Saint Augustine and Saint Monica
Augustine, Saint, Sinner & Son
“Our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
When we speak of Saints, not meaning to be disrespectful, we sometimes say, they were sinners who became Saints. If there is one, the world knows most for that distinction, it would have to be Saint Augustine. But he is so much more.
We talk of touchability and we think of this Saint. If we’re not careful, we ignore his strength, and become comfortable in his weakness. We speak of conversion, and he comes right to the forefront of our minds. It’s so reassuring; St. Augustine had 30 years to reform his life. We like that idea; convert me, Lord, but can You wait ‘till tomorrow!
But as we travel deeper into his life, we discover not only the son Augustine, we encounter the Saint of Prayer, that relentless petitioner, his mother Monica. He led her to her sanctification, as she led him to his. This is a story of a priest and his mother. It’s a story of love, powerful, unconditional, untiring love. It’s not too popular a story, in our present age, because: number one, it’s true; number two, it’s about hope; number three it’s about faithfulness; number four, it’s about conversion; number five, it’s about love and a mother’s love, at that. This all adds up to that very unpopular message of the Gospel. But I think, it’s time for the Gospel. It’s time for Miracles. It’s time for sinners to turn into Saints. It’s time for you and me.
“Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” This, probably the most quoted statement of St. Augustine’s Confessions, speaks clearly of man’s struggle on earth and his search for God. We are told, by Jesus, the road is narrow; yet, not listening, we insist on taking that wide road which is so broad, we do not notice when we veer off.
God wastes nothing. As He is creating us, He is already formulating a plan, His Dream for us. Everything He places in us, every precious ingredient, including that most precious of all, free will, is a preparation for our complete life with Him in Heaven. Those of us who are parents remember our joy, as we planned, before our babies were born, the hopes and the dreams we had of what they would be like; what course they would take; what kind of life they would lead. We hold our breath until they are born, praying. When we see these little ones, for the first time, we just know they have to be the most perfect (outside of Jesus and Mary), ever born.
We hear the words, “He delighted in His creation. He was well pleased. It was good.” Do we ever think how He, our God, feels, when we throw the gift of ourselves, He so carefully fashioned, back to Him, discarding His creation for the plastic substitute the world offers? Thank God, He has generously given us a Heavenly Mother, and an earthly mother like St. Monica, who beg Him for mercy for us, for just a little more time.
When we wrote of Mother Mary and her many faces, we called it a love story, a story of a Mother of unconditional love, who, over the centuries, has been intermediary between us and Her Son, and Her Son and us. Parents, as you read this chapter, bring your children, as St. Monica did before you, to the foot of the Altar. Children, read this chapter as your very own. You may find yourself within the pages of this Saint, sinner, and son, Augustine.
Augustine and his childhood
On the 13th of November, 354A.D., a child was born to a pagan father, Patricius, and a Christian mother, Monica, in Tagaste, North Africa. He was not very strong; most books, including his Confessions describe him as puny. He needed the additional milk of the slave women, never having enough. He grew up in the women’s quarters, and at an early age, learned how to get what he wanted; and what he wanted was usually that which pleased his senses. As an infant, he soon discovered when to smile and when to cry. The infant grew into the boy and then the man later using anger to barrel his way through life and the stormy society into which he had been born.
Monica tried to rear her son, carefully. He was plainly the favorite, of her three children, even though he had inherited much of the self-will and violent temper of his father. From his earliest years, he had a haunting, gnawing, seeking of something or someone, that was to lead him into pain and questioning for most of his life. He wanted to understand everything, no matter what the cost.
His mother was born of generations of Christians. Although her husband was much older than Monica, she was stronger, especially in her Christian beliefs and practices. She looked upon their union as Holy and Sacramental, which very often became a thorn in her husband’s side. As she was extremely beautiful; her Holiness and her husband’s lustful desire of her were not compatible. How she tried to convert him, but to no avail! All her fasting, abstinence and religious observances did not help to draw him to the Church, either. Rather, it annoyed him; he wanted her all for himself! Out of love for her, he did, however, allow all their children’s names to be inscribed among the catechumens.
St. Augustine’s education started before he was born, St. Monica consecrating him to God and to His service. He wrote, “he tasted the salt of God within his mother’s womb.”
When Augustine was eight or nine years old, he became gravely ill, close to death. He asked to be baptized; but he soon recovered, and he set it aside. It was the accepted custom of the time, to wait until the threat of death before baptizing. They believed there were so many temptations for a child to succumb to, it would be better if he were an ignorant catechumen sinning, rather than a Baptized Christian whose sins would be more serious. St. Augustine, in company with other Fathers of the Church of his time, would help to eradicate this error from the Church.
School was a painful experience for Augustine
Augustine never forgot the cruel and unrelenting dehumanization to which he and the other children were subjected, at school. He received no sympathy, not even from his parents, as he complained of the constant, brutal beatings he received from his teachers, when he refused to read, write or study his lessons. His mother, who almost idolized him, laughed along with his father, accepting this treatment as normal. As a little boy, he preferred to play and talk idly in class. He was later to criticize those who had punished him, those “men who did the same things themselves.” In his books, he condemned Roman Education; it had hit an even greater low, as it adopted the harsher customs of Africa. He wrote in his book, City of God:
“Who would not shrink back in horror and choose death, if he were given the choice between death and his childhood all over again.”
Carrying the scars of humiliation, the rest of his life, he feared the disapproval of others. Augustine excelled in school, but because of his even greater fear of ignorance, he was never quite satisfied with himself. He absorbed Latin like a sponge. Having a good memory, he needed only to hear something, to retain what he heard. He became drawn to the theater, and developed the art of speaking eloquently. This, God would use later for His Service. Instead of using these gifts, he was inattentive in class, displayed a surly attitude and engaged in, often leading others in, the most horrendous escapades. In spite of this, when Augustine reached fourteen, his teacher recognized his superior intelligence and recommended he go on with his studies in the humanities.
His parents were overjoyed and proud. The only problem was money! Although very successful, his father Patricius, was having a bad year. His false god, of politics and money, was letting him, and others of his class, down. He could be called by many names, but above all, he was a good father. So, making huge sacrifices, he sent Augustine to a school in Madaura, where he could continue his studies.
Having reached the age of fifteen, he turned his appetite, from childish game-playing, to the serious business of reading the works of Homer, Virgil, Cicero and Ovid. He was not aware why he preferred Virgil, at first. Augustine later discovered, what had most attracted him, was the stormy, turbulent side of human love, this poet aroused in him. He wept, as he read the writings again and again, becoming intoxicated by the passionate scenes so vividly painted by the pagan poets. He wrote,
“My one desire in those days was to love and be loved.”
