The Story

Augustine was the son of a pagan father, Patricius, and a devout Christian mother, Saint Monica. Born in 354 in Tagaste, North Africa, he grew up confused by his parents’ conflicting beliefs. Despite the constant and fervent prayers of his devout mother, in his youth, he was caught in a depraved and immoral existence. For many years, he was blinded to the truth by his attachment to sin. In 370, he went to Carthage to study philosophy and rhetoric. There, he met a Carthaginian woman with whom he lived from the age of 15 to 30. Augustine fathered a son with her, naming him Adeotadus, which means the gift of God. Augustine’s desire for the truth intensified. Nevertheless, he clung to his sinful way of life and was frozen by indecision and lack of trust. Later a teacher of rhetoric at Rome and Milan, he investigated and experimented with several philosophies. During this time, he became deeply attracted to Manichaeism. This cult taught that man’s spirit was from God and his body from the devil. Manicheans espoused a loose moral code through the denial of individual responsibility for evil. Essentially, they blamed all sin on the devil. Yet, when he met Faustus, the leading Manichaean, Augustine quickly became disillusioned and broke with the cult. Augustine’s quest for wisdom continued. Finally, through the preaching of Saint Ambrose in Milan and the prayers of his mother, he discovered what he had been searching for. As he wept in bitter contrition of heart, he heard the voice of a child urging him to read the scripture passage that was before him. He took it up and read. All shadows of his doubt were swept away, and he was converted to Christ. It was St. Ambrose who baptized Augustine in Milan on Easter Sunday, 386. His overjoyed mother, Saint Monica, was present. After the death of his mother in 387, Augustine returned to Rome and eventually to Africa in 388. He sold his property and gave the proceeds to the poor. He was ordained a priest in 391 and was made an assistant to Bishop Valerius of Hippo. He spent the next thirty-five years writing and preaching. He founded a monastery in Hippo and tenaciously contested Manichaeism, Donatism, and other heresies. He was consecrated bishop as coadjutor to Valerius, and, in 396, he succeeded him as Bishop of Hippo. Saint Augustine died in Hippo on August 28, 430. He is a Doctor of the Church. His spiritual journey is described in his famous autobiography, The Confessions. In, it he exclaims “Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you.”