Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was an influential leader in the early Christian church serving as bishop, evangelist, theologian, and writer of copious works that are still studied to this day. He spent his youth infamously in a hedonistic lifestyle and in active involvement in heretical movements. To the joy of his Christian mother Monica he finally converted to Christianity at the age of 33 and soon would become priest and bishop.
Augustine’s story shows us how Christ reveals himself to an individual over the course of one’s life, sometimes without the person even knowing. The immediate message of Augustine’s life is that is never too late to turn towards God. Augustine wrote of his life and this continuing revelation in his famous work Confessions. His confessional style of writing is widely adopted by other Christians including modern figures such as Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton (all of whom I attempted to read during Lent this year). One lesson I got from Confessions is that Christianity is a relationship, with it’s ups and downs, and the continuing need to open oneself to Christ working in one’s life.
Augustine is also significant because he’s from North Africa on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. The early Christian Church centered on the Holy Land and Europe (even more so in the Middle Ages when Europe was synonymous with Christendom). Augustine demonstrated the true universality of the Church, open to all peoples, even the outsiders. Appropriately, the oldest Catholic church in the United States with a predominately black congregation is named for St. Augustine (which I wrote about in my visit to Washington for the ALA conference in June).
Finishing on a somewhat lighter note, in researching this post I discovered that St. Augustine is the patron saint of brewers. Being very fond of beer I find this patronage working in Augustine’s favor. This Catholic Online article claims that Augustine is the patron of brewers due to his misspent youth. This doesn’t speak to positively though of the fine men and woman who brew beer such as those at Augustiner Bräu, a German beer named for an order of monks named for Augustine of Hippo.
For more on St. Augustine, visit: