St. Augustine of Hippo was born on November 13, 354 in Thagaste; known today as the Souk Ahras in Algeria, a Roman provincial city in Africa. Augustine was educated since he was 11 in Madaurus, found at least 19 miles south of Thagaste. He received education from Madaurus despite its background as a pagan Roman city. It was Augustine’s mother Monica whom taught him the basics of Christian education and enrolled him in a Catholic school. Upon his childhood and his awareness while being with fellow Christians, he understood three things and kept it very close to his heart: the Divine Providence, the future life with terrible sanctions and Christ the Savior. However, his childhood also brought particular events that has questioned his faith and eventually tried his very best to protect the position he has selected to follow. He then started writing regarding his opinions on science and faith. He struggled to understand his religion more closely and moved to Italy where he started reading books on Plato and other great philosophers. But upon the time he started reading the Holy Scriptures, he realized that his faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to understand truth and salvation. He devoted himself into learning the doctrines of the Church and mixed it with his Platonic philosophy. This also enabled him to write his books which revolved in important themes such as truth, happiness, order and a life with God.
His desire to be converted to Christianity happened on 387 around Easter. Being a priest was something Augustine did not think of doing at first due to the fear of the clergy. However, Augustine’s priesthood was rallied by the people when he was praying in the Church of Hippo for his friend’s soul. The people wanted the current bishop of Hippo, Valerius to teach Augustine the ways of the priest and ordain him as one. Augustine had to accept the request of the people and eventually became a priest in 391. Priesthood for Augustine was another reason for him to continue his faith since he left Thagaste. Augustine was then known and priced as a prodigy when it comes to defending the church regarding heresy. Valerius eventually selected Augustine as his coadjutor due to his age and Augustine understood his new role as bishop. He became the defender of truth and preached almost every day. Many have noticed Augustine’s passion and were enticed into listening to his sermons and solutions to problems he has often been faced with since he was made bishop. The African Council was also impressed with Augustine upon his tenure as the Bishop of Hippo. Some of the most notable controversies where the Manichaean controversy in which Augustine protected man’s free will and surmised that he does not yet fully understand its concept but he does know for a part that will is from God; and the Donatist controversy which Augustine had a hard time understanding Donatists as he had a different concept on employing heretics.
Upon his waning years around 426, Augustine wanted to forego the elections that would take place to know who would succeed him as it would tear his beloved city apart. He selected his deacon Heraclius as his successor and transferred to him all the power on his church. If only Count Boniface revolted the very next year of his retirement, Augustine wanted to rest in Africa till he peacefully passes on. But the revolt happened and many have fled to Hippo for protection. Augustine defended the oppressed in countless books and a conference a year after the revolt started. He also tried to make Couth Boniface the empress to make amends. However, Boniface was still vanquished despite the return of peace so Boniface fled to Hippo. Hippo of course suffered the consequences of harboring these vanquished priests and been on siege for almost eighteen months. Despite Augustine’s fervor on protecting the oppressed, he realized he has contracted a fatal illness and died peacefully on August 28, 430 in Hippo (Portalie)
Augustine’s work “The Confessions of St. Augustine” depicts Augustine’s life upon his childhood and his insights regarding particular themes and teachings of the church and the Holy Scriptures. He also wrote the book in his very own perspective which was well noted in the writing style he has invoked upon writing the book. The book is divided into thirteen different chapters or books as he sorts them. According to Outler (1994), Augustine notes that his Confessions is his way on praising God and through his narration, he tries to use the book to interest other men in understanding God and his teachings. Augustine also noted that his Confessions are his way of seeking God’s aid to continue striving hard for his ideals and dreams. Outler has cited that these statements made by Augustine regarding the Confessions are recorded in some of Augustine’s later works before his passing namely the “Retractations II”, written in 427; “De Dono Perseverantiae XX” written in 428 and “Letter to Darius” written in 429
