Aurelius Augustinus was born on November 13, 354, in the Numidian town of Thagaste in Roman North Africa (located in the present-day Algeria). His parents were Romans citizens of modest means; his father, Patricius, was a pagan, and his mother, Monica, a Christian. The first nine, of thirteen, books of his Confessions are autobiographical, dramatically recounting the first third of a century of his life to his second birth by baptism, in 387. The Confessions are mostly a narrative, addressed to God, of his painful, troubled search for spiritual fulfillment. As he writes on its very first page, "Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee."
Augustine describes his adolescence in terms of "my past wickedness and the carnal corruptions of my soul." When he was almost sixteen years old, he took a break from his studies, so that some money could be put together to send him away to study. During these times at home he says that he was pricked by the "briars of unclean lusts." He tells a story about he a bunch of boys stole a load full of pears, for no reason at all except that it was wrong to do so.
In 370, the year his father died Augustine was sent to study rhetoric at Carthage. As he writes, "I came to Carthage, where a cauldron of illicit loves leapt and boiled about me. I was not yet in love, but I was in love with love." Around 371, he took a concubine and "did fall in love, simply from wanting to." He had a son by her, named Adeodatus about 372. But in 373, he read the Roman eclectic Stoic Marcus Tullius Cicero's Hortensius, which "changed the direction" of his interests and kindled a passion for philosophy and its quest for truth.
Around 374, Augustine conducted a school of rhetoric at Thagaste. He writes that, throughout the "nine-year period, from my nineteenth year to my twenty-eighth, I was led astray myself and led others astray." During this time he remained faithful to his concubine, bonded by "a lustful love," and cared for their son. With the help of Manicheans he secured a professorship of rhetoric in Milan in 384. There he heard Bishop Ambrose preach. At first, Augustine was interested only in his eloquent style rather than in the content of his sermons. But gradually, he writes, Ambrose made him, "see that the Catholic faith, for which I had thought nothing could be said in the face of the Manichean objections, could be maintained on reasonable grounds: this especially after I heard explained figuratively several passages of the Old Testament which had been a cause of death for me when taken literally."
But in 386, sexual passion still restrained him from committing to Christianity. "I in my great worthlessness [he writes to God] had begged You for chastity, saying: "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet." For I was afraid that You would hear my prayer too soon, and too soon would heal me from disease of which I wanted satisfied rather than extinguished."
One day he was wondering how long it would take before his intellectual conversion would be accompanied by a moral one, when suddenly a child's voice, in "a sort of sing-song, repeated again and again, 'Take and read, take and read.'" He thought that this was a message from God, and picked up the bible and read the first passage he saw. It was from Paul's Epistle to the Romans 13:13-14: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences." He says that as soon as he finished the sentence, he felt as if "all the darkness of uncertainty vanished away." Now his will as well as his mind was converted to God. In 391, Augustine visited Hippo to hear Bishop Valerius speak. The people of Hippo offered Augustine priesthood, and Augustine was ordained a priest, where he setup a monastery there. The Bishop Valerius died around 396, and Augustine became the Bishop of Hippo.
On August 28, 430, while Vandals were besieging Hippo, he died, while reciting the Psalms. When the Vandals conquered Hippo, they burned down the town, but out of respect for Augustine, they left his cathedral and library undamaged.
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