Thursday, August 28, 2014

St Augustine and St Monica

The feast of St Augustine is placed just one day after that of his mother St Monica. Spending her entire life praying for his conversion, she certainly deserved to become a Saint herself. Augustine was born in the city of Tagaste, Algeria, in 354 AD to a Christian mother. He was educated in North Africa and resisted his mother's pleas to become Christian. Living as a pagan intellectual, he took a concubine and became a Manichean, even fathering a child out of wedlock. Later he converted to Christianity, being baptized by St Ambrose, and became a bishop of Hippo, a Latin Father and Doctor of the Church, and is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. Some of his writings are strictly autobiographical, even though very theological in thought. The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography are still read around the world.
As a young man before his conversion, he taught in North Africa, Carthage and Rome. It was only when he arrived in Milan that his life started to change. In the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine 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. Key to this conversion was the voice of an unseen child he heard while in his garden in Milan telling him in a sing-song voice to tolle lege ("take up and read"). He grabbed the nearest text to him, which was Paul's Epistle to the Romans and opened it at random to 13:13-14, which read: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." 

Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son, Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan, and soon thereafter in 388 he returned to Africa. St Monica died as she was leaving the port of Ostia on her way back to Africa, just after her son had converted.
In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest and became a famous preacher, while 5 years later he was made bishop of Hippo. Augustine died on August 28, 430. Among his famous quotes are these:  
“You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless till they rest in You.”
“To sing once is to pray twice.”
“Love, and do what you will.”
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”