HIS NAME IS AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, A PROUDLY AFRICAN SAINT, VOL. 5, NO. 18

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A Roman Mission arrived in Africa, precisely Carthage in 399 with authority to close the temples. It was one of the decisive periods in the official suppression of paganism in Africa. In the same year religious riots erupted that caused at least sixty deaths. By 401, the Catholic bishops in council at Carthage had sent an embassy to Rome to appeal for even more legislation to uproot the remnant of idolatry. Outstanding among these bishops was Augustine of Hippo. The celebrated genius of the Western Church.
He was born in 354 in a small town, Thagaste, in Latin Africa (now part of modern Algeria). His father, a man of slender means, was a convert to Christianity late in life, while his mother, Monica, was a lifelong devout Christian.
While student in Carthage, he plunged into the sensual excitements of the teeming city and was soon fell in love with a girl who bore him a son, Adeodatus; she remained his concubine for the next fifteen years.
While reading one special book called Cicero’s Hortensius, he was suddenly stirred by a passionate desire for wisdom but where to find it was an unresolved puzzle for many years. In his bewilderment, he turned to the group Manicheans, whose rejection of the Old Testament and dualistic interpretation of the problem of evil (they attributed evil to a supreme principle), soothe his sense of guilt about his own sexual abberations.
In the autumn of 384, he was appointed professor of rhetoric to the court of the Emperor at Milan, the Western capital at the time. Milan proved to be decisive for his intellectual and spiritual history. As Manichean could not satisfy his quest for truth, he fell under the spell of the formidable Ambrose, chosen bishop (eleven years before) in a clamorous election by the people. The young professor (Augustine) began to attend the cathedral service and was greatly impressed by the prelate’s (Ambrose) powerful presentation of the Catholic faith, his easy familiarity with current intellectual trends, and his cogent answers to the Manichean criticism of the Old Testament.
Augustine circle of influential friends at Milan introduced him to the Neo-Platonic movement, which attracted many Christian intellectuals of the day. They found in this system, a remarkable affinity with their faith. He studied Plotinus intensively and was able thereby to shake off a lingering materialism and to reach the concept of a purely spiritual reality. Nevertheless, the influence of St. Paul, who now also began to preoccupy his thoughts helped him to realize that philosophy was not enough to overcome the moral contradictions of our nature; God alone incarnate in the flesh and revealed in the scriptures could do so. In spite of the knowledge, he did immediately seek for Catholic baptism and necessary renunciations. However, his doubts disappeared and the soul flooded with light and certainty when he providentially heard a child’s voice cry out, “Take and read,” he reached for a copy of Paul’s epistles, opened them at random, and glanced down “no drunken orgies, no promiscuity, or licentiousness,” he read, and no wrangling or jealousy, let your armor be the lord Jesus Christ.” It was finally settled in that moment, and his journey towards total conversion began.
Augustine abandoned his plans for marriage (he had already dismissed his poor mistress) his public career, his hopes of financial security and social prestige, he retired to a country villa Cassiciacum together with friends and his mother in a simple life of prayer and contemplation. He received baptism at the hands of Ambrose on the night of April 24-25 (Holy Saturday) 387.
While returning to his home town Thagaste, his mother, Monica died in the Roman seaport of Ostia, leaving him in the Throes of uncontrollable grief. In late 388 in Carthage, death struck again carrying off his son Adeodatus. While attending the liturgy at the cathedral, he was seized by the congregation and brought before the bishop, Valerius, who ordained him on the spot (This was a usual occurrence in those days). In 393, he honored with an invitation to address the African Catholic Bishops at one of their councils. In 395, Valerius chose him as his co-adjutor, and few years later, Augustine succeeded him as bishop of Hippo. There he remained for thirty-five years, until his death.

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