Augustine (2008) begins Book I by giving his praises to God through invocation. This first book also is the time where Augustine narrates his early beginnings as a child, namely his birth and childhood and up to the time he was 15. He also tries to go back in his memories to seek out when he started to actually have this mysterious desire to understand the teachings of God and throughout the book, he continues to praise Him for the graces he, Augustine, gets each passing day. The first book also narrates, in Augustine’s own words, particular events in Augustine’s life when he first entered school. He ends the first book through another fervent prayer to God. The second book concentrates on Augustine’s teenage years where he felt a lot of urges for lust, mischief and a sense of boredom. He cited a particular memory in this book where he questioned what where his motives in doing the act of stealing and what was he trying to accomplish with them. The third book continued on to his teen years, most notably on his seventeenth to his nineteenth by the time he completed his studies. He also narrates how he discovered Hortensius, Cicero’s philosophical masterpiece which has enticed him and he also notes how his mother wishes him to return back to the grace of God. The fourth book was about Augustine’s years while with the Manicheans and his desire to learn more in terms of astrology, theology and philosophy. He also discusses how his friend’s death made him analyze the concept of grief. The fifth book now narrates to the reader Augustine’s life when he is 29 years old. The book itself concentrates on his pondering by the time he discovered the flaws of the Manichaean belief he was interested in and now stressed how Ambrose changed his concept and returned him back to God’s light while he was in Italy. The sixth book now narrates how Augustine’s mother Monica followed him to Milan where he was currently listening to teachings of the Church in a catechumen. Augustine recounts how he tried to ask for Ambrose to help him in his problems but Ambrose has declined his request.
The seventh book now narrates Augustine’s continuous rejection of the Manichean beliefs regarding the concept of God and evil. He also now notes how he started to divulge in Neo-Platonism by comparing Platonism and Christianity and then his notion on the Plutonian wisdom. He then starts to recount that this was also the time he started to study the Bible, specifically Paul’s writings in the New Testament. He also recalls that this is the start of his quest in understanding Jesus Christ and following Him with all his faith. The eight book now is on his pilgrimage on the zenith of his life, his 32nd year. He notes that this year was his happiest time of his life as he is now converted as a Christian. He also recalled a story told by Simplicianus regarding the conversion of Marius Victorinus. The ninth book ends his narration of his life before he has decided to write the book. He then narrates notable events in this part of the book on the time he was baptized with his friends and the death of his mother. He closed the book by giving a prayer to the souls of the departed, especially for his mother. The tenth book now divulges the reasons why Augustine has written the book and tries to draft the pattern on how men come to God’s arms. He then concludes this book by detailing how important a Mediator is in the relationship between God and Man. The eleventh to the thirteenth book now details Augustine’s study on the Holy Scriptures and explains the Book of Genesis. He answers particular questions regarding this particular book in the Bible and tries to give his answers on them. He ends the book by meditating all the goodness of the creation and promised to rest as God has done so on the Sabbath.
The original text of the book is quite hard to understand due to its oratorical and old English writing style. But upon reading the different translations and versions of the book, it was quite understandable. I have used the Modern English Version to understand most of the passages Augustine has written in terms of his positions especially in the latter books written. The text itself shows the reader how Christianity was back in the early times when different sectors have challenged the Church’s position on some important controversies. Upon reading the Confessions, it has added a considerable amount of knowledge on the concept of truth, faith and Christian understanding which Augustine has been noted for. The book has also showed me in its own way how dark the Church had to endure because of the criticisms and struggles it had to face just because different royal leaders did not agree with their opinion.
Augustine of Hippo. The Confessions of St. Augustine: The Modern English Version. Grand Rapids: Revell, 2008. Print.
Outler, Albert. Augustine: Confessions. Fordham University, 1994. Web. 7 September. 2011. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/confessions-bod.asp>.
Portalié, Eugène. “Life of St. Augustine of Hippo.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New
York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Web. 8 Sept. 2011 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02084a.htm>.