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St. Augustine Novena
Although none of them can be singled out as the most pivotal theologian of Church history, it can certainly be said that Saint Augustine of Hippo has long been a central figure to Christian thought, informing both on the nature of God and the nature of Christian morality. Through his central place in the history of Christianity, some historians have appointed Saint Augustine particularly great importance in European and World history.
They have called him the last man of the Classical Age, and the first medieval man. Thus he had imagined that in Platonism he discovered the entire doctrine of the Word and the whole prologue of St. He likewise disavowed a good number of neo-Platonic theories which had at first misled him -- the cosmological thesis of the universal soul, which makes the world one immense animal -- the Platonic doubts upon that grave question: Is there a single soul for all or a distinct soul for each?
But on the other hand, he had always reproached the Platonists, as Schaff very properly remarks Saint Augustine, New York, , p. It was this Divine grace that Augustine sought in Christian baptism. Towards the beginning of Lent, , he went to Milan and, with Adeodatus and Alypius, took his place among the competentes, being baptized by Ambrose on Easter Day, or at least during Eastertide.
The tradition maintaining that the Te Deum was sung on that occasion by the bishop and the neophyte alternately is groundless. Nevertheless this legend is certainly expressive of the joy of the Church upon receiving as her son him who was to be her most illustrious doctor.
It was at this time that Augustine, Alypius, and Evodius resolved to retire into solitude in Africa. Augustine undoubtedly remained at Milan until towards autumn, continuing his works: "On the Immortality of the Soul" and "On Music.
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In all literature there are no pages of more exquisite sentiment than the story of her saintly death and Augustine's grief Confessions, IX. He sailed for Africa after the death of the tyrant Maximus August and after a short sojourn in Carthage, returned to his native Tagaste. Immediately upon arriving there, he wished to carry out his idea of a perfect life, and began by selling all his goods and giving the proceeds to the poor.
Then he and his friends withdrew to his estate, which had already been alienated, there to lead a common life in poverty, prayer, and the study of sacred letters. Augustine did not think of entering the priesthood, and, through fear of the episcopacy, he even fled from cities in which an election was necessary.
One day, having been summoned to Hippo by a friend whose soul's salvation was at stake, he was praying in a church when the people suddenly gathered about him, cheered him, and begged Valerius, the bishop, to raise him to the priesthood. In spite of his tears Augustine was obliged to yield to their entreaties, and was ordained in The new priest looked upon his ordination as an additional reason for resuming religious life at Tagaste, and so fully did Valerius approve that he put some church property at Augustine's disposal, thus enabling him to establish a monastery the second that he had founded.
His priestly ministry of five years was admirably fruitful; Valerius had bidden him preach, in spite of the deplorable custom which in Africa reserved that ministry to bishops. Fortunatus, one of their great doctors, whom Augustine had challenged in public conference, was so humiliated by his defeat that he fled from Hippo. Augustine also abolished the abuse of holding banquets in the chapels of the martyrs. He took part, 8 October, , in the Plenary Council of Africa, presided over by Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, and, at the request of the bishops, was obliged to deliver a discourse which, in its completed form, afterwards became the treatise "De Fide et symbolo.
Enfeebled by old age, Valerius, Bishop of Hippo, obtained the authorization of Aurelius, Primate of Africa, to associate Augustine with himself as coadjutor. Augustine had to resign himself to consecration at the hands of Megalius, Primate of Numidia. He was then forty two, and was to occupy the See of Hippo for thirty-four years. The new bishop understood well how to combine the exercise of his pastoral duties with the austerities of the religious life, and although he left his convent, his episcopal residence became a monastery where he lived a community life with his clergy, who bound themselves to observe religious poverty.
Was it an order of regular clerics or of monks that he thus founded? This is a question often asked, but we feel that Augustine gave but little thought to such distinctions. Be that as it may, the episcopal house of Hippo became a veritable nursery which supplied the founders of the monasteries that were soon spread all over Africa and the bishops who occupied the neighbouring sees. Possidius Vita S. Thus it was that Augustine earned the title of patriarch of the religious, and renovator of the clerical, life in Africa.
