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Augustine, Bishop and Doctor, 354-430
Augustine was the eldest son of St. Monica and Patricius, a pagan Roman official. As a young man, he studied at the university at Carthage with the intent of becoming a lawyer, but gave up law to devote himself to literary pursuits. Along the way, he abandoned his Christian faith.
For about fifteen years, Augustine adopted the Manichean heresy. The Manichaens believed that evil was caused by an outside force, thus, people were relieved of guilt for their sins. Augustine lived with a mistress who bore him a son. He studied and taught rhetoric at Tagaste, Carthage, Rome, and Milan.
In Milan, Augustine was impressed by the sermons of St. Ambrose, the bishop of the city. His influence, as well as the prayers of his mother, brought him back to Christianity and he was baptized by Ambrose at the Easter Vigil in 387.
Later that year, Augustine set out to return to Tagaste accompanied by his mother and son. He planned to teach and to live a life of prayer and meditation in community. On the way, his mother died; two years later, his son died. Soon after, Augustine was ordained a priest at Hippo and, three years later, became the Bishop of Hippo. Though he preferred the monastic life, Augustine became the dominant figure in African church affairs, writing profusely, preaching, and defending the faith.
To this day, many of his two hundred treatises, some three hundred letters, and nearly four hundred sermons are of major importance in the study of theology and philosophy. His towering intellect has molded the thought of Western Christianity to such an extent that his ideas dominated the thinking of the western world for a thousand years after his death. He and Thomas Aquinas are considered to be the greatest intellects the Catholic Church has ever produced.
St. Augustine is the patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians. His memorial is celebrated on the day following the memorial to his mother, August 28.
Augustine's message today: It took over thirty years for Augustine to recognize what God was calling him to do. When he accepted that call, he became one of the Church’s greatest theologians. We all know people whose talents could be of great service to God if they were to acknowledge and embrace their calling. Are you one of these people?