Skip to comments.St. Augustine, August 28
Posted on 08/27/2004 8:49:39 PM PDT by Land of the Irish
St. Augustine, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church (354-430), wrote the City of God, where he describes the fight between the sons of light and the sons of darkness as the axis of History. His thinking established the foundation for Christendom and Christian Civilization.
Comments of Prof. Plinio:
Reading the works of St. Augustine is one of the greatest pleasures a man can have. The Confessions is a wonderful and highly edifying book from many points of view. In it, St. Augustine describes the moral abysses of pride and sensuality into which he had fallen and narrates how he turned away from his innumerable sins. Then he relates his first contacts with St. Ambrose and how the light of the Catholic Religion began to enter his soul through the presence of St. Ambrose.
He expresses his enthusiasm for the Bishop of Milan and his visits to him. St. Augustine could not speak often with St. Ambrose since the Bishop was usually busy writing and studying, but he would remain there just to watch St. Ambrose at his work. The latter knew that his presence was making a better apostolate with St. Augustine than his words would do.
You can imagine the scene. St. Ambrose, the great Doctor of the Church, writing in an infolio, his features those of a venerable old man, placid, enlightened by the grace of God, wise, recollected, sublime in his judgments. Once in a while, he would stop to make a short interior prayer, then he would return to his thinking until he reached the final conclusion. Observing him was St. Augustine, whose face still reflected the turbulence of the crisis through which he was passing. But the grace of God was entering the soul of St. Augustine and transforming his personality through his admiration for St. Ambrose.
St. Augustine talking with St. Ambrose, seated.
St. Augustine takes up Scriptures and reads
The Baptism of St. Augustine
The death of St. Monica at Ostia
Episodes from the Life of St. Augustine, Sandro Gozzoli
And so he goes on to narrate his interior crisis, the peace he experienced upon entering the church and hearing the sacred music, the psalms, the beauty of Gods worship. Then his strong movements of repentance and the voice he heard ordering him: Tolle et lege take it and read. He took up Sacred Scriptures and the page opened to a verse that applied perfectly to his past life ["Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticisms and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts" (Romans 13:13-14)]. He received a decisive grace that completed his conversion.
Further on he describes the famous colloquium at Ostia with St. Monica, his mother. She was a very holy person, while he had been a very bad son. When they were in Carthage preparing for a voyage to Rome, St. Monica went to a church and spent the night praying there. Augustine took advantage of the opportunity to flee from her and embarked for Rome by himself, leaving her alone.
Afterward she followed him, always weeping and praying for his conversion. Once she went to the Bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, to ask him if her son would ever convert. He replied to her with those famous words: Woman, the child of so many tears shall never perish." That is, she would see his rebirth through her intense and profound suffering.
You can imagine her joy when her son converted. St. Augustine and his mother spent some months together as he prepared for his Baptism. Then they planned to return to Africa. Before embarking on the voyage, they stayed at an inn in Ostia, a port city near Rome on the Mediterranean Sea. Standing at a window watching the sea, they began to converse about heavenly things.
One who reads this conversation between the saintly mother and the saintly son realizes they were experiencing a supernatural ecstasy. This gave him strength for the fights ahead he would have to face. For her it was a pre-taste of Heaven, because she would die there in Ostia, before the ship departed. He describes movingly how he assisted at her funeral. Then he went to Africa and became the Bishop of Hippo.
In Hippo, he wrote another of his great books The City of God. The theme of that extraordinary work is the perpetual and irreconcilable fight that takes place between the two cities in History the city he speaks of comes from the Latin, civitas, and should be understood more as a state. These two cities are the City of God and the City of the Devil. He conceives all History as a battle between the Catholic Church and the power of darkness. The struggle results from two different loves. In the City of God there is the love of God to the oblivion of oneself; in the city of man, or City of the Devil, there is the love of oneself to the oblivion of God.
To live for self is to consider oneself the minuscule center of the universe, with everything turned toward ones own pleasures and interests. This egotism is the starting point for every bad thing. On the contrary, to love God is to turn oneself entirely toward the transcendent realities we find in Revelation. It is to have a metaphysical spirit, a religious spirit turned toward the highest things. This is to live for God. With these two principles, he summarizes all of History.
