Skip to content

St. Augustine of Hippo


By Barbara Kralis

©Barbara Kralis 2004
Catholic Online

Augustine's account of his early life of wrongdoing would not shock very many in America today.  His sins in the fourth century are the same grave transgressions suffered by far too many of us in the 21st century.  Sic faciunt omnes - concupiscence of the flesh, renunciation of the Catholic Faith and the embracing of modernism (heresy).  [1]

What would shock many in America today would be the transformation he made from sinfulness to Sainthood, and not without a tributary of tearful petitions from his holy mother, Monica, to God, the Father of Mercy.

As a beloved Son who imitated his father's habits of idolatry, Augustine took up residence in the sin of fornication.  He and his mistress begot a son out of wedlock.  Promoting the widespread heresy of Manichćanism,[2] Augustine renounced his Catholic faith.

Sadly, this may sound too prosaic in today's culture of Neo-Manichćanism.

Augustine had been one of the early Church's worst enemies.  His mother, Monica, prayed night and day for his eternal soul.  Miraculously, after reading St. Paul, he had an instantaneous conversion.

He became an intrepid defender of the Faith he once scoffed and rejected.[3]  Now known as St. Augustine, he is one of the great doctors of the Church.

Ordained in the priesthood in the year 390, he moved to Hippo where he established a community of followers.  Five years later Father Augustine was consecrated Bishop of Hippo.

This multi-faceted religious genius and servant of God affected the monastic life of the West second only to that of St. Benedict.[4]

St. Augustine has much to say to modern society.  Numerous books are available that contain his works for the people of God.  Among his literature are his Maxims, Homilies, Treatises, Sermons, Commentaries on the Psalms, Meditations, Soliloquies, Catechetical Instructions, The City of God Against The Pagans [5], his Diverse Questions, his Letters, his Confessions, and his prayers are filled with beauty and wisdom for our era.

Augustine's treatise 'De bono coniugali' ("On the Good of Marriage") is most necessary today as a consequence of degradation of sacramental laws of marriage worldwide.

Perhaps St. Augustine is known best for his penetrating psychological work comprised of thirteen books entitled the 'Confessions.'[6]

We cannot talk about Augustine without also talking about his mother, St. Monica.  Had she not patiently performed daily penances for sixteen years for her oldest son's conversion, we would not have St. Augustine today.

Had she not shed her numerous well-known tears, her own pagan husband would not have converted to Christianity just a year before he died.  She watched her grandson, Adeodatus, receive his baptism with his father Augustine.  Monica was responsible for the conversion of Augustine's mistress who later entered a convent for the rest of her life.

St. Monica died shortly after the age of 56; Augustine was 33.  He suffered the dark night of the soul at such a great loss.  Monica went to her eternal reward secure in the knowledge that Augustine 's conversion was complete and her earthly work was finished.

Known as the Saint of Persistence, the Saint of Hope, St. Monica is the patroness of troubled parents.  Her dies natalis[7] is celebrated in the Church on August 27.

Shortly after their Baptism together, Augustine's son, Adeodatus, died at age 16 in the state of grace.  St. Augustine is the 'patron of theologians.'  His Feast is celebrated one day after his mother's, on August 28.

Here, below, is a popular Bishop Sheen vignette.


"Too late, O Ancient beauty, have I loved Thee."[8]

By Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

J.M.J.

If there was ever a man who could be said to have adored sex, it was Augustine.  He said that he never could distinguish between 'serene affection and black lasciviousness."  His youth he described as "the hellish voluptuousness of adolescence."

An unfaithful father did not give him a good example, although a saintly mother, Monica, did.

In the face of the conflict between flesh and spirit, Augustine surrendered completely to the flesh.  In the year 371, he took unto himself as a common-law wife.  She remains an unnamed woman who bore him a son, called Adeodatus, which means "given by God."

Augustine was a famous student in the great University of Carthage, where he combined abandonment to vice with such intellectual brilliance that he was the leader of his class.

