Thursday, 28 August 2008

Memorial of Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

Many Christians would know this saint, Catholic he may be. In Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation teaching on salvation and grace. In the Eastern Orthodox Church he is a saint (called Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed).

So who is this saint? Let's turn to Wikipedia:
- descended from the Berbers, a major ethnic group native to North Africa
- born in 354 A.D. in Tagaste (present-day Algeria)
- although raised as a Catholic, he left the Church to follow the controversial Manichaean religion (which believes that there is no omnipotent good power, but two equal and opposite powers, being Good and Evil, and that the human person is a battleground for these powers)
- as a youth he lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time and developed a relationship with a young woman named Floria Aemilia who would be his concubine for over fifteen years
- in 375 moved to Carthage to conduct a school of rhetoric, and though he remained there for the next nine years, he was disturbed by the unruly behavior of the students in Carthage, and thus in 383 he moved to establish a school in Rome, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practiced. However, he was again disappointed as he found the Roman schools apathetic.
- though he had won the most visible academic chair in the Latin world at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers, he felt the tensions of life at an imperial court, lamenting one day as he rode in his carriage to deliver a grand speech before the emperor that a drunken beggar he passed on the street had a less careworn existence than he did.
- in the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, he underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Catholic Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage, and devote himself entirely to serving God and the practices of priesthood, which included celibacy
- in 387 he was baptized along with his son Adeodatus on Easter Vigil in Milan
- in 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius, Algeria and became a famous preacher noted for combating the Manichaean religion
- in 396 he was made coadjutor bishop of Hippo (assistant with the right of succession on the death of the current bishop) and became full bishop shortly thereafter
- converted his family house into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends, but left his monastery after he was ordained, though continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a Rule for his monastery that has led him to be designated the "patron saint of Regular Clergy", i.e. Clergy who live by a monastic rule.
- died on August 28 430 during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals
- influential quotations:
  • "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet." (da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo)
  • "For many it is indeed easier to abstain so as not to use [married sexual relations] at all, than to control themselves so as to use them aright." (Multi quidem facilius se abstinent ut non utantur, quam temperent ut bene utantur)
  • "Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee."
  • "Love the sinner and hate the sin." (Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum)
  • "Love, and do what you will." (Dilige et quod vis fac)
  • "Take up [the book], and Read it" (Tolle, lege)
  • "There is no salvation outside the church" (Salus extra ecclesiam non est)


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