Although outwardly very proper, inside Augustine, there was a war being waged. Feelings aroused by the pagan poets, filled his mind and soul with lustful desires. This slipped by Monica and Patricius, as Augustine, more and more, stood out amongst his fellow students, lunging way ahead of them scholastically. His father and mother were so pleased with him, they decided it was time to send him to Carthage, to attend schools where he could further his studies, in keeping with his abilities.
But, instead, because of money again, they would have to call him back home from Madaura. Augustine idled away a year at home, until they could afford to send him to Carthage. Skillfully hiding the torment inside him, even from his mother, he followed the path of fulfillment through sin. It not only did not provide the satisfaction or love he sought, but added to the depression that bound him into knots.
Even though she was not aware, what was going on inside her son, Monica would be responsible for his salvation. Was it the early training, she had imparted to him of the Faith? Was it that longing that burns in our hearts and minds and never lets go of us. Was it that Truth that always brings us back to our Mother Church? Or was it, Monica, true mother, possibly without realizing the danger her son was in, nevertheless prayed unceasingly for him and for his future? He did start to go back to church with his mother. He cried out for help, even asking God for the strength to lead a more virtuous life. His prayer went,
“...Grant me chastity and continence (abstinence), but not yet!”
Augustine sunk lower and lower, sin not only infecting him, but permeating his entire being. Monica began to discern the evil that was taking over in her son’s life. She prayed! His father, now a catechumen on the way to becoming baptized, recognized the signs. These were the carnal desires he, too, had known. He thought of the perfect solution: marry him off!
Monica, not content to cry and worry, reached out to her son and asked him, outright, what his problem was. She spoke calmly, but compassionately, trying to get Augustine to confide in her. She warned him of the danger he was putting himself into, but all to no avail. What did she know? She was a woman; what did she know of men’s concerns, no less needs. Besides, he was so advanced intellectually, so beyond her understanding. Later he spoke of this woman talk: “You were speaking to me through her, my God, and in ignoring her, I was ignoring You!”
Are you ever tempted to say nothing to your children, judging they’re not listening? If you do not speak, as Monica before you did, where will that voice come from, that wisdom, for them to remember? As with Augustine, will they, in time, hear and say “yes?” It couldn’t have been easy for Monica, as her advice created a rift, a heart-break only a mother, estranged from her son, knows.
Augustine leaves for Carthage, city of pleasure and pride
Having saved the necessary funds to send him to Carthage, to further his education, his father was as pleased as any father could be. His mother, knowing she could do nothing to stop him, redoubled her prayers for her son. Augustine was sixteen years old.
Here, from a small town, we have a young man filled with young man desires, embarking to a large city of lustful men, with grown men cravings. Quite lost and unsure of himself, not as violent and vulgar as his new-found friends, he became more and more timid. The only thing that saved him was his desire to excel in his studies, and excel he did. He became a leader in the School of Rhetoric, and so the evil of pride forestalled, to a degree, the needs of the flesh.
He said: “I was not yet in love, but I was in love with love, and from the depth of my need...I sought some object to love, since I was in love with loving.”
The mature man could later see, it was He, for Whom Augustine was searching, the Living God, the Eternal Lover. But the young man sought and found the carnal love he craved. He had an affair! He was barely eighteen years old, when he became a father. So, here is Augustine, torn between his love for the woman and his baby, and the education he desired.
Augustine and Heresy
After her husband’s death, through the generosity of a benefactor, St. Monica was able to join Augustine in Carthage. She came to encourage him with his studies. From his Confessions, we learn how she felt about education. St. Augustine relates, his father pushed him to study out of worldly ambition, but his mother looked to his studies to bring him back to God. She knew, although “a little knowledge leads one away from God, much knowledge brings one back to God.”
A book was to open his heart and mind to God. That book was Cicero’s Hortensius. It changed the direction he had been taking; turning his prayers to God, it gave him a new purpose in life. He said, “I was looking for an author and I found a man.” Little did he know, at the time, the man he was on the road to discovering was the God-Man Jesus. It is heartwarming, when we read that even the learned Doctors and early Fathers of the Church did not know, half the time, what God had planned for them.
How did Hortensius touch Augustine? I dare say, differently than others who had read Cicero. You see, Augustine read with a soul that had been nurtured, as a child, by the Christian teaching of his mother. Although he found this book more exciting than anything he had ever read, something was lacking! His mother’s words had not fallen on deaf ears; he longed for something more...”the Name of Christ was not there!”
Monica was elated. If a man’s book could so transform him, what could the Word of God do! Augustine began to read Holy Scripture. But contrary to Monica’s hopes and prayers, it did not lead him back to the Church. He found them too simple for his great mind: “...they seemed to me unworthy to be compared with the majesty of Cicero. My conceit was repelled by their simplicity, and I had not the mind to penetrate into their depths. They were indeed of a nature to grow in your little ones. But I could not bear to be a little one; I was only swollen with pride, but to myself I seemed a great man.”
Later, another explanation he had was, as he was in sin, his sinful life closed his mind to what the Sacred Scriptures were saying, “Since my heart was not pure, I could not penetrate their meaning.”
Monica continued to pray for her son to accept the gift of faith, but she was to continue this prayer for twelve more years, before she would realize her dream.
Augustine was born into a time of schism and heresy
His pride not allowing him to walk in the simple Truth, Augustine was to grope through the darkness for answers to questions he did not know. In his chase, he embraced one of the more deadly heresies, that of the Manichaeans. He was not to find his way out of that black hole for nine years.
Monica prayed and cried while her son tried to sway her in his direction. Although, Augustine says his mother never weakened, I wonder if he ever knew her pain; she so wanted to be in agreement with her beloved, precious son. What did she feel as Christ’s words came crashing in on her?
“Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than Me is not worthy of Me!” (Matthew 10:37)
St. Monica had a dream! St. Augustine writes, “In her dream she saw herself standing on a wooden rule and a youth all radiant coming to her cheerful and smiling upon her, whereas she was grieving and heavy with her grief. He asked her - not to learn from her but, as is the way of visions, to teach her - the causes of her sorrow and the tears she daily shed. She replied she was mourning for the loss of my soul. He commanded her to be at peace and told her to observe carefully and she would see that where she was, there was I also. She looked and saw me standing alongside her on the same rule.”
Monica went directly to Augustine. She had new hope and determination. She interpreted her dream for him, confident he would understand, it meant he was called to return to the Catholic Church. He countered with: it clearly meant she would join him as a Manichaean. Standing toe to toe with this brilliant son of hers, she answered, never wavering for a minute, “No. For it was not said to me where he is, you are, but where you are, he is.”
