Who Was St. Augustine, and Why Should I Care?

By Cameron, Michael | U.S. Catholic, August 2006 | Go to article overview

Who Was St. Augustine, and Why Should I Care?


Cameron, Michael, U.S. Catholic


"Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I love you!" So prayed the passionate theologian and pastor of the early church, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).

As a precocious young man Augustine led a somewhat randy life, living with a lover and fathering a child. But he still searched for spiritual wisdom. At first he was drawn to a fringe Christian cult called the Manichees, charmed by their hype that while they followed reason, Catholics childishly demanded faith. For nine long years Augustine's mother, St. Monica, prayed for him; she lived just long enough to see him embrace the church in his early 30s when he grasped that faith trains the mind to think well. "Unless you believe," he often said later, "you cannot understand."

The crown jewel of his writings is his spiritual testament, the Confessions. Beguilingly written as a prayer, it artfully narrates the work of divine grace in his life. This God-intoxicated man invites us to eavesdrop on his most intimate thoughts and deftly moves us toward our own encounter with God. The book's opening address to God memorably summarizes both the Confessions and Augustine's whole life: "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."

Augustine offered himself as a laboratory for seeing how God's grace works in human hearts. If Christ's crucified love has truly transformed you, he says, then you can "love and do whatever you want. …

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