Saint Augustine of Hippo
Theologian, Philosopher, Bishop of Hippo Regius
Lifetime: 354 - 430 Passed: ≈ 1592 years ago
Augustine of Hippo also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian, philosopher, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period. His many important works include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.
According to his contemporary, Jerome, Augustine "established anew the ancient Faith". In his youth he was drawn to the major Persian religion, Manichaeism, and later to Neoplatonism. After his conversion to Christianity and baptism in 386, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and perspectives. Believing the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, he helped formulate the doctrine of original sin and made significant contributions to the development of just war theory. When the Western Roman Empire began to disintegrate, Augustine imagined the Church as a spiritual City of God, distinct from the material Earthly City. His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. The segment of the Church that adhered to the concept of the Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople closely identified with Augustine's On the Trinity.
Augustine is recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. He is also a preeminent Catholic Doctor of the Church and the patron of the Augustinians. His memorial is celebrated on 28 August, the day of his death. Augustine is the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, and a number of cities and dioceses. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists and Lutherans, consider him one of the theological fathers of the Protestant Reformation due to his teachings on salvation and divine grace. Protestant Reformers generally, and Martin Luther in particular, held Augustine in preeminence among early Church Fathers. Luther was, from 1505 to 1521, a member of the Order of the Augustinian Eremites.
In the East, his teachings are more disputed and were notably attacked by John Romanides. But other theologians and figures of the Eastern Orthodox Church have shown significant approbation of his writings, chiefly Georges Florovsky. The most controversial doctrine associated with him, the filioque, was rejected by the Orthodox Church. Other disputed teachings include his views on original sin, the doctrine of grace, and predestination. Nevertheless, though considered to be mistaken on some points, he is still considered a saint and has influenced some Eastern Church Fathers, most notably Gregory Palamas. In the Orthodox Church his feast day is celebrated on 15 June. The historian Diarmaid MacCulloch has written: "Augustine's impact on Western Christian thought can hardly be overstated; only his beloved example, Paul of Tarsus, has been more influential, and Westerners have generally seen Paul through Augustine's eyes."
Augustine of Hippo, also known as Saint Augustine or Saint Austin, is known by various cognomens throughout the many denominations of the Christian world, including Blessed Augustine and the Doctor of Grace.
Hippo Regius, where Augustine was the bishop, was in modern-day Annaba, Algeria.
Augustine was born in 354 in the municipium of Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in the Roman province of Numidia. His mother, Monica or Monnica, was a devout Christian; his father Patricius was a pagan who converted to Christianity on his deathbed.
At the age of 11, Augustine was sent to school at Madaurus (now M'Daourouch), a small Numidian city about 19 miles (31 km) south of Thagaste. There he became familiar with Latin literature, as well as pagan beliefs and practices.
At the age of 17, through the generosity of his fellow citizen Romanianus, Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric, though it was above the financial means of his family. In spite of the good warnings of his mother, as a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits. The need to gain their acceptance forced inexperienced boys like Augustine to seek or make up stories about sexual experiences.
Augustine began a relationship with a young woman in Carthage. Though his mother wanted him to marry a person of his class, the woman remained his lover for over fifteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus (372–388), which means "Gift from God", who was viewed as extremely intelligent by his contemporaries. In 385, Augustine ended his relationship with his lover in order to prepare to marry a ten-year-old heiress. (He had to wait for two years because the legal age of marriage for women was twelve.) By the time he was able to marry her, however, he had decided to become a Catholic priest and the marriage did not happen.
In late August of 386, at the age of 31, having heard of Ponticianus's and his friends' first reading of the life of Anthony of the Desert, Augustine converted to Christianity.
Shortly before Augustine's death, the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that had converted to Arianism, invaded Roman Africa. The Vandals besieged Hippo in the spring of 430, when Augustine entered his final illness. According to Possidius, one of the few miracles attributed to Augustine, the healing of an ill man, took place during the siege. According to Possidius, Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so he could read them. He directed the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. He died on 28 August 430. Shortly after his death, the Vandals lifted the siege of Hippo, but they returned soon after and burned the city. They destroyed all but Augustine's cathedral and library, which they left untouched.
Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim, and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII. His feast day is 28 August, the day on which he died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, and a number of cities and dioceses. He is invoked against sore eyes.
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