It was obvious that Augustine was deeply moved by his mother’s dream, but he wasn’t ready to surrender, especially to this simple Faith, this woman’s Faith.
How heavy was Monica’s cross as she saw her son, now, not even attending church with her. She stood by, helplessly, for the next nine years, as he became swallowed up by the false teachings and promises of that dangerous sect of the Manichaeans. I am sure it took all the faith she had, to believe he would come back, and more to live that belief. And so, she prayed!
When she faltered, judging she needed more than prayer, she went to a Bishop. He told her, her son was too blinded and deafened, by the attention he was receiving from the heretics, to listen to him or anyone else. But, trying to console her, he advised her not to dismay, as St. Augustine’s questions were already stumping some of the heads of the heresy. Did that satisfy Augustine’s mother? Here we have the persistent woman of the Bible, only now her name is Monica, crying, pleading for the Bishop to do something! Trying to remain patient, he insisted, “Go your way; as sure as you live, it is impossible that the son of these tears should perish.”
His mother accepted the Bishop’s words as those from Heaven, itself, and she had peace, momentarily. Augustine’s pride kept blocking him from admitting his mother was right. With the Manichaean sect, he could have his cake and eat it, too. They assured him he could lead a life of sin, yet still be saved through the merits of those elect, who lived a life of abstinence and total chastity.
From ages nineteen to twenty-eight, Augustine was to walk farther and farther away from the Truth. But he would not walk alone! With his gift of persuasion, he would lead many others away, as well. But, the Lord always sends another messenger. He would not listen to his mother, well how about his dear and trusted friend and disciple, whose name Augustine never gives us!
This young man had been deceived, along with Augustine, into believing the lies of Manichaeanism. He had, like many of his class, been fooled by their outward appearances of piety and virtue. As Augustine made long and faithful friendships, one of the difficulties he had, rejecting Manichaeanism, was facing the many friends he had enlisted to join. One of these was this young man, who never left his side.
When Augustine returned to Tagaste from Carthage, his friend accompanied him. The young friend suddenly came down with a high fever which had him more dead than alive. Augustine never left his friend. Now, like Augustine, he had been enrolled in the register of catechumens, since infancy, but never baptized. It was understood he would be baptized upon the threat of death. That threat was here, and his friend was being baptized! Augustine looked on with skepticism bordering on contempt, as he saw, what he judged, meaningless drops of water being poured on his friend’s feverish head. Surely, if he recovered, his friend would not believe this old wives’ tale. But, he was wrong!
His friend recovered. As soon as Augustine had an opportunity to talk to his friend, he began to ridicule the Baptism. He stopped as quickly as he had begun. To his amazement, his friend looked at him with the disdain he would have for a mortal enemy, as if he no longer knew him. To quote Augustine, “...in a burst of independence that startled me, (he) warned me that if I wished to continue our friendship I must cease that kind of talk.”
Augustine was silent for possibly the first time in his life. He would wait until his friend was completely well; then, he would talk some sense into him. The only problem, his friend suddenly took a turn for the worse and died. Augustine was beyond consolation. He had lost a dear friend. No one and nothing could take his place. There was no consolation that could erase the pain; and so he grieved. Every one he saw reminded him his friend was dead. Why were they alive? Why was he alive and his friend dead? Augustine later wrote, he and his friend had “one soul in two bodies.” Now, how could he live half a person? He hated all living things; he despised the very light which made his darkness so much darker.
With no one on earth he could turn to, with no one Above, he would turn to, he was on the edge of despair. Although his mother knew Carthage was a city of sin and wholesale vice, she knew he could not remain in Tagaste with all his memories. So, she sent him off to Carthage. This she did, praying his opening a school of Rhetoric would take his mind and heart off the loss of his friend.
Augustine thirsts for the truth
In addition to the power of his mother’s thirty years of prayers, an instrument God used to save Augustine’s soul, was his thirst for the truth. What the Manichaeans taught him, no longer satisfied him. He was having a problem with their evasiveness as he dug deeper, searching for answers. Augustine had been so in love with the beauty of the word, he had not gone beyond to the meaning behind the word.
Here He goes again; our Faithful God comes to the rescue of His unfaithful, stubborn son. Enter Helpidius, a respected speaker, who just happened to be lecturing publicly, in Carthage, when Augustine was there. Always hungering to hear more Rhetoric so he could pass it on to his students, Augustine hung on to Helpidius’ every word. Augustine knew very little about the Bible, having judged it too simple for his great mind. But suddenly, with his new awareness, of the emptiness and danger of beautiful words without meaning, he began to wonder if Scripture might have the key to the truth he was so desperately seeking. A light appeared to be breaking through. Scripture was coming alive! Although he was not aware of it, through this man, Helpidius, Augustine was being taught Catholic doctrine.
As Helpidius showed how Manichaeanism was in direct conflict with the New and Old Testaments, Augustine became less and less sure of the beliefs he had so vigorously proselytized. The lecturer was punching holes into Manichaeanism, exposing all its contradictory teachings. Having zealously embraced and spread Manichaeanism, Augustine was reluctant to publicly denounce it. Was the old monster of pride possibly telling him, he would most certainly lose much of the authority he held amongst his followers? In any event, the Manichaean bishop Faustus, whom they had promised would answer all Augustine’s questions, would soon be arriving. And, since he knew all answers to all questions, he would surely put Augustine’s mind to rest.
At first, Augustine was excited by Faustus. He was a fine man. He was modest. He behaved in a dignified manner. He was an eloquent orator. Years later, when comparing him with St. Ambrose, Augustine said,
“I was delighted with the sweetness of Ambrose’s discourses. But even though they were sounder and more learned, they did not have the charm or power of those given by Faustus.”
After having waited nine years, Augustine found that although Faustus spoke more eloquently than his predecessors, he was saying nothing new! Augustine became impatient as his hero lectured. He wanted to interrupt him. He needed answers to his many unanswered questions of the last nine years. But, as this was not the custom when the great one preached, Augustine requested a private audience with him.
Augustine was granted his audience. Monica had returned to Carthage to be near her son. Sensing the immense power this man had, and the danger he posed to Augustine’s soul, she prayed. The big day came; Augustine arrived with his eager friends and followers. Now, they would have all their doubts answered! Augustine discovered very quickly, Faustus was not even a philosopher. Although he had an aptitude for Rhetoric, practicing it all the time, his words had no substance behind them. But still, Augustine would not give up. He was a little upset at the outcome of his first meeting, but there was always the next time. The next time and the next time came and went. Finally, Augustine had to admit, Faustus knew no more than his followers; and if he, who was so exalted among his followers, could not tell him anything, no one else could. Later, Augustine spoke of this time: “For Your Hand, O my God, in the secret of Your providence did not desert my soul; from the blood of my mother’s heart, sacrifice for me was offered You day and night by her tears, and You did act with me in marvelous ways. For it was You, my God, who did it.”
