Augustine of Hippo lived from 354 to 430, and was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius. He is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are City of God and Confessions. In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint, a preeminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinians. His memorial is celebrated on 28 August, the day of his death. He is the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, the alleviation of sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of the Protestant Reformation due to his teachings on salvation and divine grace.
In the summer of 386, at the age of 31, after having heard and been inspired and moved by the story of Ponticianus’s and his friends’ first reading of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert, Augustine converted to Christianity. As Augustine later told it, his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to “take up and read” which he took as a divine command to open the Bible and read the first thing he saw. Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – the so-called “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 through 15 – wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers, and the believers’ resulting behavior.
In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest and became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion, to which he had formerly adhered.
In 395 he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo, and became full Bishop shortly thereafter, hence the name “Augustine of Hippo”; and he gave his property to the church of Thagaste. He remained in that position until his death in 430. He wrote his autobiographical Confessions in 397-398. His work The City of God was written to console his fellow Christians shortly after the Visigoths had sacked Rome in 410. Augustine worked tirelessly in trying to convince the people of Hippo to convert to Christianity. Though he had left his monastery, he continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a regula for his monastery that led to his designation as the “patron saint of regular clergy.”
Shortly before Augustine’s death the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that had converted to Arianism, invaded Roman Africa. The Vandals besieged Hippo in the spring of 430, when Augustine entered his final illness. According to Possidius, one of the few miracles attributed to Augustine, the healing of an ill man, took place during the siege. According to Possidius, Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. He died on 28 August 430. Shortly after his death, the Vandals lifted the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long thereafter and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine’s cathedral and library, which they left untouched. Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim, and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII. His feast day is 28 August, the day on which he died. His prominence as a Doctor of the Church is mostly due to the many topics in which he took a theological stance. Here is a list of key topics: Creation, ecclesiology, eschatology, just war, Mariology, natural knowledge and biblical interpretation, original sin, free will, sacramental theology, and views on sexuality.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God–
and as you are conducting yourselves–
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
This is the will of God, your holiness:
that you refrain from immorality,
that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself
in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion
as do the Gentiles who do not know God;
not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or sister in this matter,
for the Lord is an avenger in all these things,
as we told you before and solemnly affirmed.
For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.
Therefore, whoever disregards this,
disregards not a human being but God,
who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The familiar image of an angel and the devil sitting on a person’s shoulders has been shown in movies and television many times. An angel and the devil have not literally sat on my shoulders, but I can identify with that image. A thought of wanting to do something that may not be the best idea comes to my mind… I think about it, and I hear the devil say to me something like, “Life’s short, do it!” Then look over at the angel which is waving its finger at me and saying, “Oh no! You know better than that!!!” I eventually weigh the consequences of both actions, and 99% of the time I do the right thing because I know what is responsible and right.
The readings for today speak to the subject of responsibility and doing what is right. Paul is instructing the Thessalonians on how to live according to how God intends humanity to live if they truly are to follow the teachings of Jesus. Following Jesus means letting go of any immoral behavior. The parable which Jesus tells is about being responsible enough to take time to be prepared, knowing that negative consequences will result if one is not prepared. This preparedness is about living a life in which one desires to follow God instead of going astray.
We know that God loves us unconditionally, but it is our responsibility to live according to his commandments and teachings given to us through Jesus. We cannot allow the devil sitting on our left shoulder tell us it is okay to do things which we know are not of God. When the angel is saying, “You know better!” we need to listen to the angel.
How do we do the right thing? We do not put ourselves in a position which presents the opportunity for the devil to convince us that it is okay to do something; we spend time around positive and responsible people, we take time to read Scripture, we pray, we recognize our vices in life and stay away from them. Are you doing the right thing?