St Augustine of Hippo

I Thessalonians 1.1-5,8-10; Ps 149; Matthew 23.13-22

Augustine (354-430) was born in Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in the Roman province of Numidia. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian; his father, Patricius, was a pagan and a Roman citizen who converted to Christianity on his deathbed. The family were heavily Romanised Berbers; they spoke only Latin at home. At the age of 17 Augustine went to Carthage to study rhetoric. Despite his mother’s example he lived a hedonistic life and fathered a child. But his studies also kindled in him a love of philosophy, and he joined the Manichaean sect. Convinced that the best and brightest rhetoricians were in Rome, he moved there and established a school. Manichaean friends introduced him to Symmachus, the prefect of Rome, who had been asked to find a rhetoric professor for the imperial court at Milan. He recommended Augustine, and at the age of 30 Augustine had won the most distinguished academic position in the western world.

At Milan Augustine came under the influence of Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan but also a distinguished rhetorician. Augustine was converted to Christianity and Ambrose baptised him at the Easter Vigil of 387. Later that year he returned to Africa and turned his family home into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regis (now Annaba, Algeria). In 395 he became Bishop of Hippo Regis and worked tirelessly to convert the people of Hippo to Christianity. He wrote and preached energetically in defence of the faith, making him one of the most influential Doctors (teachers) of the whole history of the Church. In the spring of 430 Vandals besieged Hippo. Augustine died on 28 August 430, and he was canonised by popular acclaim.

Posted in Daily Reflection.