Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Who is St. Augustine?

"Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires"(Romans 13: 13-14).

"Thou has made us for thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in thee" wrote St Augustine (Confessions, 1,1). As a young man, Augustine's heart was restless and on many occasion rested on illicit sex. Augustine came slowly to realize that sex and other forbidden pleasures could not fill the void in his heart. After a long resistance to the nudgings of grace, he succumbed to the charm of Christ. He described his conversion experience in his own words: "I felt myself still enslaved by my iniquities, and therefore did I groan to myself, 'How long? How long must I continue saying Tomorrow, tomorrow? Why not now? Why not, at one instant, make an end of all uncleanness?' [...]And behold I heard a voice, like that of a child in the house next door, repeating in a sing-song tone, 'Take up and read. Take up and read.' [...]I rose up [...]and returned to where I have left the book of the Apostle; I took it quickly into my hand, opened it and read in silence the first passage on which my eye happened to fall." Augustine wrote down the verses: "Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires"(Romans 13: 13-14). Augustine continues: "I read no further, nor was there any need to; for with the end of this sentence, as by a clear and constant light infused into my heart, the darkness of all former doubts was immediately driven away" (Confessions, VII, 12, 28-28).

Christ said: "I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners"(Matthew 9:13) Once he answered the call of Jesus, Augustine gave it his whole heart. He turned his prodigious intellectual capacity to Christian heology. Augustine became the Qoheleth of the early Church: "Besides being a sage, Qoheleth taught the people what he himself knew, having weighed, studied and emended many proverbs. Qoheleth took pains to write in an attractive style and by it to convey truths..(Ecclesiastes 12: 9-10)NJB He wrote many books, Confessions and City of God being the most popular. His influence on Church doctrine has not diminished with time. He is vastly quoted in the Documents of Second Vatican Council.

St Augustine of Hippo was born in North Africa in 354. He died in 430 as bishop of Hippo. God sustained him in the priesthood till the end in keeping with His promise: "The Lord has sworn an oath and he will not retract; you are a priest forever, in the line of Melchisedech" (Psalm 110:4)

St Augustine is the patron of printers and theologians. His feast day is the 28 of August.
Quotes from St Augustine
"God who created you without your cooperation will not save you without your cooperation" (Sermon 169, 11).
"Our entire life on earth should take the form of praise of God, for the never-ending joy of our future life consists in praising God, and no one can become fit for that future life unless he trains himself to render that praise now" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 148).

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