Augustine of Hippo
The great St. Augustine’s life is unfolded to us in documents of unrivaled richness, and of no great character of ancient times have we information comparable to that contained in the “Confessions”, which relate the touching story of his soul, the “Retractations,” which give the history of his mind, and the “Life of Augustine,” written by his friend Possidius, telling of the saint’s apostolate.
Augustine, a Latin church father, is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. He “established anew the ancient faith” (conditor antiquae rursum fidei), according to his contemporary, Jerome. In his early years he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterward by the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus. After his conversion to Christianity and baptism (387), Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and different perspectives. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, and he framed the concepts of original sin and just war.
When the Roman Empire in the West was starting to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Church as a spiritual City of God (in a book of the same name), distinct from the material Earthly City. His thought profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. Augustine’s City of God was closely identified with the church, the community that worshipped God.
In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order; his memorial is celebrated 28 August, the day of his death. He is the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, best internet service provider and a number of cities and dioceses. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation due to his teaching on salvation and divine grace. In the Eastern Orthodox Church he is blessed, and his feast day is celebrated on 15 June. Among the Orthodox, he is called Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed.
The philosopher Saint Augustine of Hippo is one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity. His efforts against the Manichean, Arian and Pelagain heresies shaped the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. His Confessions tells the story of his own conversion from Manicheanism to Christianity. His philosophical ideas anticipated Saint Thomas Aquinas and Descartes. His three-volume City of God remains a classic of Christian apologetics. And many find the roots of some of the darker sides of Christian doctrine, from the emphasis on original sin to the second-rate status for women, in his works. John and Ken welcome Georgetown University Provost James O’Donnell, author of Augustine, Sinner & Saint: A New Biography. Listen to MP3