FEAST of ST. AUGUSTINE, BISHOP OF HIPPO, Doctor of the Church. Born at Tagaste, in Africa, in the year 354; died at Hippo, 430.
AURELIUS AUGUSTINE was son of Patricius, a pagan of some virtue and afterwards converted, and of Monica, a Christian saint. In early life an unbaptized Manichean heretic of strong passions and unbridled conduct, Augustine left his mother to watch, pray, agonize for him, while he rejoiced in his youth, walking in the ways of his heart and in the sight of his eyes, and not laying to heart that God for all these things would bring him into judgment.
Divine grace, however, responding doubtless to his mother's prayers for his soul, proved at length stronger than his evil will and ways: he cast off his vices as the serpent casts its skin, professed the Catholic Faith, and was baptized on Easter Eve in the year 387 by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.
Thenceforward, allowing for human frailty, he retained of the serpent only its wisdom, and put on harmlessness as a dove: yet not, alas! without putting it off under provocation.
In 391 he was ordained priest; and he submitted to episcopal consecration at an uncertain date, perhaps in the year 395.
In controversy he opposed both Manicheans, Donatists, and Pelagians; yet incurred suspicion of himself holding unsound views as to the doctrine of predestination: nevertheless he is looked up to as a Doctor of the Church. Despite the Spirit of Love which ordinarily ruled him, he seems to have indulged a cruelly harsh temper against the Donatists.
Yet need we not cavil at the blemishes of a saint who of his own free choice died the death of a penitent:--
"He ceased not to preach and work, till in August he was prostrated by fever; and as he used to say that even approved Christians and priests ought to die as penitents, he excluded his friends from his room, except at certain hours, caused the penitential psalms to be written out and fixed on the wall opposite his bed, and repeated them with many tears; thus by his last acts throwing over the consequences, and with them the principles, advanced in his later dangerous treatises."