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St Augustine


St. Augustine was born in Tagaste, N. Africa in 354 AD, in what is Algeria today, but was then a Roman province. His father was pagan and his mother, Monica, was a Christian.

As a youth Augustine lived a rather wayward lifestyle for a time and, in Carthage, he developed a relationship with a young woman over fifteen years; he had a son with her. It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet"

After reading an account of the life of St Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Christianity, abandoning his teaching career and any plans to marry, and decided to serve God through priesthood.

Key to this conversion was the voice of an unseen child he heard while in his garden in Milan, telling him in a sing-song voice to "tolle lege" ("take up and read") the Bible. At which point he opened the Bible at random, and it opened to the Epistle to the Romans 13:13, which reads:
"Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying"
Later he would relate this and the rest of his spiritual journey in his famous

He received baptism from
St. Ambrose at the age of 33. He went on to become a famous preacher and wrote over 500 homilies that are extant. He is most noted for the "City of God" and for his "Confessions". St. Augustine became bishop of Hippo at age 41. He combated the Donatists, Pelagius and the Manichean Heresy (he had been a member of this religion earlier in life).

St. Augustine is one of the four great Doctors of the Western Church. His feast is on August 28th.

New Film on St Augustine

Prayer of St Augustine

Too late,  have I loved Thee, 
O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved Thee!
Thou wast with me, and I was not with Thee;
I was abroad, running after those beauties which Thou hast made;
those things which could have no being but in Thee, kept me away from Thee.
Thou hast called, Thou hast cried out, and hast pierced my deafness.
Thou hast enlightened, Thou hast shone forth, and my blindness is dispelled.
I have tasted Thee, and am hungry of Thee.
Thou hast touched me, and I am afire with the desire of thy embraces.

At the far end of St Peter's Basilica, Rome, is the tribune, which centres on the Cathedra of St Peter, designed by Bernini in 1666. Above this is the Holy Spirit as a dove, surrounded by 12 rays, symbolising the apostles. Then, around the chair, four of the great Doctors of the Church.To our left, St Augustine and St Ambrose, fathers of the Latin (Western) church, and to our right are St Athanasius and St John Chrysostom, fathers of the Eastern church.

Benedict XVI and St Augustine

There is a story told about Augustine.

Augustine was walking along the seashore, meditating about the unfathomable mystery of the Holy Trinity. A boy was using a shell to pour sea water into a hole he had made in the sand.

Augustine asked what he was doing,

"I am emptying the sea into this hole."

"The task is impossible" Augustine said, to which the boy replied that for Augustine to explain the Blessed Trinity was equally impossible. An angel had spoken the words!

Later, Augustine compared this seemingly useless activity to our limited human minds trying to understand the infinite mystery of the divine. . .

The shell on the coat of arms of the Pope is a symbol for plunging into the unfathomable sea of the Blessed Trinity. In his autobiography Milestones, Memoirs: 1927-1977, he explained his reason for using it in his coat of arms as archbishop of Munich and Freising: It is "above all the sign of our being pilgrims, of our being on a journey."

There are numerous associations in the life of the new Pope with Saint Augustine. His doctoral thesis in 1953 at the University of Munich was a dissertation on 'The People of God and the House of God in the Teaching of Augustine about the Church.' He alludes to Augustine often, and in his encyclical "Spe Salvi" (In Hope we were saved) he says,

29. For Augustine this meant a totally new life. He once described his daily life in the following terms: "The turbulent have to be corrected, the faint-hearted cheered up, the weak supported; the Gospel's opponents need to be refuted, its insidious enemies guarded against; the unlearned need to be taught, the indolent stirred up, the argumentative checked; the proud must be put in their place, the desperate set on their feet, those engaged in quarrels reconciled; the needy have to be helped, the oppressed to be liberated, the good to be encouraged, the bad to be tolerated; all must be loved[22]. The Gospel terrifies me[23] producing that healthy fear which prevents us from living for ourselves alone and compels us to pass on the hope we hold in common."

The Pope has begun a series of talks on Augustine in his general audiences.

General Audiences : (Vatican Information Service)

9th January
16th January
3oth January

2oth February

27th February