Prayers of Augustine | Villanova University
But he was above all the defender of truth and the shepherd of souls. His doctrinal activities, the influence of which was destined to last as long as the Church itself, were manifold: he preached frequently, sometimes for five days consecutively, his sermons breathing a spirit of charity that won all hearts; he wrote letters which scattered broadcast through the then known world his solutions of the problems of that day; he impressed his spirit upon divers African councils at which he assisted, for instance, those of Carthage in , , , and of Mileve in and ; and lastly struggled indefatigably against all errors.
To relate these struggles were endless; we shall, therefore, select only the chief controversies and indicate in each the doctrinal attitude of the great Bishop of Hippo. After Augustine became bishop the zeal which, from the time of his baptism, he had manifested in bringing his former co-religionists into the true Church, took on a more paternal form without losing its pristine ardour - "let those rage against us who know not at what a bitter cost truth is attained.
As for me, I should show you the same forbearance that my brethren had for me when I blind, was wandering in your doctrines" Contra Epistolam Fundamenti, iii. He was propagating his errors in Hippo, and Augustine invited him to a public conference the issue of which would necessarily cause a great stir; Felix declared himself vanquished, embraced the Faith, and, together with Augustine, subscribed the acts of the conference.
In his writings Augustine successively refuted Mani , the famous Faustus , Secundinus , and about the fatalistic Priscillianists whom Paulus Orosius had denounced to him. These writings contain the saint's clear, unquestionable views on the eternal problem of evil, views based on an optimism proclaiming, like the Platonists, that every work of God is good and that the only source of moral evil is the liberty of creatures De Civitate Dei, XIX, c. In vain have the Jansenists maintained that Augustine was unconsciously a Pelagian and that he afterwards acknowledged the loss of liberty through the sin of Adam.
Modern critics, doubtless unfamiliar with Augustine's complicated system and his peculiar terminology, have gone much farther. Margival exhibits St.
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Augustine acknowledges that he had not yet understood how the first good inclination of the will is a gift of God Retractions, I, xxiii, n, 3 ; but it should be remembered that he never retracted his leading theories on liberty, never modified his opinion upon what constitutes its essential condition, that is to say, the full power of choosing or of deciding. Who will dare to say that in revising his own writings on so important a point he lacked either clearness of perception or sincerity?
The Donatist schism was the last episode in the Montanist and Novatian controversies which had agitated the Church from the second century. While the East was discussing under varying aspects the Divine and Christological problem of the Word, the West, doubtless because of its more practical genius, took up the moral question of sin in all its forms.
The general problem was the holiness of the Church; could the sinner be pardoned, and remain in her bosom?
In Africa the question especially concerned the holiness of the hierarchy. How can the holiness of the Church be compatible with the unworthiness of its ministers?
At the time of Augustine's arrival in Hippo, the schism had attained immense proportions, having become identified with political tendencies - perhaps with a national movement against Roman domination. In any event, it is easy to discover in it an undercurrent of anti-social revenge which the emperors had to combat by strict laws.
The strange sect known as "Soldiers of Christ," and called by Catholics Circumcelliones brigands, vagrants , resembled the revolutionary sects of the Middle Ages in point of fanatic destructiveness - a fact that must not be lost sight of, if the severe legislation of the emperors is to be properly appreciated. The history of Augustine's struggles with the Donatists is also that of his change of opinion on the employment of rigorous measures against the heretics; and the Church in Africa, of whose councils he had been the very soul, followed him in the change.
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This change of views is solemnly attested by the Bishop of Hippo himself, especially in his Letters, xciii in the year In the beginning, it was by conferences and a friendly controversy that he sought to re-establish unity. He inspired various conciliatory measures of the African councils, and sent ambassadors to the Donatists to invite them to re-enter the Church, or at least to urge them to send deputies to a conference This madness of the Circumcelliones required harsh repression, and Augustine, witnessing the many conversions that resulted therefrom, thenceforth approved rigid laws.
However, this important restriction must be pointed out: that St. Augustine never wished heresy to be punishable by death - Vos rogamus ne occidatis Letter c, to the Proconsul Donatus. But the bishops still favoured a conference with the schismatics, and in an edict issued by Honorius put an end to the refusal of the Donatists. He is a Doctor of the Church, a Western Father of the Church, and one of the most distinguished theologians in the history of the Church. You may be trying to access this site from a secured browser on the server.
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