Name: Augustine
Born: 354
Died: 430

St (Aurelius Augustinus) Augustine (of Hippo)


Latin Father of the Church and theologian, born at Tagaste (Souk Arhas), Numidia (now Algeria). Son of a Roman officer, Patricius, a pagan, and a Christian mother, [St] Monica, he practised no religion as a youth but was attracted to Manichaen dualism (Mani). He studied rhetoric and law in Carthage, lived with a mistress for 15 years and fathered Adeodatus. Professor of rhetoric at Milan 383–86, he experienced a sudden conversion in 386 and was baptised by [St] Ambrose in 387. He returned to Tagaste, living a monastic life until chosen as priest of the Christians at Hippo (Annaba, Algeria) in 391. Bishop of Hippo 395–430, he died there during a siege by the Vandals.

His influence on Christian theology was enormous. In his Confessions (c.397), a literary masterpiece, strikingly modern in its psychological insights, he wrote frankly about his early life and feelings, leading to his conversion. De civitate Dei (The City of God), written after 412 is his view of society, and especially, at a time when the fall of the Roman Empire was attributed to its abandonment of its pagan gods, of the relationship between Church and State. On the Trinity is purely dogmatic, and a systematisation of the Christian doctrine on the subject. He also wrote energetically against the Donatist and Pelagian heresies and in doing so clarified and expounded his own convictions: that God’s grace is offered independently of merit to those predestined for salvation and that it cannot be refused when offered, that man suffers from the burden of Adam’s original sin unless through baptism he gains the redemption secured by Christ’s passion, that only by the liberation of his will by God’s grace from the enslavement of evil desires can man enjoy the vision and love of God.

From his writings, which the above sentences summarise in barest outline, not only medieval Catholics but Calvin and Jansen derived heir teaching on predestination. Indeed Augustine’s thoughts as they developed over the years, contained inconsistencies, some of which were corrected in Retractationes (428). His feast is on 28 August.