In his famous autobiography Confessions, Augustine tells of his struggle to find God. He was born in what is now Algiers in North Africa. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian. His father, Patricius, was an ill-tempered pagan. Augustine excelled in school when he wanted to, but he also went with a bad crowd and got into many worthless activities. When he was older, he began living with a woman whom he never married, but who bore him a son. For a while, he also followed a heresy called Manichaeism.
After he finished school, Augustine was first a speech teacher in Rome and then a professor in Milan. His mother followed him to these places, pleading with him to return to the Christian faith. In Milan, Augustine often listened to the sermons of St. Ambrose, the local bishop. Through them, he first learned to read Scripture prayerfully. He enrolled as a catechumen but wavered back and forth about being baptized.
Then one day while Augustine prayed to be free from his sins, he heard a child’s voice chanting, “Take up and read.” Augustine opened the Bible and read the first thing his eyes fell upon, Romans 13:13-14, which told him to give up his life of sin. Augustine was baptized at Easter and began reforming his life. With his mother he planned to return to Africa, but Monica died.
Augustine reached home and gave away all he had. Then he lived a quiet, prayerful life with a group of friends. This changed when Augustine visited the city of Hippo in 391. Valerius, the local bishop, was preaching on the shortage of priests. The crowd began shouting, “Let Augustine be our priest.” Augustine became a priest and then took Valerius’ place when he died.
As bishop, Augustine worked tirelessly for his people. He fought false religious teachings, protected the people from corrupt officials and invaders, and cared for the sick, the poor, and those in prison. His many sermons, letters, and books reflect the ever-deepening love he felt for God. He wisely observed: “You have made us, O God, for yourself, and our hearts shall find no rest until they rest in you.”
He wrote and advised bishops, popes, and councils. His influence on the Church and his fight against heresy were exceptional. He was loved by many, for he had struggled much and could help others who were struggling.
In 430 Vandals invaded the province. For three months Augustine inspired Christian hope in his people. Then he died of a high fever.
from Saints Kit
Image credit: Saint Augustine Taken to School by Saint Monica by Nicolo di Pietro, 1415. Public Domain via Wikimedia.