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Saint Augustine

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Lived 13 Nov 354 - 28 Aug 430
Rank and group: Bishop, Doctor
Feast day: 28 August (alt, 28 Feb, 2 April or 4 May)
Patron saint: Theologians, printers, brewers
Attributes: Child with shell; broken, pierced or flaming heart.
Status: Roman Martyrology

Unlike most saints, Augustine provided an autobiography, his Confessions. He is sometimes represented with a Holy Trinity, an object of his contemplation. He was rare and extraordinary, a genius. His theological teachings remain relevant today, and his intense adoration of god made him a model of sainthood. He had an illegitimate child amidst his wild youth when he prayed for chastity but humbly acknowledged he was still left yearning.

He devoted all his energy and extraordinary intellectual gifts to the defence of Christian faith and morals and to the refutation of heresy and schism, thus opposing Manichaeans, Priscillianists, Donatists, Pelagian and Semipelagians, and Arian Vandals. He is the Doctor of Grace and the Oracle of the Western Church. His leading ideas and principles on religious life are still followed by numerous canons, friars, hermits and nuns. He is one of the most prolific, and certainly the most influential, of all the doctors. His two works, the Confessions and the City of God, are reckoned among the world's classics. (Book of Saints, p 79)

Birth13 Nov 354Augustine was born in Tagaste in modern-day Algeria. He was the son of Saint Monica.
YouthAugustine led a hedonistic youth, even nearly becoming a Manichaean. He was a professor of rhetoric, an taught successively at Tagate, Carthage, Rome (383) and Milan (384-386). He had an illegitimate son Adeodatus, who would later become venerated a saint.
Baptism387The influence of Saint Ambrose, Saint Paul's epistles and some neoplatonist writings brought Augustine to be baptized at age 32 by Saint Ambrose on Easter, 387.
387Augustine returned to Africa to be with his dying mother in Ostia.
Monastic Life388-391August lived a sort of monastic life with a few friends near Tagaste.
PriesthoodIn 391, Augustine was ordained priest at Hippo and three years later coadjutor-bishop of Hippo; his great intellectual output began.
RelicsHis relics were first kept at Sardinia, then Pavia, where they remain in the basilica of Saint Peter.

Child and the Shell

When walking along the shore one day, Augustine saw a child running back and forth between the sea and a hole in the sand, filling a shell each time with water and dropping the water into the hole. Augustine asked what he was doing, and the child said, "Pouring the sea into my hole." Augustine kindly remarked it was impossible, and the child retorted that it was just as impossible for Augustine to understand the Holy Trinity.