Augustine goes to Rome
Disillusioned by Faustus and the heresy he had embraced, and upset by his students, whom he found more and more unreceptive and disruptive, Augustine planned to leave for Rome. The reason he was setting out for Rome, he thought, was, he would be more successful there, but God had other plans.
At first, Monica was very unhappy that her son was leaving for Rome; but then, when she saw she could not dissuade him, she decided she would go with him. Loving his mother, but unequivocally opposed to her accompanying him, Augustine lied to her; he told her the boat would leave the following day. When his mother arrived at the shore, and saw the boat had left, without her, she was beside herself. She had prayed to God, pleading with Him to keep her son from leaving. He let her down; was she upset! It was in Italy that Augustine would be converted, and her prayers answered. But Monica, like Martha (John 11:21), could not, at that moment in time, see her son rising from the death of his former life, and so she was angry with God.
Augustine spent a year completely oblivious of Catholic Rome. He spent most his time with his Manichaean friends. He discovered they were as dishonorable and deceitful as they claimed to be virtuous and honest. Rather than turn to St. Jerome, who could have answered and dispelled his many doubts, he held on to his deep-seated prejudice against the Catholic Church and turned to the Academics. These Academics or Agnostics were dissidents, decadent disciples of an Academy founded by Plato seven hundred years earlier. Their philosophy was that truth was beyond human intellect; nothing can be known with absolute certainty. Therefore, permanent doubt was the wisest course to take.
Hard as he tried to bury himself, teaching his students, his persistent doubts were eating at him. Man has a need for truth. Without this, the emptiness becomes unbearable and if not satisfied, leads to death. Augustine became so depressed, he lost all desire to live. But, not even this would lead him to be baptized! Here he was, in Rome, all alone, at the point of death, and he was dying without a priest, without Christ, without God. There was Monica, back in Africa, praying passionately, sensing, with her motherly instinct, the new and maybe, final danger her son was in.
Augustine, having doubted God, now doubted man. His friends, the Manichaeans and his new-found friends, the Academics had betrayed him; their talking in circles tired him. Their worldly attempts to explain the unexplainable, did not satisfy the gnawing questioning inside of him. The peace and acceptance he had expected from his students, in Rome, was not forthcoming; rather they proved more disappointing than those he had left in Africa.
Augustine learned of a chair of Rhetoric open in Milan. The prefect of Rome, who had final word over his acceptance or rejection, was a pagan. Augustine would need the Manichaeans to recommend him. And they did! God, with His incomparable sense of humor, used a pagan cult through a pagan authority to bring Augustine to the Holy Catholic Church. Why not? After all, God created all of us, Saints and sinners. Maybe this was His Merciful Way to forgive them, in part, for all the innocent, they had led astray through their errors.
St. Augustine meets St. Ambrose and all Heaven rejoices
St. Ambrose was the Bishop that would lead the stubborn, prideful Augustine to the Church. Why did God allow St. Augustine the luxury of so much pain and near death to body and soul? We believe, in our Ministry, that God works most powerfully and authoritatively, through our mistakes and our pain. There is something, like with St. Augustine, that speaks louder than even the words, when we speak from our own falling and rising and falling again, the living words being, “Well, here I am, by the Grace of God.”
St. Ambrose was born a Roman in 334A.D. and died April 4, 397. When Augustine met St. Ambrose, he was about fifty years old and had been a Bishop over ten years. They had more than a little in common. Although born of a Christian family, St. Ambrose, too, had not been baptized at birth. Having lost his father, young, he, like Augustine, was most influenced by his mother.
At thirty-five years of age, St. Ambrose was asked to become Bishop. He declined, at first, objecting he had not, as yet, been baptized. Within one week’s time, he received the Sacraments of Baptism, Penance, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and Ordination.
This is the man who was to bring the treasure of Augustine into Christ’s Church. It appears, Augustine is always in the midst of turmoil, either by his will, life’s circumstance, or God’s design.
And so, here he was in Milan. It was being torn apart by dissensions between Catholics and Arians. Surprise you? Arianism had been gaining a foothold in the East and had spread to Milan. Bishop Ambrose had the difficult and unpopular mission of maintaining unity within the Church and peace in the city, and all this, without compromising the Faith.
Augustine first went to hear St. Ambrose preach because he thought he could absorb some of the renowned man’s gifts of Rhetoric. St. Augustine writes, “Yet along with the words, which I admired, there also came into my mind the subject-matter, to which I attached no importance. I could not separate them. And while I was opening my heart to learn how eloquently he spoke, I came to feel, though only gradually, how truly he spoke.”
A glimmer of hope cut through the clouds in Augustine’s mind, as Ambrose’s preaching began to dispel some of the doubts that had plagued him. He began to find the Catholic Faith understandable, plausible, simple for the ordinary man, yet not too simple for the intelligent man. This was an important step in his walk toward the Father. Others would follow, but like a baby taking his first steps, it would not be easy for Augustine. Wanting to do it his own way, he would continue to lose his balance and fall, until he accepted the guiding hand of his Mother Church.
The word Mother was not just a word to Augustine. He loved his mother with the fervor with which he loved life. So, when he finally gave his heart to this Mother Church, it was with this same ardor. Unlike the picture we may have of him, Augustine could never be considered a cold, intellectual, way above our heads, Saint. Augustine passionately loved and sought the truth, even before he recognized the truth he longed for, was the Truth, was God.
Augustine decided he would return to Church, only as a catechumen (as he had been as a child), until he was enlightened to do otherwise. As a catechumen, he was required to leave after the Liturgy of the Word. It didn’t seem to bother him. Not knowing Who he was missing, he did not hunger for more. Or did he know, in his heart of hearts, that once he knew the Lord in the Eucharist, he would be helplessly in love! As he departed from the church, he could not wait to return the next day, to hear Scripture and the Bishop’s homily. He found himself more and more excited by what he was learning. This would have to suffice, for now. God would use this to draw him to Him. If this is what would color Augustine’s decision to continue attending Mass, well, God was not past wooing him that way.
Monica joins Augustine in Milan
It is most likely that St. Augustine called his mother to join him in Milan. Whatever the case, we know she left Tagaste, probably departing from Carthage in the year 385A.D. Did all the fallen angels, in their fury, attack the ship, knowing the part Monica was playing in Augustine’s life? Didn’t they know the power was in her prayers, more than in her physical presence? Nevertheless, as they crossed the ocean, the sea became violent; the ship tossed and pitched from side to side. Even the most seasoned sailors knew they were going to perish. Monica never gave up hope, trusting in the word the Bishop had given her, she would see her son a Catholic before she died. That was enough for her!