Most people justify the way they live; that is to say, instead of fitting their lives to a philosophy, they invent a philosophy to fit their lives.  Augustine was not faithful to the woman with whom he was living, and inasmuch as he had to justify his vice, he accepted the philosophy of the Manicheans, which propounded a dual principle of good and evil.

The conflict between flesh and spirit in him was resolved by the heresy of Manichćanism because it enabled him to pursue a voluptuous life without ever being held accountable for it.  He could say that the evil principle within him was so strong, so deep, and intense that the good principle could not operate.

All the while his mother, Monica, wept night and day for the mental and moral errors of her son.  She went to Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, who told her:  "It is not possible that a son of so many tears should perish."

Monica prayed that her son would never go to Italy because she feared that there would be more evil companionship there than in Northern Africa.  Her prayers seemed to go unanswered, but at the same time, they were answered in a mysterious way.

In the year 384, Augustine told his mother to go to visit the Church of St. Cyprian the Martyr while he went to visit friends.  He slipped away from Africa that night and went to Rome, against his mother's wishes.  His reputation as an orator and rhetorician preceded him and he was recognized as one of the most learned men of his time.

When Augustine went to Milan, to plead for the restoration of paganism to the City, he heard of the scholarship and the oratorical powers of Ambrose, the Bishop.  Many days he would sit under the pulpit in veneration of Ambrose.  Later, he spent many hours in his company, discussing philosophy and he took manuscripts from Ambrose's library to read.

All the while, the chains of habit were strong in Augustine and his carnal nature was resisting his spiritual birth.  In August, 386, he met Pontitianus who told Augustine the story of St. Anthony of the Desert.  St. Anthony spent more than seventy years in the desert.

After hearing the story, Augustine said:  "Manes is an impostor.  The Almighty calls me.  Christ is the only way and Paul is my guide."

If Anthony has conquered the libido and sex, why could not he, Augustine asked himself.

Augustine eager to be alone went into the garden.  There he underwent a conflict between the old ego and the new one that was being born.  Casting himself at the foot of a spreading fig tree, he cried hot and bitter tears, which overflowed and bathed his spirit.  He cried aloud:

"When shall I achieve salvation, when shall I cast off my fetters?  Tomorrow perhaps, or the day after?  Why not this very hour?"

Suddenly he became aware of the voice of a child, a boy or girl, he knew not, speaking in a neighboring house.  "Take up and read," said the sweet voice.

He hurried back into the room.  He found a copy of the epistles of St. Paul, which Pontitianus had been fingering.  Seizing it, and opening it at random, his eyes fell upon the words of St. Paul to the Romans 13:13:

"Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh."

In that one moment, the carnal passions, which had for sixteen years appeared invincible, were annihilated.

Augustine cries out in deep regret:

"Too late, O Ancient Beauty, have I loved Thee."

On Holy Thursday, which fell on April 22, 387 AD, he recited the Credo aloud in the presence of an assembled congregation.  He fasted until Holy Saturday and in the evening he went to the Basilica, where Bishop Ambrose pronounced the last exorcisms over him, made the sign of the Cross upon his forehead and breast, and poured the baptismal waters.

Then, in accordance with the custom used only in the church in Milan, Ambrose got on his knees and washed the feet of Augustine.  The two saints were united for perhaps the last time on earth.  The elder humbled himself before the younger, the more famous before the more obscure.

Adeodatus, the carnal son of his sinning, received Baptism at the same time.  The nameless woman whom Augustine lived with, and mother of Adeodatus, returned to Carthage and spent her remaining days in penance.

One of the effects of Augustine's conversion was a return to joviality, and a deep sense of inner peace.  There was also a great increase of literary productiveness.  Between the years 380 and 386, before his conversion, he had not written a single page.  Now, in a short space of time, he composed four brief books in succession.

In 397, or twelve years after his conversion, Augustine wrote his Confessions, the greatest spiritual autobiography ever written.  It is the work of a teacher who explains, a philosopher who thinks, and a theologian who instructs.  It is the work of a poet who achieves chaste beauty in the writing, and a mystic who pours out thanks for having found himself in peace.

