 430. 

Manichaeism:

In Augustine’s early years, he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism, founded by the Iranian prophet Mani. Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Dualism is a theological system that explains the universe as the outcome of two eternally opposed and coexisting principles, conceived as good and evil, light and darkness, or some other form of conflicting powers.

Mani was a true Gnostic. (“gnosis” = knowledge, “gnostikos” = good at knowing). A gnostic is someone who believes they can attain salvation through knowledge. 

Pre-Conversion:

Growing up, he became conscious of sin when he participated in a pointless act of stealing pears from a nearby garden: “Behold, now let my heart tell you what it looked for there, that I should be evil without purpose and that there should be no cause for my evil but evil itself. Foul was the evil, and I loved it [Confessions 2:4:9].”

Also, Augustine became famous for his reflection: “O God, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” At the age of 19, Augustine began a long-term affair with a woman. Although never married, she did give Augustine a son, who was named Adeodatus (Latin, “Gift of God”). 

Conversion:

Augustine is known for one of the most dramatic conversions in Christian history.  He took a position teaching rhetoric in Milan, Italy and, with the encouragement of his mother, began to have more contact with Christians and Christian literature. augustine-baptism

One day, in the summer of 386, he heard a childlike voice chanting “Tolle, lege” (Latin, “Take, read”). He took this as a divine command and opened the Bible, randomly, to Romans 13:13-14, which reads:

Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

The Word of God struck Augustine and started his conversion. At the next Easter Vigil, he was baptized, along with Adeodatus, by St. Ambrose of Milan. 

Post-Conversion:

In 388, Augustine returned home to North Africa. St. Monica passed away during the return home and Adeodatus soon passed away upon returning home. Augustine sold almost all of his possessions and converted his family home into a monastery. In 391, he became a priest and in 395 the Bishop of Hippo. 250px-Saint_Augustine_Portrait

Some Books:

The Confessions

His most famous work, a spiritual biography. Written during his first three years as Bishop of Hippo. Augustine, writing about his whole life up to his current position as Bishop, Augustine tells the tale of his own life to the audience of God alone, a true story of the struggle between good and evil, leading to his body and soul finding true happiness in God alone. 

“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.” 

The City of God

In AD 410, the Vandals captured the city of Rome. Rome was known as the Eternal City because the Romans thought it would never fall. The pagan Romans blamed Christians and their Christian God for not defending Rome. As a result, Augustine wrote the City of God. Considered to be a theology of history. “The City of God is a completion of the project he began in the Confessions, where he traced the progress of the self toward completion in God.” 

“God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.”

“The Heavenly City outshines Rome beyond comparison. There, instead of victory, is truth; instead of high rank, holiness; instead of peace, felicity; instead of life, eternity,”

On Christian Doctrine

“Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought.”

“The wisdom of what a person says is in direct proportion to his progress in learning the holy scriptures–and I am not speaking of intensive reading or memorization, but real understanding and careful investigation of their meaning. Some people read them but neglect them; by their reading they profit in knowledge, by their neglect they forfeit understanding.”

Some Prayers:

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

Prayer for self knowledge

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself.
Let me fear You, and let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You, and for ever enjoy You. Amen.

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