The storm over, Monica stepped on Italian soil, and into her beloved son’s open arms. Did Augustine try to hide the delight and need he had for his mother? We believe they hugged and cried, their special love surpassing language. As they walked away from the shore, Augustine excitedly shared what he knew Monica wanted to hear most: he was a practicing catechumen and no longer part of the Manichaeans.
To his bewilderment, that did not surprise or satisfy her. Monica wanted him to be a part of the Church, Baptized and Confirmed; nothing but him being a professed member of the Mystical Body of Christ would satisfy her. Her hopes and expectations, the extent of her prayers for him were, he would marry within the Church. Little did she envision or suspect, for one moment, he would, one day, be consecrated to the Lord as a Priest.
Monica did not stop with the bone her son handed her; she went to see Bishop Ambrose. He listened kindly and attentively to this holy mother. He could see how very much she loved her son. Strengthened by his kindness, she expressed concern that the Bishop was doing little, personally, to encourage Augustine to be baptized. 20
We wouldn’t be surprised if she told him, respectfully, that when Augustine came to see him, eager to unburden his soul, Ambrose appeared to be indifferent. Was he ignoring him, never once looking up from what he was reading? Both Monica and Augustine recognized Ambrose’s Holiness. She was not really questioning his actions. Monica was trying to move mountains! But, she was also trying to be obedient to the Will of God. So, she prayed!
Ambrose probably told the mother, it was not enough for Augustine to accept the Faith intellectually, with his head; he must live the Faith, with his heart. As Augustine was living with a companion, outside the Sacrament of Matrimony, this did not appear feasible. You never discover, from Augustine’s writings, the earthly reason he could not take this girl, he loved and lived with for many years, as his wife. But he could not!
Augustine and the girl loved one another. They had been faithful to one another for fifteen years; but without the blessing of Almighty God, it was hopeless from the beginning. Their happiness was overcast by torment, the agony of trying to build a house without a foundation. Christ, the Cornerstone was missing in their relationship. Instead, their bedfellows were the fallen angels of jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and dissension. They were not bad people, only victims of the world and its lies.
The young woman had given Augustine a son. Years later, as he grieved over the death of this son, he called him, “the son of my sin;” but the young father, puffed up with pride, called his son Adeodatus, “God-given.”
The young mother left Augustine and their son, after he converted, although she loved them very deeply. Following her lover’s example, she, too, had converted. She joined a convent and spent the rest of her life loving and being loved by her one and only True God. Had He been looking after her, brushing off her knees, as He had Mary Magdalene, telling her she was beautiful and needed to sin no more?
Putting two and two together, reasoning that had been why Ambrose had hesitated to talk to her son, Monica prayed to God, only now, in thanksgiving, and planned. Knowing Augustine was not disposed to the life of a celibate, Monica set out to find a suitable wife for him. The young wife-to-be, chosen, was too young, and they had to wait two years to marry. Augustine missed his former companion. As he had in no way renounced his desires of the flesh, he took to himself another mistress. There was no mutual love between the two, and so they quickly tired of one another. He sent her packing.
(Author’s note: After much pain in his life, brother Joseph said that he only found peace, after he accepted the Lord’s plan for him, as a celibate! He shared, “When God wants you, you will never have the gift of the right woman to be your mate, for He has chosen you for Himself.”)
Augustine was in the midst of self-made hell, again. He lived as if all that mattered in life was pleasure, and outside of pleasure there was nothing. But there was that rumbling inside of him, that war being waged between all he had learned as a child, and the Sodom and Gomorrah of his adult life.
Plato leads Augustine to the Catholic Faith
No matter where he goes, or what he does, the road to Jesus looms up in front of Augustine; and although he keeps walking the other way, he finds himself right back where he began. Augustine sees signs on the path, those leading directly to the Father, but that’s too simple. It can’t be right for him. So he follows other signs. Imagine the frustration when he discovers that although he’s followed a road that was leading him away, he’s back, at the door of his mother’s Church, again.
Again, God is dealing with his son Augustine as He knows he will respond, from a book. Again, a book from a pagan will point Augustine to the Truth. Or is it that the Truth cannot be hidden, that all must reveal It even if they try to hide it? For us, the Lord has always been the Revealer, opening our eyes that we might see good and detest evil. The devil, on the other hand, the concealer, tries to hide wrong and block good. But, as with St. Augustine, God never gives up, never lets us stray far from His Saving Reach.
Augustine came across the books of Plato, translated by a recent convert to Christianity, Victorinus. What fascinated Augustine about Plato was how he reached beyond the materialism of the world, soaring toward concepts only explainable in the Light of God. Although this philosopher wrote before the days Christ walked the earth, his works pointed Augustine to the doctrine of the Word.
When Augustine was nineteen, Cicero set his mind and heart on fire. Now, at thirty-two, God was using another philosopher, Plato to call him to Himself. Augustine’s problem was the same, always, the war between the spirit and the flesh. As he read Plato, he found he was really presenting the Word, in the light of St. John the Evangelist. He was confirming the teachings of the Catholic Church! Are you beginning to suspect that possibly the Faith was so much a part of Augustine, so ingrained, that when he read, he read with the light of this Church of his childhood?
He soon fell out of love with Plato, realizing he had been merely the bridge, for him to walk over, to John’s Gospel. Nowhere, in Plato’s works, did he find the words which burned in Augustine’s heart, “The Word became Flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
Plato, born before the time of the Spotless Lamb Who would save the world, knew and wrote nothing of the fall of man through the sin of Adam and Eve. Missing was God’s Plan for our salvation. Nowhere was there, the Incarnation of the Word, God becoming Man, and That Man, our Lord, dying on the Cross, that we might live.
Though Augustine did not understand all these truths, he heard a voice persisting, crying out in the desert of his soul, “Courage! I am the Food of the strong. And you will eat Me. But it is not I Who shall be changed into you, for you will be changed into Me!”
These words that spoke not to his mind, were received within the deep recesses of his heart. He wrote, “There was from that moment no ground of doubt in me: I would have doubted my own life than have doubted that truth.”
St. Augustine meets himself in St. Paul
St. John spoke to Augustine’s heart, calling him to a higher Love. He was now ready to turn to the city boy, St. Paul. In Paul’s letters, Augustine saw how St. Paul laid bare man’s inner struggles, that ongoing war being waged inside of everyone of us, that battle between, as St. Paul says, “What happens is that I do, not the good I will to do, but the evil I do not intend...This means that even though I want to do what is right, a law that leads to wrongdoing is always at hand...”
