MAKE ME GOOD, LORD,BUT NOT YET!
The life of Augustine is fascinating for its gritty humanity. Augustine is not only a saint, theologian and doctor of the church but also “the patron of brewers, because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions” (Catholic Online, 2011). Catholic Online further argues that “his complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break”.
“The principal materials for Augustine’s life are provided by his own writings. In addition to the narrative of his first 33 years in the Confessions, we have about 245 letters from his pen and many personal references in his treatises. About a thousand sermons survive and offer the biographer much exciting matter.
From his boyhood his health gave cause for anxiety. Aged about 7 he fell seriously ill with chest pains; when his death was expected he asked Monica to arrange for his baptism… recovery led to deferment. Throughout his life his health was precarious, and a series of bouts of sickness made him appear prematurely old in middle age…”
Augustine “gave himself up to pleasure with all the vehemence of an ardent nature” (Portalié, 1907). Clearly his behaviour was such that, before being sent to further his education with the help of a wealthy patron to Carthage, Monica implored that he “avoid fornication, above all adultery with another man’s wife”. According to Chadwick, in the eyes of small-town folk Carthage was a full of immoral temptations for a young man such as Augustine. It was in fact a “seething cauldron of shameful sex”.
At first he prayed, but without the sincere desire of being heard, and when he reached Carthage, towards the end of the year 370, every circumstance tended to draw him from his true course: the many seductions of the great city that was still half pagan, the licentiousness of other students, the theatres, the intoxication of his literary success, and a proud desire always to be first, even in evil. Chadwick is even more blunt regarding Augustine’s behaviour in Carthage. “His undergraduate prayer was (famously) ‘grant me chastity but not yet” and “before long he was obliged to confess to Monica that he had formed a sinful liaison with the person who bore him a son (in 372), “the son of his sin” — an entanglement from which he only delivered himself at Milan after fifteen years of its thraldom” led a wild life for some time in Carthage, the capital of Roman Africa, and while having substantial intellectual ability, there was little to suggest at the time that this rural “infant terrible” (without even a working knowledge of Punic) would develop into a theologian and philosopher of note.
Augustine finally “converted” to the faith of his mother Monica. In Christianity, he would remain committed for the remainder of his life. In 391 he became an ordained priest and, in 396, was appointed Bishop of Hippo Regius (on the north African coastline).
Of his works, Augustine’s Confessions, Retractions and The City of God are best known. Confessions is itself comprised of 13 books. Retractions is comprised of two volumes. The City of God is perhaps his most well-known piece of theological writing and was composed in the form of 22 books. On the Trinity, composed in 15 books and written in two distinct phases explores the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. These writings, in particular, were to shape the intellectual foundations of Christianity and create a sense of theology unity that left its “thumbprint on Protestant and Catholic theology”
Augustine’s City of God was destined to shine forth to later times across the great abyss of the dark ages. He completed his giant undertaking in 426. The Vandals had crossed from Spain into Africa and by 430 they were storming the gates of Hippo Regius itself. Within the walls Augustine lay dying. Half a millennium of widespread devastation and destruction closed in upon Europe, as hordes of barbarian invaders flooded in through the crumbling boundaries of the empire. When, from the ashes, the pioneering architects were to begin building anew what was to become the western Christendom of the middle ages, it was from Augustine’s City of God that their guiding principles were derived. It was during this time that Augustine fell ill to a fever. He died on August 28, 430 at the age of 76. He was declared a saint prior to the official canonisation process was articulated during the 12th century.
Most of this information is from
“Augustine of Hippo – A Life” – by Henry Chadwick
PRAYERS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE
Encountering the Lord
Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom. And man desires to praise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to praise thee, this man who is only a small part of thy creation. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and our heart is restless until it comes to rest in thee. (Confessions 1:1)
Late have I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved thee! For behold thou wast within me, and I outside; and I sought thee outside and in my ugliness I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee. I was kept from thee by those things, yet had they not been in thee, they would not have been at all. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my blindness: thou didst breathe fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and do now pant for thee: I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace. (Confessions 10.27)
Behold, O Lord, how that I am thy servant : I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid; thou hast broken my bonds in sunder. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the Name of the Lord.
St Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
(Ps 116:14-15; Confessions 9:1; 10:27)
To the Holy Spirit -
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.
St Augustine of Hippo (354-430)