St. Augustine of Hippo is revered as one of the primary leaders of the Western church. His name conjures up images of great wisdom, unparalleled resilience in faith, and superb eloquence of words. Some of the greatest quotes to be found addressing nature, the journey of life, and the Christian path are credited to St. Augustine. Climbing from humble beginnings, St. Augustine became, and remains to this day, a primary figurehead in the world of theological writing, thought and debate. His ideas are still considered second only to the apostles. Arguably one of the most well known and recognizable of the saints, Augustine of Hippo continues to be revered and adored, his message to the world regularly read and shared, and his courage and resilience in faith used as an inspiration for others.
St. Augustine was born on the thirteenth of November in 354AD, in Tagaste, which is now South-Ahras, Algeria. His mother, a devout Christian, exposed him to Christianity and the church, which he attended regularly with her as a child. Interestingly, the religion did not appeal to him during his adolescence. He found Christianity to have too many rules and instead he found himself invested in a religious and philosophical system called Manichaeism. Its primary claim was that two principles, Light and Dark, God and Matter, are eternal. This idea appealed to him, as it seemed more effective in answering the all encompassing question of evil than his mother’s Christianity. It also had far fewer guidelines, and this offered him more freedom to do as he pleased while still promising eternal delight. (Woodbridge, 86)
Perhaps a primary reason for St. Augustine remaining such a primary figure in the study of theological thought, as well as his exceeding popularity in the minds of the “average” Christian, is that he is abnormally relatable. Unlike so many other saints, Augustine is very open in discussing his colorful past. Unashamed, he confesses to the things he has done, and allows that they are a part of him whether he likes it or not. In his novel Confessions, he admits to having had indulged in many earthly pleasures in his early years:
“But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in him but in myself and his other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.” (Book 1, 40-41)
Among other things, it is known that Augustine took a mistress at the age of seventeen or eighteen. He had a child with her, an illegitimate son, before he was twenty. (Woodbridge, 86)
Around the same time, he became fascinated by philosophy. After reading Cicero’s Hortensius in 373, he chose to seek education in the subject at Madaura and then Carthage. Later he became a teacher of rhetoric, first at Tagaste and then Carthage. By this time he had begun to have serious doubts about Manichaeism, as he continuously found himself disappointed by the lack of answers it could offer him. He traveled to Rome to teach but, finding his students to...