Saint Spotlight Saint Augustine of Hippo

Feast Day 28 August

Restless Heart

Augustine is remarkable for what he did and extraordinary for what he wrote. If none of his written works had survived, he would still have been a figure to be reckoned with. However, more than five million words of his writings survive, virtually all displaying the strength and sharpness of his mind (and some limitations of range and learning) and some possessing the rare power to attract and hold the attention of readers in both his day and ours.

"Anyone who fails to love can never have known God." 1 John 4:8

The movers and shakers of this world are people of personality and persuasion. Their gift for rhetoric and leadership is not restricted to our time. Such gifts were powerfully present in Augustine of Hippo, a brilliant and talented man of the African Church. The son of Saint Monica, he grew up in a stormy household and developed a dynamic, if troubled personality. His gift for rhetoric, persuasive language, he put to good use by becoming a teacher and philosopher, discarding his early Christian formation in the process. He took a mistress in his teenage years and embraced the philosophy of the Manichees, who believe In the dual principles of good and evil as the foundation of existence. Perhaps it was his personal experience of the polarised world of his family home that drew Augustine to espouse this theory of life, the struggle between good and evil.

Augustine went through a long, interior struggle until his mind and heart were captured by the light and love of Christ. He was greatly helped by his friendship with Saint Ambrose in Rome. Now those powerful gifts of mind would be put at the service of the gospel. In his joy, Augustine cried out, “Late have I loved thee, 0 beauty ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved thee!” But better late than never. Augustine went back to Africa with his Christian faith and became bishop of Hippo. His powers of intellect, put to work in many writings, which are now treasures of the Church, were matched by his pastoral heart, as he cared with great affection for his people.

Augustine’s life was a restless journey until he found Christ. His early days at home were troubled, his youth was wild, his intellectual struggle vigorous, his spiritual battle long and hard. But once he set his heart on Christ, he became a rock, and in a time of great political turmoil, he held the Church in order and calm. Augustine has summed up for us the stories of our own lives, when he said, “You have made us, 0 Lord, for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Adapted from the Living Word Saints and Feasts