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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

Augustinian Historical Commission: Augustine - A Biography

The Augustinian Historical Commission of the Province of Australia published a number of Augustinian studies monographs during and immediately after the year 1980. This monograph now appears on this APAC website with permission. Commercial reproduction not permitted.
 
Another Article. On this website is another article by Fr Mooney,

Why care what happened on the African shores of the Mediterranean in the fourth and fifth centuries? What's that to us to-day? Had Saint Augustine not lived there from 354 to 430 AD, these questions would be difficult to answer. Augustine's long battle with his conscience, his quest for happiness and community, his restlessness with the trappings of society and his search for God make him relevant to those who meet these same challenges today.

Augustine was born on 13th November 354 AD at Tagaste, a market town in the Roman Province of Numidia now re-named Souk Ahras, Algeria. His mother was Monica, who was wed at the age of seventeen years. Augustine's father was Patricius, a small farmer and town official twenty three years Monica's senior. He was not always faithful to his marriage vows. Patricius was a pagan, but Monica was a staunch Christian from a local section of the Berber race. Augustine was not baptised as a child. His mother however taught him to revere Christ.

Augustine disliked his early schooling because he felt it offered little more than boredom and corporal punishment. He used his phenomenal memory and quick mind to advantage, yet not without receiving both temporary and permanent scars. Later in life he exaggerated, Who would not shrink back in horror and choose death, if given the choice between dying and re-living his childhood? Spending his sixteenth year at home in idleness while his parents planned his higher education, Augustine associated with layabouts. My invisible enemy walked roughly over me, and seduced me because I was so willing to be seduced.

Augustine was sent to a school of rhetoric in Carthage, the major port nearest Tagaste. There he came under the Iasting influence of Cicero, through whose writings his yearning for the wisdom of eternal truth was intensified. He also acquired a mistress - name unknown - and they lived together for the next fifteen years. When Augustine was eighteen, they became the parents of a son whom they called Adeodatus, a popular local name that meant given by God. Of these years Augustine later wrote:

I was not yet in love, but I loved love itself. I sought something to love. To love and to be loved was sweet to me, the more so if I could enjoy my love sensually. . . I loved to perish, I loved my failings, not that for which I was failing, but my failings themselves.

Augustine's interest in the Scriptures did not go beyond their literary style, and that he found unattractive. During his nineteenth year he turned to the religious teachings of the Manichaean sect. These people followed the teaching of Manes, a fanatic from Mesopotamia who claimed to be the Holy Spirit and who had been crucified by the Persian movement in 277 AD. Manes' theory about the problem of evil in the world won Augustine's discipleship. Never one to do things by halves, Augustine threw all his native energy into his newly-found belief. His distressed mother consulted a bishop who had once been a Manichaean himself. Telling Monica that a man of Augustine's intelligence would not long be ensnared by Manes' strange mixture of ideas, he correctly predicted: The son of such tears as yours will not perish.

In 374 AD Augustine at the age of twenty began teaching rhetoric in Carthage. He found the students undisciplined. No teacher was safe from their insulting behaviour, but Augustine, with his weak voice and a tendency to become lost in his own thoughts, received more punishment than most. After teaching for nine years in Carthage, he chose to try his prospects in Rome, following the footsteps of Alypius, a good friend he had converted to Manichaeism a few years earlier. Because Monica did not wish her son to leave North Africa, Augustine used trickery to have her allow him board a ship.

I deceived her by pretending I had a friend whom I did not want to leave until his boat sailed off. I lied thus to my mother - and such a mother! . . . She went home, and I to Rome.

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