- Term Papers and Free Essays

St. Augustine

Essay by   •  March 22, 2011  •  2,183 Words (9 Pages)  •  2,147 Views

Essay Preview: St. Augustine

Report this essay
Page 1 of 9

Augustine was a great philosopher and author. He wrote many books on theology and the human role in God's plan. His works inspired many Christians and people to change their lives and to think more about their religion and human virtues. Gifted with a brilliant mind, he enjoyed academics and worldly pleasures in life until he became restless for truth and virtue. Successively disappointed by Platonic philosophy and Manichaen theology, he found his rest in the God of Christianity at the age of 32.

Augustine is one of the few ancient figures who recorded a great deal of information about their life and times. In fact, he is one of very few historical figures to have written an autobiography, something that until recent centuries was rarely seen. In his Confessions, a spiritual autobiography diary of his adventurous journey to salvation, Augustine gives historians a detailed account of his life and experiences up to his conversion.

Augustine was born in 354 A.D. in Thagaste, a town in what is today Algeria. His mother was Monica, a devout Christian, who was later canonized as a saint for her influence on her son's life. His father, Patricius, was a pagan of significant status. Patricius converted to Christianity and was baptized shortly before his death. Augustine was a brilliant student and excelled in all subjects and he especially like philosophy. Unfortunately he often had doubts about religion and human virtues. This led to his career as a teacher, author, bishop, and philosopher. At age 17, Augustine fell in love with a woman whom he never named. Although Augustine largely admonishes the relationship in the Confessions, explaining that he was obsessed with the idea of romantic love and had no control of his lustful desires, it seems clear he loved her deeply. Unfortunately, he felt he could not marry her because she was of a lower social class. This unnamed women therefore became Augustine's concubine for 13 years. By all accounts he was faithful to her. In their second year together, when he was 18, she gave birth to a son. He was given the name Adeodatus, meaning, "gift from God."

Augustine first set up a school in Thagaste where he taught grammar. The following year he moved to Carthage where he set up a school of rhetoric. He would remain there for nine years. In 383 A.D. he moved to Rome and would set up a school where he believed the best students lived. Augustine was disgusted with the quality of students he found in Rome. When the time came for his students to pay a fee, they simply fled away and avoided him. Finally his friends in Rome got him a new job as a rhetoric professor in Rome's high court and showed him the face of Rome he had always believed in. During this time Augustine won the favor of most of the Roman council and became a widely respected professor. He also became a strong follower in Manichaeism. Augustine later became very confused in his beliefs, his mother wanted him to become Christian, he had friends who were devout Manichaeins, and he had found hope in the new philosophies called Neoplatonism and Platonism.

In the summer of 386 A.D., after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine underwent a thoughtful personal disaster. This led him to convert to Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Rome, give up any ideas of marriage, and devote himself entirely to serving God and to the practices of priesthood, which included celibacy. Key to this conversion was a childlike voice he heard telling him in a sing-song voice:

I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And, not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto Thee: and Thou, O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry for ever? Remember not our former iniquities, for I felt that I was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words: How long, how long, "to-morrow, and tomorrow?" Why not now? why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness?
So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, " (Take up and read) " Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

(The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book VIII, Paragraphs 28 and 29.)

After this at his house he picked up a book written by the Apostle Paul Epistle to the Romans, and opened it and instantly read: (Romans 13: 13-14) "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, in concupiscence." He would detail his spiritual journey in his famous Confessions, which became a classic of both Christian theology and world literature. Augustine, along with his son, Adeodatus, was baaptized on the Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan, and soon thereafter in 388 A.D. he returned to Africa. On his way back to Africa his mother died, as did his son soon after, leaving him alone in the world without family. This was a very difficult process for Augustine and he did not know how he would do on his own.

Upon his return to North Africa he sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba, in Algeria). He became a famous preacher



Download as:   txt (12.5 Kb)   pdf (216.5 Kb)   docx (13.5 Kb)  
Continue for 8 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2011, 03). St. Augustine. Retrieved 03, 2011, from

"St. Augustine" 03 2011. 2011. 03 2011 <>.

"St. Augustine.", 03 2011. Web. 03 2011. <>.

"St. Augustine." 03, 2011. Accessed 03, 2011.