An analogous philosophy of History is taught by St. Louis Grignion de Monfort. He argues that everything God does is good. Since the enmity between Our Lady and the serpent, and therefore between her spiritual descendents and those of the serpent, was decreed by God, this enmity is also good. It is the same thesis of St. Augustine, with more combativeness.
Because of this unequivocal presentation of good and evil, Progressivism attacks St. Augustine today by saying that he was Manichean. According to this stupid accusation everyone who admits that there is good and evil would be a Manichean. It is nonsensical because the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has always admitted the existence of good and evil, as have all of her Saints. If this were the only criterium, then they would all be Manichean. It is absurd!
In passing, let me say that Manichaeism was a Gnostic doctrine that appeared in the first centuries of the Church proposing that there would be two gods equal in origin and power, a good one and a bad one, in constant stuggle against each other. Catholic doctrine says something completely different. It says that there is only one God, Eternal and Omnipotent, and that the Devil, a mere creature, revolted against Him and fights Him throughout History.
The heresy of Manichaeism supposes a different order of being than Catholic doctrine. For the former, the fight is on the ontological level; for the latter it is in the moral sphere. Also according to Manichaeism the fight will never end; in Catholic doctrine the fight ends at the Last Judgment when God will eternally triumph over his infinitely inferior enemy. Progressivism is aware of these differences, but still continues to spread that anyone who doesnt support its ecumenism is a Manichaean. It is an absurd affirmation and a manifestation of bad faith.
St. Augustine writing in his cell, by Sandro Boticelli
There is a very beautiful point to consider about St. Augustine. He wrote his books as the Roman Empire of the West was falling, when everything pointed to the probability that the Catholic Religion would be swept from the earth after the barbarian invasions. In fact, Hippo and Carthage in North Africa were so devastated that almost nothing was left of these cities and the Catholic Religion did not re-establish itself in that area. Notwithstanding, St. Augustine serenely wrote his books for a future that was uncertain. He died as the Vandals were entering his city.
The world he knew fell; the Middle Ages came. Then the works of St. Augustine were the ones that inspired the medieval conception of State, Empire, and Christendom. Charlemagne used to listen to the reading of the City of God during his meals and the Empire he found was inspired directly by St. Augustine. The Middle Ages, in a certain way is a lily born from the works of St. Augustine. Centuries after his death, his confidence was rewarded.
There is a lesson for us in this. In our times when the new Vandals are destroying both the cultural values and actual material buildings of Christian Civilization, we should carry on our work with faith and confidence knowing that it will serve to build the Reign of Mary when God so decides.
Interesting to hear Catholics even consider themselves Christians.
It's the Church founded by Christ.
The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, "through the envy of the devil," separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God. (Leo XIII, Humanum Genus)
Leo XIII knew that his successors were going to kill many Catholics; nothing stopped it, and his succesor (Pius X) became the latest canonized saint (from the popes of his era, and ever since). God bless St. Pius X (and not anybody that attached themselves to him to make a point).
This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible ashamed of himself. "What are we doing?" he cried to his friend Alipius. "Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"
Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, "How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?" Just then he heard a child singing, "Take up and read!" Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.
He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable, too. On the wall of his room he had the following sentence written in large letters: "Here we do not speak evil of anyone." St. Augustine overcame strong heresies, practiced great poverty and supported the poor, preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. "Too late have I loved Thee!" he once cried to God, but with his holy life he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion.
Saint Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church, was born at Tagaste in northern Africa. His early life was spent in wicked ways. But thanks to the prayers of his holy mother, Saint Monica, at the age of thirty-three Saint Augustine was baptized a Catholic, in Milan, by Saint Ambrose. He returned to Africa and was made Bishop of Hippo. He died at the age of seventy-six. His two great works, the Confessions and The City of God, are among the most notable writings of all Catholic teachers. The body of Saint Augustine now rests at Pavia, in Italy. Any one of the sayings of Saint Augustine lets us know the golden quality of his brilliant mind. He says that the heavenly ladder by which God came into the world was the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Saint Augustine composed, along with Saint Ambrose, the beautiful hymn known as the Te Deum, which has twenty-nine verses, and which is often sung in Catholic choirs.
August 28, 2007
A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience.
There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustines love of life to a life of love.
Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadentpolitically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism.
In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it (Jeremiah 20:9).
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