St. Paul’s writings became a fountain from which Augustine would continue to drink the water of Salvation. Through them, he would quench the dryness of his soul. He would, as well, meet himself in St. Paul’s tears of confession, later writing his own. Nowhere, was St. Augustine to relate, so personally, to his own struggles, discouragements, hopes and failures, that of running the race and seeing no victory, as in St. Paul’s writings. He knew, through Paul, he, too, was on the road to Damascus and Jesus was pleading, “Why do you persecute Me, Augustine?”
Now, the real battle would begin. He knew the Lover and he would never be satisfied with any less. He knew the price he was being asked to pay. Maybe, he wanted to say yes; but did it have to be today? He wrote, “Come, Lord, work upon us, call us back, set us on fire and clasp us close, be fragrant to us, draw us to Your loveliness: let us love, let us run to You.”
But his new self had not beaten his old self and so, as he cried, “Lord, heal me, but not yet! Soon, but give me just a little while.”
St. Ambrose, not only a man of his word but of his life
St. Augustine, in case you have not discovered this, as yet, was a romanticist. The Church was in danger. The forces of hell were being waged against her, and she was calling upon our Lord for a Saint. That Saint was, at this time and in this place, St. Ambrose.
Our precious Church was being split in two by schism, and was bleeding. Empress Justine, who once belonged to the Arian sect, demanded that Bishop Ambrose turn the church, attended by Catholics (believed to be the Cathedral of Milan), over to the Arians. St. Ambrose refused! The Empress sent in troops to forcibly take over the Cathedral. She and they were not ready for what they encountered; St. Ambrose was preaching to a church full of worshipers. As some would leave to go home to their families, they were quickly replaced by others.
Tribunes came with a summons for the Bishop to relinquish the Church to them. His important reply was a lesson to Augustine and to us,
“If the emperor demanded what belonged to me, even though everything I own belongs to the poor, I would not refuse. But the things of God are not mine. If anyone wants my patrimony (legacy), let him take it! If anyone wants my body, let him seize it! Do you want to put me in chains and lead me to death? I shall obey, and shall not allow my people to defend me. I shall not kiss the altar, begging for life. I prefer to be immolated on the altar.”
Nothing shook Ambrose. He sang the Psalms with his people and order was maintained. As Ambrose fought so gallantly for the Church, God was doing battle, as usual, for Augustine.
This profession of faith, by Ambrose, only set Augustine more on fire. He admired and wanted to emulate him in every way, except one, he couldn’t handle celibacy. His words, “...only his celibacy seemed to me a heavy burden.”
Let it be now! Let it be now!
One of Augustine’s friends from Africa, Ponticianus, came to visit him, and God called Augustine, one more time. His friend saw a copy of St. Paul’s Epistles on Augustine’s desk. Surprised but encouraged, Ponticianus began to tell Augustine what he had seen in his travels, especially in Egypt. Whereas, Augustine had abandoned the Church of his childhood, Ponticianus had remained faithful to his religious roots.
As a high-ranking officer in the emperor’s army, Ponticianus did much travelling, to countries like Gaul (France), Spain, Africa, Egypt and Italy. He shared with Augustine, one of the high points of his journeying was meeting hermits in Egypt, who had left the world and its successes, for lives in the desert. These men lived in bare cells, individually, separated from all the other hermits. They came together to pray once a week, on Saturdays. So removed from the world and all its comforts, they in spite, or was it because of it, swelled in number from seven thousand when their founder died, to fifty thousand. Augustine held onto every word his friend spoke, with bated breath. Everything he had read, whether it was Cicero or Plato, was like nothing compared to what his friend was describing.
Augustine wondered why he had never heard of these men before. (Author’s note: It reminds of us how many people, after reading our book, “This is My Body, This is My Blood,” have asked us the same question, over and over again, “Why did we never hear about these Miracles of the Eucharist, before now?”) Ponticianus, encouraged by the rapt attention of not only Augustine, but of his friends who had joined them, was not fully prepared for the passionate outburst from St. Augustine, “What are we aiming at? Have we no higher hopes than to be friends of the Emperor? And what good will that do us? Why not become the friends of God?”
Was Augustine not asking the age-old questions, “What have I done with my life? What’s it all about? Why are we on this earth?”
As his friend continued speaking, it was as if Jesus was standing in front of him. Augustine was ashamed; he looked at everything he had thought and done in his life, as petty, selfish and vile. He felt dirty. He was repulsed by the image he saw of himself and his life. He felt naked and he did not like what he saw.
He was so overcome with emotion, he couldn’t walk Ponticianus to the gate. Instead Augustine’s friend Alypius went with him. As Alypius returned to Augustine, he could hear him crying out, “The unlearned arise and take Heaven by force, and here we are with all our learning, stuck fast in flesh and blood!”
What Alypius could not hear was the voice, inside Augustine, crying, “Let it be now! Let it be now!”
Although Alypius was one of his closest friends and companions, Augustine needed to walk away even from him, into the garden, to be by himself. All the voices and temptations from the past, began raging! But then, through God’s Mercy, they dimmed into a murmuring, almost a distant humming in his ears. A procession of Powerful Men and Women of our Church passed before his soul, as he suffered in the garden. Unlike the Savior, Who was calling him, he was not alone in the garden. As Jesus had the Angel of the Lord, so now He sent the Saints to console Augustine. They challenged and encouraged him to walk the path they had travelled before him. The joy and peace he saw in them, began to flood through him, and he felt long awaited tears cleansing him, washing him, purifying him.
Augustine could not stop crying. His crippling guilt was fighting the Lord’s open Arms of forgiveness. He could not believe the Lord would forgive his many sins. His words, echoed over the centuries by other sinners adored by the Lord, “`And You, Lord, how long? How long, Lord; will You be angry forever? Remember not our iniquities.’ For I felt that I was still bound by them. And I continued my miserable complaining: `How long, how long shall I go on saying tomorrow and again tomorrow? Why not now, why not have an end to my uncleanness this very hour?’”(Confessions, Book Eight)
As he was praying, a sweet voice, coming as if from a house nearby, repeated over and over again, “Take and read! Take and read!”
