St. Augustine was the son of St. Monica, a pious Christian, and Patricius, a pagan. Throughout his youth, he engaged in a sinful and hedonistic lifestyle. Hedonism refers to a school of thought that identifies pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, as something that plays a central role in one’s life. Later on, he became a follower of Manichaeism – a religious sect apart from Christianity and Islam, which began to spread at that time. This sect teaches that a certain prophet Mani came to complete the teachings of Zoroaster (of Zoroastrianism), Buddha (of Buddhism), and Jesus Christ (Christianity). He also had a relationship with a woman to whom he had a son born out of wedlock.
He went to Milan to teach rhetoric, and it was there that he met St. Ambrose, then Bishop of Milan and a renowned theologian and orator. As a person interested in rhetoric, he went to visit St. Ambrose and maintained contact with him until he was converted to Christianity and was baptized by St. Ambrose himself. He was later on ordained a priest and later, a bishop. For the rest of his life, he combated heresies such as Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. He was able to clarify the dogmas on the Trinity, grace, and the Church, wrote over 500 homilies, the book “City of God” which was a response to pagan allegations against Christianity, and the book “Confessions” where he talked about his sinful youth and his conversion.
Here is an excerpt from his book Confessions:
“Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance into the inmost depth of my soul. I was able to do so because you were my helper. On entering into myself I saw, as it were with the eye of the soul, what was beyond the eye of the soul, beyond my spirit: your immutable light. It was not the ordinary light perceptible to all flesh, nor was it merely something of greater magnitude but still essentially akin, shining more clearly and diffusing itself everywhere by its intensity. No it was something entirely distinct, something altogether different from all these things: and it did not rest above my mind as oil on the surface of water, nor was it above me as Heaven is above the Earth. This light was above me because it has made me; I was below it because I was created by it. He who has come to know the truth knows this light.
O Eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread. I learned that I was in a region unlike yours and far distant from you, and I thought I heard your voice from on high: “I am the food of grown men; grow then, and you will feed on me. Nor will you change me into yourself like bodily food, but you will be changed into me.”
I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you. But I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all, God blessed for ever. He was calling me and saying: I am the way of truth, I am the life. He was offering the food which I lacked the strength to take, the food he had mingled with our flesh. For the Word became flesh, that your wisdom, by which you created all things, might provide milk for us children.
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
Let us pray:
Renew in your Church, we pray, O Lord, that spirit with which you endowed your Bishop Saint Augustine that, filled with the same spirit, we may thirst for you, the sole fount of true wisdom, and seek you, the author of heavenly love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.