Faithful Heroes: St. Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo is considered one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity.

One contemporary said of him, Augustine “established anew the ancient Faith.”

Augustine of Hippo by Justus van Gent, circa 1474

Augustine was born in 354AD in Roman Africa. His father Patricius, was converted to Christianity on his deathbed, and his mother Monica, was a devout Christian.

“He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions. He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry, but because “it was not permitted.” His very nature, he says, was flawed. ‘It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.” From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin, and in need of the grace of Christ.”

At the age of 19, he began an affair with Carthage, that would last for fifteen years. She would give him a son, Adeodatus. He ended he affair in 385 to marry an heiress, but by the time he was able to marry two years later, decided to become a celibate priest.

He was a teacher and eventually moved to Rome to teach.

In August 386, he converted to Christianity, at the age of 31.

Augustine of Hippo by Peter Paul Rubens

After the death of his mother in 387, Augustine and a friend, Adeodatus, returned home Africa from Italy. His friend died shortly thereafter and Augustine sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends.

In 391, he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius, Algeria. He became a famous preacher of the area. In 1395, he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo and became full Bishop a short time later.

He wrote his autobiographical Confessions in 397–398.

Augustine worked tirelessly in trying to convince the people of Hippo to convert to Christianity. Though he had left his monastery, he continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence.

Much of Augustine’s later life was recorded by his friend Possidius, bishop of Calama. However, more than five million words survived that he wrote.

Augustine died on August 28, 430. The area had been under siege and was later destroyed after his death. Augustine’s church and library were the only things not burned.

He was canonized by Pope Boniface III in 1298.

Both the Catholic Church and Protestant Christianity owe much of their theological teachings to Augustine.

For the transformation to his life of service, piousness and the theological teachings that endured he is a faithful hero.

 

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