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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

Fray Reo Cabahug OSA: Service in the Life and Mind of Augustine

Fray Reo Cabahug, OSA is a seminarian from the Augustinian Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu - Philippines. As of April 2014, he is having his education apostolate exposure in the University of San Agustin - Iloilo, Philippines. By June 2014, he will return to San Agustin Center of Studies for his further studies. This article is published also in the March 2014 issue of In Deum, the seminary publication of the simply-professed friars of San Agustin Center of Studies, Quezon City.

Augustine, a Tireless Servant

          Job promotions are considered as rewards because they are usually given to the few people who are recognized as adept and responsible persons, not to mention that privileges and honor are presumably attached to them. This makes such form of elevation worth working. While most people would covet and even kill for such rare opportunities, Augustine, however, weeps during his own ascent to the ecclesiastical hierarchy without any pretension. He rightly sees that right after the flattering acclamations, this apparent elevation, on the contrary, will not give him lighter jobs but heavier obligations and sarcina that needs to be carried out. Yet he recognizes that Hippo’s aging bishop and its people will not demand for his ordination unless it is badly needed. Hence, he resolves to set aside his distaste for prestige and complex preoccupations by accepting the office conferred on him with obedience and humility to the possible detriment of his desire in pursuing a contemplative life. By doing so, he looks upon his admittance to the Church hierarchy not as an award that he could enjoy but as a tool for service. What he has in mind, then, is the conviction that he is a servant of the Church who should attend to her needs. Indeed, such identification, for Possidius, his contemporary biographer, sums up and synthesizes Augustine’s whole life as “all his activities are undertaken for the peace and good of the Church, for the edification of the Church’s children and to keep the faith of the holy Church intact.”[i]

Augustine talks to child. Gozzoli fresco, San Gimignano.

            During his time, the scope of episcopal concerns covers various activities. Among his preoccupations are civil matters and individual cases[ii] that require him to negotiate with authorities on the matters of death penalty, torture, reform of criminals, slavery, administration of justice, defense of civil rights of the poor, and nonviolent political reforms, aside from his ordinary tasks of preaching and catechism, administering church properties, administering the sacraments, preparing for African church councils, caring for the poor and the sick, admonition of the lay, consecrated people and clerics, writing letters and treatises, defending the Church from heresies and schisms, and many others.

            Moreover, Augustine is most known for his writings for these are deemed as his greatest contribution to the Church. Despite the magnitude of his responsibilities, he still labored to produce a great library of overwhelming works that Agostino Trape remarked that “it seems impossible that a bishop absorbed in the pastoral care of a diocese, which if not large was certainly difficult, could have found time to write so much, especially when his care imposed so many more duties.”[iii] His zeal in writing is for his desire to make his personal journey and quest for truth available and appreciated by his readers.[iv] It must also be pointed out that most of his works are lengthy ones due to his pedagogical enthusiasm that instigates to his readers and audiences the passion to dive together with him in searching for the answers of their own inquiries. His aim is not only to provide profound answers and insightful explanations but to bring them with him in arriving there. It is never his attitude to immediately give ready-made answers to issues, and that makes him less appealing to modern readers. Aside from this, he still finds time to send so many “letters that make plain that the old Augustine was prepared to give his unstinting attention to any problem that might trouble the faithful, no matter how busy he was, no matter how trivial or how ill-framed the problem seemed to be, and no matter how remote from Hippo, or how eccentric, its proponents were.”[v]

            His intellectual contribution not only to the Church but also to the classical world is so intense for “many are the works he dictated and published . . . that even a student would hardly have the energy to read and become acquainted with all of them.”[vi] For this reason, “Isidore of Seville, almost two hundred years after Augustine, famously said of him that whoever claims to have read all of Augustine must be a liar, for too much survives for one man to read.”[vii] But he never takes pride for this achievement for they were written not for the advancement of knowledge nor for the promotion of his intellectual ingenuity but “his activity as a writer was essentially inspired by pastoral aims and almost always adapted to practical needs.”[viii] From the kind of life that he lived, it can be asserted then that Augustine can be an authority on teaching us what service means for the reason that he does not only profoundly taught and spoke about it in words, but more intensely in his actions.


[i] Possidius, The Life of Saint Augustine, translated by Audrey Fellowes, (Villanova: Augustinian Press, 1988), 24.

[ii] See Robert Dodaro, OSA, “Between the Two Cities: Political Action in Augustine of Hippo,” in John Doody et al., eds., Augustine and Politics, (United States of America: Lexington Books, 2005) 102-108.

[iii] Agostino Trape, Saint Augustine: Man, Pastor, Mystic, (USA: Catholic Book Publishing, 1986), 252.

[iv] Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo, (USA: University of California Press, 2000), 433.

[v] Ibid., 466-467. As of now, there are around 249 letters that are gathered which are believed to be written by St. Augustine excluding those that were sent to him. Augustine Through the Ages, s. v. “Epistulae,” 306.

[vi] Possidius, 80.

[vii] James O’Donnell, Augustine, (New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 2005), 135.

[viii] Possidius, 25.


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