St. Augustine was born in Tagaste in modern Algeria on November 13, 354. He was brought up in a Christian atmosphere by his mother, St. Monica, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. Augustine went to Carthage to study. After a while, he left the practice of the Christian faith and spent many years in sinful living and in false beliefs. His mother Monica prayed daily for her son’s conversion. In Milan, the marvelous sermons of St. Ambrose made their impact too.
Finally, Augustine became convinced that Christianity was the true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted after reading the life of St. Anthony of Egypt, whose feast we celebrate on January 17. Augustine felt ashamed. “What are we doing?” he cried to one of his friends. “Unlearned people are taking heaven by force. Yet we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!”
Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine went into the garden and prayed, “How much longer, Lord? Why don’t I put an end to my sinning now?” Just then he heard a child singing the words, “Take up and read!” Thinking that God intended this as a message for him, he picked up the Bible and opened it. His eyes fell on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13, where Paul says to stop living immoral lives and to live in imitation of Jesus. It was just what Augustine needed. From then on, he began a new life.
He was baptised on Holy Saturday, 387. Four years later, he was ordained a priest. In 396, he was made bishop of Hippo when Bishop Valerius died. Augustine wrote many works to explain and defend the Catholic faith. Even today, his letters, sermons, and treatises are important to the study of theology and philosophy. On the wall of his room, he had the following sentence written in large letters: “Here we do not speak evil of anyone.” St. Augustine defended the Church’s teachings against errors, lived simply, and supported the poor. He preached very often and prayed with great fervor right up until his death. “Too late have I loved you,” he once cried to God. But Augustine spent the rest of his life in loving God and leading others to love him, too.