Today the Church celebrates the life and ministry of our own St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. He was born on 13 November 354 in North Africa, about 45 miles south of the Mediterranean, in Tagaste in Numidia (now Souk-Ahras in Algeria), near ancient Carthage (modern Tunis). His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian who was married to a Roman who was not a Christian until much later in his life. Augustine was a man about town in his younger days. He had a mistress (Augustine never tells us her name) and at the age of 18 Augustine fathered a son, Adeodatus. Monica constantly prayer for Augustine and his father that they would one day embrace the faith. Putting it mildly, Augustine did everything but, and he dabbled in all sorts of things, including Manichaeism which was a kind of synthesis of Christianity with Zoroastrianism, the dominant religion of Persia. It is a dualist thinking teaching that there are two gods of equal power and eternity, and that the universe is the scene of an unending battle between light and darkness, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, soul and body, etc. The Manicheans as they moved west into the Roman Empire adopted many traits of what is generically called Gnosticism. Eventually Augustine gave it up and studied some more philosophy.
Eventually, he ended up in Milan as a lawyer and teacher where met Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, who through his preaching and with the grace of God, brought Augustine to the faith and Augustine was baptized on Easter in the year 387.
He wound up in North Africa where he was ordained a priest in 391 and became Bishop of Hippo in 396. Augustine dealt with the Donatist heresy. Donatism developed as a result of the persecution of Christians ordered by Diocletian in 303 in which all churches and sacred scriptures of the Christians were to be destroyed. In 304 another edict was issued ordering the burning of incense to the idol gods of the Roman empire. Of course, Christians refused; but it did not curtail the increased persecution. Many Christians gave up the sacred texts to the persecutors and even betrayed other Christians to the Romans. These people became known as “traditors,” Christians who betrayed other Christians. At the consecration of bishop Caecilian of Carthage in 311, one of the three bishops, Felix, bishop of Aptunga, who consecrated Caecilian, had given copies of the Bible to the Roman persecutors. A group of about 70 bishops formed a synod and declared the consecration of the bishop to be invalid. Great debate arose concerning the validity of the sacraments (baptism, the Lord's Supper, etc.) by one who had sinned so greatly against other Christians. As a result, the Donatists thought that the effectiveness of the sacraments depended on the moral character of the minister. In other words, if a minister who was involved in a serious enough sin were to baptize a person, that baptism would be considered invalid. Augustine said that was not so. The effectiveness of the sacrament is by virtue of God’s grace and not the moral state of the minister. Augustine also noted that the Church was a hospital for sinners, since we are all sinners; it was not a museum of saints.
Augustine also spent a considerable amount of time fighting Pelagianism. Pelagius was a teacher in Rome, though he was British by birth. It is a heresy dealing with the nature of man. Pelagius taught that people had the ability to fulfill the commands of God by exercising the freedom of human will apart from the grace of God. Augustine said that we need both, God’s grace because our free will is corrupted.
Augustine was a great thinker, and is considered a Doctor of the Church. His works include The Confessions (his autobiography), On the Trinity and The City of God.
He wrote: "Our hearts are restless unless they rest in you, O God." Augustine died on this day in 430.
Let us pray: Lord God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the hearts that serve you: Help us, following the example of your servant Augustine of Hippo, so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Next Sunday is Blessing of the Backpacks at the 9 AM Eucharist.
Invite Someone to Church Sunday is on the 21st of September 2014. Please invite someone to Church to experience the joy of the Good News.
The 6th Annual Art Show, “Let There Be Light,” will be from the 4th of October for 1 week.
Please remember everyone on our Prayer List.
Your servant in Christ,
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal ChurchGalveston, Texas 77550