THE LIFE OF OUR HOLY FATHER AUGUSTINE

AUGUSTINE THE STUDENT

Augustine was born in 354 in Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian; his father Patricius was a pagan who converted to Christianity on his deathbed. Augustine began his education on the lap of his mother Monica, and what she taught him about Jesus created a thirst in him for our Saviour that never left him not even when he strayed so far away from the faith in his ten years with the Manichees.
From the time when my mother fed me at the breast my infant heart had been suckled dutifully on his name, the name of your Son, my Saviour. Deep inside my heart his name remained (Conf. 3,4)
Augustine never read the scriptures as a young boy because when he came upon them during his time at the university in Carthage, he was very disappointed by their writing style, so much so that he could not get through to their content (Conf. 3,5)
His formal education started at home where he learnt to read, write and make some basic arithmetic. These elementary lessons were very valuable to him because they were more practical.
There was however, one subject Augustine never liked at all. That subject was Greek. One of the reasons Augustine gave for not liking this language was that it was forced on him. “I was constantly subjected to violent threats and cruel punishments to make me learn Greek” (Conf 1, 14). Being forced to learn Greek and other subjects brings him to give us a very important norm of education, namely that we learn better in a free spirit of curiosity than under fear and compulsion. However, true as this statement it may be, It’s hardly a guide because there are some things which our students just have to know and learn whether they like them or not, or see any reason for studying them or not.
As a young boy in Thagaste, Augustine had great reason to fear being beaten by his teachers because beating the students was a well established custom in the elementary schools of the time. Augustine tells us that his prayer to God in those days was that God should not let him be beaten at school.
Patricius, Augustine’s father had greater things in mind for his highly intelligent and very promising young son. Patricius wanted to give his son Augustine the very best education possible which was then only available in Carthage the capital of Roman North Africa and the seat of the best university in that region. And do this, Patricius had a difficult task ahead of him, that is, to raise sufficient funds for such a venture, for as Augustine tells us, “his determination was greater than his means”(Conf 2,3). With all the funds gathered, Augustine was able to go Carthage. He was about 17 years old when he went to the university at Carthage.

AUGUSTINE THE TEACHER

After finishing his studies at the university, Augustine returned to his home town of Thagaste and set up his own school of rhetoric. In his school of rhetoric, he only wanted good, honest students, that is, those who would use their knowledge of public speaking not only to save the innocent but to also save the lives of those who were guilty. He did his best to teach them honestly. He taught from his heart. After the death of his close friend, Augustine went back to Carthage and began teaching in the university. While teaching at Carthage he wrote his first book, Beauty and Proportion. He was 26 when he wrote this book, fifteen years later, he wrote his Confessions.
Augustine taught for seven years. He taught literature and public speaking. While he was teaching students in Rome, an important position came open to him. The city of Milan needed a teacher of literature and speech. He applied, got the job and moved to Milan where he met Bishop Ambrose who led to his conversion.

AUGUSTINE THE BISHOP

After Augustine’s conversion to the faith, he was delighted to give up teaching rhetoric because he has chosen to be a servant of God and also because he had problem with breathing and speaking.
Augustine turned his parental home into a kind of religious house. He lived together with some friends who desired a life of service to God. They fasted, prayed and performed good works, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord. Whatever God revealed to him in prayer and meditation, Augustine shared with people in sermons and books.
He was ordained to the priesthood after a visit to Hippo in 391 and a bishop in 396. According to Theodore tack, O.S.A, Augustine did not write his homilies. Thankfully however, there were secretaries located throughout the church who took notes of what he said and preached. What he preached came from the heart and was expected to touch the heart. This also explains the importance of the heart in Augustinian education.
According to Possidius, Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. He died on 28 August 430.
Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim, and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII. His feast day is 28 August, the day on which he died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.