"Too late have I loved You, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved You.  You have called to me, and have cried out, and have shattered my deafness.  You have blazed forth with light and have put my blindness to flight!  You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after You.  I have taste You, and I hunger and thirst after You.  You have touched me, and I have burned for Your peace" (Confessions 10,27).

None of the Freuds or Jungs or Adlers of our 20th century has ever pierced the conscious and the unconscious mind with a rapier as keen as Augustine's.  No man can say he has ever understood himself if he has not read the 'Confessions' of Augustine. [9]

©Barbara Kralis 2004, all rights reserved.
http://www.catholic.org/


Endnotes:

[1]  The heresy of Manichćanism is once again actively practiced today in several circles, known as 'Neo-Manichćanism.'  In order to be happy, Neo-Manichćanism must avoid the errors and restrictions of the world's ruling religions.  Sound familiar?

[2]  Manichćanism, - a religion founded by Manes in the third century; a synthesis of Zoroastrian dualism between light and dark and Babylonian folklore and Buddhist ethics and superficial elements of Christianity; it spread widely in the Roman Empire but had largely died out by 1000.  It was a Christian heresy and falsely taught there is an endless battle between the moral and evil principles, neither of which ever annihilates the other.  Manes considered himself the last prophets of Zarathustra, Buddha, Jesus, and himself.  He believed he was the only one to truly understand revealed truths.  www.newadvent.org/cathen/09591a.htm

[3] Chief among the few definite precepts of this rule are prayers in common, unity and charity, and individual poverty - all personal property must be renounced before profession.

[4]  St. Augustine later influenced not only St. Benedict's rule, but also the foundations of the constitutions of the canons regular of St. Augustine (known as the Augustinians).  Other orders he influenced are the Dominicans, the Trinitarians, the Mercedarians, the Knights Hospitallers, Canonesses Regular of St. Augustine, the Augustinian friars (to whom Martin Luther had belonged), Augustinian discalced hermits, Augustinians of the Assumption (better known as the Assumptionists), for a total of fourteen distinct Augustinian religious institutes orders

[5]  This set of twenty-two books was written by Augustine in 413-426 AD.  He describes two cities: the earthly city and the city of God.

[6]  Book written by and about St. Augustine can be bought at these websites: Catholic Online Books - Augustine or http://www.aquinasandmore.com/index.cfm/index.htm

[7] 'Dies natalis' is Latin for 'day of death' or 'birthday' into eternal life.  After Vatican II, the Roman calendar was changed.  The Tridentine Mass celebrates the Roman Liturgical Calendar unlike the Novus Ordo Liturgical Calendar.

[8]  Changing the direction of his life after the impact of the miraculous conversion, Augustine cried out: "Too late, O Ancient Beauty, have I loved Thee."

[9]  Excerpt from chapter 12, "The Three Great Confessions of History," by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, book 'A Fulton Sheen Reader,' published in 1979 by Carillon Book, a division of Catholic Digest, 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN.  55105, Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 78-575-96.


Barbara Kralis, the article's author, writes for various Christian and conservative publications. She is a regular columnist at Catholic Online , RenewAmerica.us , Life Issues , The Wanderer newspaper , New Oxford Review Magazine, Washington Dispatch , Catholic Citizens , Illinois Leader , NewsBull , MichNews , Intellectual Conservative, Phil Brennan's WOW , ChronWatch and others. Her first journalism position was with Boston Herald Traveler, l964. Barbara published and edited 'Semper Fidelis' Catholic print newsletter. She and her husband, Mitch, live in the great State of Texas, and co-direct the Jesus Through Mary Catholic Foundation. She can be reached at: Avemaria@earthlink.net

Contact

Jesus Through Mary Foundation
http://www.catholic.org TX, US
Barbara Kralis - Director, 903 532-5555

Email

Avemaria@earthlink.net

Keywords

St. Augustine, Saints, conversion

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.