The Feast Day of Saint Augustine
Years ago, one of my golf partners asked me to be his Confirmation sponsor. I agreed and told him he needed to choose a saint for his Confirmation name. Later, he told me he had chosen St. Augustine. I replied that was a good choice and asked him why he chose that name. He said it was the only saint’s name he knew because it was a city in Florida where there were many golf courses. (In fact, earlier this year, St. Augustine, Florida was the site of the U.S. Open Championship.)
So nearly 1600 years after his death in North Africa, the greatest theologian of the early church was known only for a city in Florida that has several world-class golf courses.
Augustine was born in North Africa in the 4th Century. After a misspent youth, he converted to Christianity and later was chosen bishop of Hippo, where he would remain for the last 35 years of his life.
He is the only bishop I know of who wrote an autobiography listing the personal sins of his life. And he had a lot of sins.
He lived in the Roman Empire at a time when Rome was being attacked and would ultimately be destroyed. In that context, he was convinced the world was coming to an end.
In his youth, he had been a Manichean, a cult that considered all things material, especially the human body, to be sinful. Although he himself had led a licentious life in his youth, he always considered sex- in any form, even in marriage- to be sinful.
He saw the world in black and white, good and evil, light and dark. This would influence Christianity up to our own day.
He is greatly revered by Protestants, especially regarding original sin, predestination, and the teaching that unbaptized people to go to hell, are no longer Catholic teachings, but the influence remains.
That the world is divided into good vs. evil can even be seen in modern culture entertainments like “Star Wars”, “Game of Thrones”, “World of Warcraft”, “Harry Potter”, and so on where good guys wear white hats and bad guys wear black hats.
Our modern western confusion on matters of sexuality where sex is evil in itself has had an unhealthy understanding of human sexuality.
Nevertheless, no other theologian has had as much influence on theology as Augustine of Hippo.
His autobiography, titled “The Confessions” is a beautiful account of a man searching for and eventually finding God.
One sentence in that book can apply to anyone. Addressing God he wrote, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you.” And the corresponding sentence, “Our hearts are never at rese until they rest in [God].”