At first, suspecting some child had seen his misery and was poking fun at him, Augustine stood angrily riveted to the spot, but then he had a thought: Possibly the Lord wanted him to read Scripture. Running into the house, he picked up the Epistles of St. Paul and opened it randomly. The words that jumped out at him were:
“Let us live honorably as in daylight, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”(Romans 13:13-14)
Good Show, Paul! Augustine didn’t read any more. He had no need to; a peace rushed through him, filling him with a warm confidence he had never known before. It was as if he were receiving a Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He felt as new as a baby. He couldn’t remember any of his past sins. He ran to the faithful woman in his life, his mother. Monica, who has become known as the Saint of Persistence, the Saint of Hope, prayed knowing her Lord would come through. Right! And the Eleventh Hour God did come through, again. Or are we saying the Eleventh Hour God has been, and will continue coming through, for His children, now and forever. Did the expression, He will not be outdone in generosity, come from Augustine and Monica? Because when Monica had prayed, little could she have ever realized the gift that the Lord would give her. (Author’s Note: When I have meditated on my life with Bob, how wonderful it has been all these years, I thank God, He never allowed me to see this before we married. I would have desired life with Bob, so passionately, I would not have allowed the Lord to work; I would have tried to make it happen. Or seeing the joy that I would receive some day, my heart would have burst.)
Not one to do things in half measure, Augustine wanted nothing, but I mean nothing, but to serve God. Not even the honorable marriage arranged by Monica (and probably Bishop Ambrose), did he desire; this, the man who could not live without a woman! He wanted to live out his life as a hermit! He told his mother,
“It’s all decided! I don’t want to wait any more! I want only God: O Lord! I am Your servant, the son of your handmaid!”
It was not as easy as all that. In the days of Monica and Augustine, there were several steps that had to be taken before you could be baptized. Baptism or regeneration, or second birth, was calling Augustine to take a new course, that he might live a new life through the Grace of God and His Sacrament of Baptism.
All that had pleased him before, even his position as teacher of Rhetoric, was like so much nonsense to him in the light of the Lord, his God and the life he knew He had planned for him.
It is believed his conversion took place around August 28th. Forty-four years later, in 430, on August 28th, God would call this valiant warrior home to Him. Augustine no longer lived his life as if he had forever, no less forty-four years, but as if each moment was precious, and painful until he was united with his Lord through the Sacraments of His Church. As catechumens were not baptized before Holy Saturday, he had eight, long months to wait!
Augustine lived the next few months trying to undo much of the harm he had done, the years before his conversion. As he had skillfully led so many of his friends away from the true Church of their childhood, he was now leading them toward her. He was given a villa where he and these young men could live a shared-life of prayer and contemplation. Monica joined them, not only as Augustine’s mother, but as Spiritual mother of all the men, including her own grandson, Adeodatus (son of Augustine).
There were seven in all at Augustine’s villa, at Cassicacum. He brought the Scriptures with him, again fashioning his little Community after the hermits of Egypt. The more he read the inspired Word of God, the more he grieved for the past and wanted to do something to help the future. God had prepared him for his vocation as a Spiritual guide and teacher. As he said in his Confessions,
“All these things I read and was on fire; nor could I find what could be done with those deaf and dead, of whom indeed I had myself been one for I had been a scourge, a blind raging snarler against the Scriptures, which are all honeyed with the honey of Heaven and all luminous with Your Light: and now I was fretting my heart out over the enemies of these same Scriptures. When shall I recall and set down all that belongs to those days in the country?”
Some of the wisdom he taught the little band of disciples was: “Let us think of God, let us seek Him, let us thirst for Him. He is the interior sun that shines within us...We shall be so (wise or happy) only when we know fully with both our minds and hearts: the Father who gives Truth; the Son Who is this Truth; and the Holy Spirit, through Whom we are joined to the Truth. These Three are seen as One by enlightened souls.”
The Baptism of Augustine and his followers
The prayers of mourning that groaned out from within his heart, that exploded, throbbing, shaking the very foundation of his soul, were, “Late have I loved You, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved You!...You were within me, and I outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things You have made. You were with me and I was not with You. I was kept from You by those things, yet had they not been in You, they would not have been at all. You did call and cry to me and break open my deafness; and You did send forth Your beams and shine upon me and chase away my blindness...I tasted You, and now hunger and thirst for You; You did touch me, and I have burned for Your Peace.”
This was the Augustine who received the healing waters of Baptism. On Holy Saturday, 387, Augustine and his loyal friends bowed before Ambrose. Entering the Baptismal area three times, they repeated these ancient words, a Profession of Faith that resounds in Heaven every time a new catechumen pledges to live and die by this, the Faith of Jesus Christ. When they entered the first time, they proclaimed: “I believe in God!” Upon the second entry, they went on to the Father’s Son and declared: “I believe in Jesus Christ!” On the third entry, they professed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit!”
A weeping Augustine threw himself into the arms of his waiting Mother Church, as his earthly mother, that faithful mother of prayer, looked on. Now, she could die in peace.
Augustine gave up all ties with the world. He no longer desired to teach or pursue any of his former loves. Now, where would he and his little band of disciples settle down? It was already agreed they would have Monica for their Spiritual mother, but where? They left Milan for Ostia, a port outside of Rome, to await a ship to Africa. They would go back home, bring their newly found Faith to their African brothers and sisters.
God and Monica had a different plan. She was tired; besides, Augustine would no longer need her on earth. Now, she would serve not only him, in the now, but sons like him and their mothers, for all time.
In his Confessions, possibly the most poignant and revealing entries of Augustine are the following: “When the day was approaching which she was to depart this life - a day that You knew though we did not - it came about, as I believe by Your secret arrangement, that she and I stood alone leaning in a window, which looked inwards to the garden within the house where I was staying, at Ostia on the Tiber; for there we were away from everybody, resting for the sea voyage from the weariness of our long journey by land. There we talked together, she and I alone, in deep joy; and forgetting the things that were behind and looking forward to those that were before, we were discussing in the Truth, which You are, what the eternal life of the Saints could be like, `which eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man.’”
They finished contemplating on the Grace, which comes to us from Above, counting all else, worthless. She gently began speaking to her son of her departure, without him. She said, “Son, for my own part I no longer find joy in anything in this world. What I am still to do here and why I am here I know not, now that I no longer hope for anything from this world. One thing there was, for which I desired to remain a little longer in this life, that I should see you a Catholic Christian before I died. This God has granted me in superabundance, in that I now see you His servant to the contempt of all worldly happiness.”
Her job on earth done, Monica was free to go to the Lord and Savior she had longed for, all her life. Her body, they said, just gave out, as she commended her spirit to Jesus. Monica died, a few days after her talk with her son. She was fifty-six years old and Augustine thirty-three. Everyone was in a state of shock, especially Augustine. As his holy mother went on to eternal life, new life was beginning for her son. But at the moment of separation, we are not thinking of what the Lord has ahead, but of what has happened, and who has passed on. Was Augustine thinking of all the suffering Monica had endured; and now that he was converted, she would not be there to enjoy it?
