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  • 8/29/2004

Augustine of Hippo

(Nov 13,354- August 28, 430)

Early Life and Conversion

Augustine was born at Thagaste (modern Souk-Ahras, Algeria), a small town in the Romanprovince of Numidia. He received a classical education that both schooled him in Latin literature and enabled him to escape from his provincial upbringing. Trained at Carthage in rhetoric (public oratory), which was a requisite for a legal or political career in the Roman Empire, he became a teacher of rhetoric inCarthage, in Rome, and finally in Milan, a seat of imperial government at the time. At Milan, in 386, Augustine underwent religious conversion. He retired from his public position, received baptism from Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and soon returned toNorth Africa. In 391, he was ordained to the priesthood in Hippo Regius (modernBone, Algeria); five years later he became bishop.
The first part of Augustine's life (to 391) can be seen as a series of attempts to reconcile his Christian faith with his classical culture. His mother, Saint Monica, had reared him as a Christian. Although her religion did not hold an important place in his early life, Christianity never totally lost its grip upon him. As a student inCarthage, he encountered the classical ideal of philosophy's search for truth and was fired with enthusiasm for the philosophic life. Unable to give up Christianity altogether, however, he adopted Manichaeism, a Christian heresy claiming to provide a rational Christianity on the basis of a purified text of Scripture. Nine years later, his association with the Manichees ended in disillusionment; and it was in a religiously detached state that Augustine arrived in Milan. There he discovered, through a chance reading of some books of Neo-Platonism, a form of philosophy that seemed compatible with Christian belief. At the same time, he found that he was at last able to give up the ambitions for public success that had previously prevented him from embracing the philosophic life. The result was the dramatic conversion that led Augustine to devote his life to the pursuit of truth, which he now identified with Christianity. With a small group of friends, he returned toNorth Africa and, in Thagaste, established a religious community dedicated to the intellectual quest for God.

Later Life and Influence

Augustine's ordination, unexpectedly forced upon him by popular acclamation during a visit to Hippo in 391, brought about a fundamental change in his life and thought. It redirected his attention from the philosophic Christianity he had discovered inMilan to the turbulent, popular Christianity of North Africa's cities and towns.
His subsequent career as priest and bishop was to be dominated by controversy and debate. Especially important were his struggles with the Donatists and with Pelagianism. The Donatists promoted a Christian separatist movement, maintaining that only they were the true church and that, as a result, only their Sacraments were valid. Augustine's counterattack emphasized unity, not division, as the mark of true Christianity and insisted that the validity of the sacraments depended on Christ himself, not on any human group or institution. Pelagianism, an early 5th-century Christian reform movement, held that no person could be excused from meeting the full demand of God's law. In doing so, it stressed the freedom of the human will and its ability to control motives and regulate behavior. In contrast, Augustine argued that because of Original Sin no one can entirely govern his own motivation and that only the help of God's Grace makes it possible for persons to will and to do good. In both of these controversies, Augustine opposed forces that set some Christians apart from others on grounds either of religious exclusivism or of moral worth.
Augustine must be reckoned as one of the architects of the unified Christianity that survived the barbarian invasions of the 5th century and emerged as the religion of medievalEurope. He succeeded in bringing together the philosophic Christianity of his youth and the popular Christianity of his congregation in Hippo. In doing so, he created a theology that has remained basic to Western Christianity, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, ever since. Feast day: Aug. 28.

Taken from:

http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/august.htmAlso see:



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