Tag Archives: St Augustine

Saint Augustine of Hippo

St Augustine readingSaint Augustine was born in Tagaste, Souk-Ahras, Algeria on November 13, 354 to Patricius, a pagan, and Monica, a fervent Catholic. We liturgically observed Saint Monica’s feast yesterday.

We know from his writings and the witness of many others that Augustine was endowed with brilliant human, intellectual and spiritual gifts which lead him on a wild pilgrimage of heart and mind.

Following his education, Augustine was an accomplished rhetorician and teacher in Africa, Rome and Milan. His faith journey began with his mother Monica when he was a child but he didn’t complete his theological formation and wasn’t baptized for many years. In fact, he adopted the Manichean heresy as an intellectual lens to judge reality. But as we know from his Testimony, Augustine discerned moments of spiritual growth he decided to embrace Jesus Christ fully Catholic. By this time his common law wife named Una by scholars and who bore him a son, had departed. Conversion meant that marriage was not possible for him.

The gift of Baptism was given him by Saint Ambrose in Milan in 387. It is said that together with his son and some friends, he returned with them to Tagaste to begin a monastic life. While the ministerial priesthood was not in his personal discernment, the Church had decided that Augustine’s vocation was to serve as a priest in Hippo in 391, and later a bishop of that See in 397. Augustine’s ordination was lived lived in the monastic context.

Augustine was a prolific writer, an accomplished preacher, a monastic leader, a theologian, pastor, contemplative, and mystic. On this date in 430 at nearly 76 years of age, with North Africa being invaded by the Vandals and the Church devastated. Augustine mortal remains were first taken to Sardinia and later to Pavia, Italy, where they are now rest in the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro.

I acknowledge my transgression

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Have you ever thought about the scriptural exhortation that “A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit”? What does it mean? What does it mean for me? Why do I need a contrite (a feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming)  heart to be a person of faith? When I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, or approach the confession box my thoughts and feelings zero-in on contrition, sin and what it all means. Some days I am plagued by the heaviness of sin (separation from God but also living divorced from a good sense of self and relations with others). Here, I am talking about the place of mercy –God’s mercy– for me.

The Responsory for a recent reading in the Office of Readings (Sunday, 14th Sunday through the Year) has us sing: My sins are embedded like arrows in my flesh. Lord, before they wound me, heal me with the medicine of repentance.

A clean heart create for me, O God. Put a steadfast spirit within me. Heal me with the medicine of repentance.

I found myself thinking about what Saint Augustine said about sin in one of his sermons. (The italics is Augustine using Scripture.) Perhaps the following portion of the sermon is of interest for you. The spiritual life, indeed, our whole personhood, needs to consider how we deal with sin in our lives.

Saint Augustine said:

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The Most Holy Trinity

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In case you heard a dreadful homily on the Holy Trinity today, you may rely on Saint Augustine. To be fair, this dogma is difficult to comprehend but we do have to give a reasonable explanation to what we believe. The Catholic faith is reasonable on all levels.

In the sacred Liturgy, our first theology, we prayed and lived in the last weeks the mysteries some of the crucial pieces of Christian life and salvation: the Paschal Mystery — the life, death, Resurrection, the Ascension, the Pentecost– and today, the Most Holy Trinity, and soon Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

The teaching of the Church is that the Father created us, we are redeemed by Jesus (the Son) and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. The communio of the Persons of the Trinity demonstrates how we are to live and gives voice to what we aspire: life with God. The most important thing to understand about the Trinity is that God is not a solitary unit, but a community of persons: a community of Love. If God were a single person the love spoken of would be ego-centric. But what is revealed to us is the God is a community of three persons whose other name is Love (or, Mercy) and that Love is shared among themselves and with us. The communio of the Trinity is expressed and lived dynamically with others, that is, in relationship with others.

“There is, accordingly, a good which is alone simple, and therefore alone unchangeable, and this is God. By this Good have all others been created, but not simple, and therefore not unchangeable. “Created,” I say,-that is, made, not begotten. For that which is begotten of the simple Good is simple as itself, and the same as itself. These two we call the Father and the Son; and both together with the Holy Spirit are one God; and to this Spirit the epithet Holy is in Scripture, as it were, appropriated. And He is another than the Father and the Son, for He is neither the Father nor the Son. I say “another,” not “another thing,” because He is equally with them the simple Good, unchangeable and co-eternal. And this Trinity is one God; and none the less simple because a Trinity. For we do not say that the nature of the good is simple, because the Father alone possesses it, or the Son alone, or the Holy Ghost alone; nor do we say, with the Sabellian heretics, that it is only nominally a Trinity, and has no real distinction of persons; but we say it is simple, because it is what it has, with the exception of the relation of the persons to one another. For, in regard to this relation, it is true that the Father has a Son, and yet is not Himself the Son; and the Son has a Father, and is not Himself the Father. But, as regards Himself, irrespective of relation to the other, each is what He has; thus, He is in Himself living, for He has life, and is Himself the Life which He has.”

Saint Augustine, City of God, 11.10

The Spirit writes on your heart, and not on tablets of stone

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Think of the difference between what happened at Pentecost and what happened at Sinai. There, the people stood at a distance. The mood was one of fear rather than love…Scripture tells us that God came down in the form of fire, and while the people stood in terror at a distance he wrote with his finger on tablets of stone…But when the Holy Spirit came, the believers were all together in one place. Instead of terrifying them by descending on a mountain top, he came into the house. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a strong, driving wind. In spite of the noise, no one was afraid…On the mountain there was also smoke, whereas in the upper room there were only clear, steady flames. These came to rest on each one of them, and they began to speak in other tongues…Listen to a person speaking an unknown tongue: it must be evident to you that the Spirit is writing on the heart, and no longer on tablets of stone. So then, it is not on stone, but in your hearts, that the life-giving law of the Spirit has been written. In Christ Jesus, in whom the true Passover has been perfectly celebrated, this law has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Saint Augustine

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Remembering Saint Augustine’s conversion

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You may remember reading this phrase in the Confessions, “Tolle lege.” It means “take up and read.” As is well known that “while he was under conviction of sin, Augustine heard some children singing this phrase as they played — and he concluded that God was telling him to “take up and read” the Scriptures. And the rest is history…

The practice of Lectio Divina is essential for knowing the beauty of the faith.

Today, the Norbertine liturgical calendar celebrates the conversion of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and their holy patron. Let’s pray for the canons of Daylesford Abbey.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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