When we were finally healed from the death of our son, we realized that our love, that love that parents have for a child and a child has for them, will never die. It transcends all time and space.
At this time, in his dark night of the soul, all Augustine could feel was his loss. He and his son grieved, separately. Before they took her away, Adeodatus flung himself on his grandmother’s lifeless body. If he could only keep her here. He kissed her for the last time. Little did the grieving boy, and his father, know, he would soon follow his grandmother and together they would live eternally joyful, with Jesus in the Kingdom.
Augustine fought back the tears, as they lowered his mother’s body into the ground. He had to be strong for his son, and the others, to whom she had become a mother. But when he returned to the emptiness of the house without her, he broke down and wept uncontrollably.
Although surrounded by loved ones to console him, Augustine was quite alone. It was his turn to weep for the mother who had wept for him thirty of her fifty-six years. At first, the enemy of guilt and recrimination attacked him, playing mercilessly with his head and heart; but the serpent was no match for Monica’s love which would not be buried. That mother’s love and prayers, that had moved the Lord’s Heart so many times to forgive her son, would not allow Augustine, with so much to do, to linger and bathe in a pool of tears.
But that would not be the end of the dark night for Augustine. Adeodatus had been baptized with his father. Augustine was so proud of him. He could see the unique wisdom his son already had, of God and His Plan, a knowledge far beyond his years. Augustine knew his son would be an instrument to bring many to the Kingdom; what he didn’t know was, it was not to be on earth. Shortly after his baptism, Adeodatus died. He was about sixteen years old. When Augustine wrote later, of his son, he said, “You took him early from this earth, and I think of him utterly without anxiety, for there is nothing in his boyhood or youth or anywhere in him to cause me fear.”
It is true, Augustine received extraordinary Grace from God. But do not, for one moment, judge he did not grieve. Augustine had lost his mother, his son and his dearest friends; he would miss them the rest of his life. But God had no more time for Augustine to indulge in self-pity and self-recrimination! Augustine had punished himself enough for all the foolish mistakes he had made. Now, it was time for God to use him and his repentance to lead sinners, like himself, to the Church. Then, like now, in our days, the times were so urgent, the now had to be what was important. No time to look back, no time to look forward, only time to live the now.
St. Augustine went on to Africa to become Bishop of Hippo. He would write books out of a hunger to right the wrongs of the heresies and lies he had once advocated. These books written with the love and the passion of a repentant and mourning sinner, would be quoted over the centuries, by most not even knowing from where they had come. These books, which had to be written, would someday help other chosen in their response to the Father. They would be used by the Mother who had called and waited so patiently for him, Mother Church. And because of them she would raise him to the honor of Doctor of the Church.
This great man, who is most quoted, most respected, most followed, never stopped being a son, speaking and writing of his mother, even thirty years after she had gone to join her husband and her Jesus in Heaven. We tried to share, in this chapter, some of the touchable parts of St. Augustine’s life. Little did we expect it would be so very much the telling over and over again, of the undying, unconditional, hope-filled love of a mother for her son, and a son for his mother.
In this world, of little hope and less help, mothers cry and worry over their children. Children grow up too soon and are lied away from their mother’s love, or so they think! Our grandson once said, “Jesus cannot resist a mother’s prayers.” And then, for us grandmothers, one day, he said, “Even stronger than the pull a mother has with Jesus, is that of a grandmother.” Mothers and grandmothers, we have power. And that power is in prayer!
Bring your sons and daughters, maybe your husbands or brothers, up to the foot of the altar as Monica did. All she asked of her son, as she was dying, was that he remember her at the foot of the altar. Little did she suspect, Augustine would remember her, as he celebrated Mass on the Altar. As he raised the Consecrated Host, in sacrifice for sins, he raised all the love and sacrifice his mother had made for the salvation of his soul. That love stood with him, as victim-priest, he brought to the faithful, our Lord Jesus in His Body and Blood. And so, a mother never gave up and we have a Saint whom we look to and remember, saying, There’s a place for us. There is a promised land. And that land is with You, Lord.
We pray that reading this, our humble attempt to bring you a little of St. Augustine and his relationship with God, his mother and all the forces of Heaven and hell, you will now dig into that most beautiful and forceful of all autobiographies, The Confessions of St. Augustine. He called us to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.” As we close this small chapter on this great man: Saint, sinner and son, we add to his words, “and love.”
We first met you, St. Augustine, through an Augustinian Priest in far off Cascia. He was plainly in love with his Priesthood, the Eucharist and St. Rita, Saint of the Impossible. He spoke so simply as he shared the Miracle of the Eucharist, present there, in his church. He was so humble and loving as he recounted the life of St. Rita, we failed to see (who we thought was) St. Augustine in him. He did not appear lofty, above our heads, superior. He was one of us. P.S. St. Augustine was one of us. St. Augustine, like the rest of our family of Saints, is one of us. This chapter is dedicated to you, Padre Giustino, and to all our Priests and their mothers.
Photo Credits Augustinian Recollects, Oxnard, California
Excerpts and quotations from The Confessions of St. Augustine
“If we say, `We are free of the guilt of sin,’ we deceive ourselves; the truth is not to be found in us.” (1John 1:8)
The Many Faces of Mary, a Love Story - Bob and Penny Lord 1987
The Manichaean doctrine, named after Manes, a heretic born in Babylon around 276A.D., would be revived in 13th century France under a new name, Albigensianism. It was based on only two principles, Good and Evil, that Satan is no less eternal than God, and he is God’s rival. Proposing His imitator was almost His equal! Our world is divided between good and evil, and our very nature is the battlefield between good and evil, between God and Satan. We are not responsible for this conflict within us and we are powerless to control it.
Confessions, Book Three, XI, p.55
Arianism-a schism unleashed by Arius, a priest from Alexander, maintained that Christ was not equal “in substance” to God, but was the “creature” of the Father. Arius was asked by his Bishop to retract this heretical statement; he refused and was excommunicated. The first Ecumenical Council that met at Nicea, on June 19, 325, proclaimed that Christ was consubstantial (being of one and the same substance, as the three Divine Persons of the Trinity are of one substance) with God the Father. Thus Arianism was condemned.
Confessions, Book Five
this was the Rite of Baptism, at that time, according to St. Ambrose’s treatise On the Sacraments.
About the Authors:
Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors of many best selling books about the Catholic Faith. They are hosts on EWTN Global Television and have written over 25 books. They are best known as the authors of “Miracles of the Eucharist books.” They have been dubbed, “Experts on the Saints.” Many of the ebooks are now available at Smashwords.com.