A Wayward Son Returns Home
He was deluded by paganism and lived a sinful lifestyle. Yet he became one of the greatest thinkers in Western history, and more importantly, a saint. St. Augustine (354-430) was a brilliant scholar and teacher even as a young man, but he was led astray by the false charms of a wayward life. He lived with a mistress and fathered a child out of wedlock, and deeply resented the prayers his mother, St. Monica, offered on his behalf.
Knowing that his mother wanted to accompany him when he moved to Rome, Augustine slipped away (telling her he was going down to the docks to send off a friend, when in fact he, himself, was departing). Heartbroken, Monica followed him to Rome and then to Milan, where she was encouraged to persevere in her prayers by the great bishop, St. Ambrose.
Ambrose’s own spiritual and intellectual integrity prompted Augustine to re-examine his own beliefs, and during the spiritual crisis which resulted, Augustine heard a voice telling him to “take and read” the Bible. When he did so, he opened by chance to St. Paul’s statement that “the night is far spent, and the day draws near … therefore, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13:12-14).
Upon reading this passage, Augustine finally experienced a sense of true peace and enlightenment, leading to a profound conversion. He was baptized a Christian on Easter, 387, and he and St. Monica rejoiced together in the short time remaining before her death.
Augustine returned to North Africa and was ordained a priest; in 396 was chosen as Bishop of the city of Hippo. He was a very successful pastor and an even greater theologian, playing a major role in overcoming the heresies of Donatism (an excessively harsh understanding of Christianity) and Pelagianism (the false belief that humans can save themselves without the help of God’s grace). He helped develop the Church’s teachings on grace, original sin, and the Holy Trinity. He is a Doctor of the Church. His autobiography, the Confessions is beloved by many, and his life is an inspiration to all who seek the merciful forgiveness of God.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Hermes (132), Martyr
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