Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Feast of Saint Augustine (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost)—28 August AD 2016

Philippe de Champaigne, 17th century.
Philippe de Champaigne, 17th century

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A reading from the second letter of St Paul the Apostle to Timothy[1]

    Beloved: I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus, Who will judge the living and the dead by His coming and by His kingdom, preach the word, be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, entreat, rebuke with all patience and teaching. For there will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their lusts, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables. But be watchful in all things, bear with tribulation patiently, work as a preacher of the Gospel, fulfill your ministry. As for me, I am already being poured out in sacrifice, and the time of my deliverance is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will give to me in that day; yet not to me only, but also to those who love His coming.


The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew[2]

    At that time Jesus said to His disciples: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its strength, what shall it be salted with? It is no longer of any use but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under the measure, but upon the lampstand, so as to give light to all in the house. Even so let your light shine before men, in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall be lost from the Law till all things have been accomplished. Therefore whoever does away with one of these least commandments, and so teaches men, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever carries them out and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    We tend to think of North Africa as a Moslem land, more closely related to the Middle East than to Europe, but up until the time of Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.), the countries on the southern rim of the Mediterranean were part of the Roman Empire.  Augustine was born in Thagaste in modern day Algeria.  His mother, Monica, was a devout Catholic, while his father, Patricius, was a Pagan who converted to the Faith only on his deathbed.  Because of this mixed marriage, Augustine was not baptized as an infant, for there was no guarantee that he would be raised in the Church.  Monica, whom today we identify as Saint Monica, spent much of her time in prayer for these two men whom she loved.  She must have prayed hard, at least in the case of Augustine, for his early life was rather chaotic—so much so that he titled his autobiography as his “Confessions.[3]

    Beyond the usual sins of adolescence, Augustine joined the religion of the Manicheans during his college years at Carthage (in modern day Tunisia).  Manicheanism is that heresy that keeps recurring throughout history—a dualism that holds that spirit was created by a good god and that matter was created by an evil god.  For human beings, this dualism provokes a continuous “war” between body and soul.  Some Manicheans exercised great discipline over their bodies to remain “pure,” while others just assumed that it was impossible to be chaste, so they might as well sin all they wanted.  Augustine seems to have fallen into this latter category.

    But Augustine was possessed of a great intellect.  All though he spent nine years as a Manichean, these were years of intense study of science, philosophy, and rhetoric, by the end of which he arrived at the conclusion that there could be but one God, who created everything, and that the doctrines of the Manicheans were only fairy stories that were demonstrably at odds with reality.

    Fortunately, Augustine’s learning brought him teaching jobs; first at Rome and then in Milan.  At Milan he taught rhetoric, the art of making logical and persuasive speeches.  This profession helped him to appreciate the sermons of Milan’s bishop, whom we know as Saint Ambrose.  Between the ages of twenty-nine and thirty-three, Augustine applied his intellect to the understanding of Saint Ambrose’s explanation of the Catholic Faith, and to the reformation of his own moral life.

    At the Easter Vigil in 387, Augustine, his friend Alypius, and Augustine’s fifteen year old son Adeodatus, were baptized in the cathedral by Ambrose the bishop.  Adeodatus died shortly thereafter, causing Augustine to marvel at God’s goodness:

    We took him … to be educated in Your discipline; and we were baptized, and solicitude about our past life left us. Nor was I satiated in those days with the wondrous sweetness of considering the depth of Your counsels concerning the salvation of the human race. How greatly did I weep in Your hymns and canticles, deeply moved by the voices of Your sweet-speaking Church! The voices flowed into mine ears, and the truth was poured forth into my heart, whence the agitation of my piety overflowed, and my tears ran over, and blessed was I therein.[4]

    Augustine had come so far that he rejoiced in the death of his only son shortly after receiving the Catholic Faith, and the possibility of eternal life.

    Augustine went on to be priest and bishop, the founder of a mendicant order of hermits with a rule intended to return Roman Christian civilization to its former influence.  At least until Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1275) flourished eight-hundred years later, Augustine was the preeminent author and teacher of Catholic Doctrine.  Augustine is called the “Doctor of Grace” for having elucidated the Church’s thinking on original sin and the force of God’s grace.  Aquinas quotes him liberally in his monumental Summa of Theology.  Augustine’s writings are still cited as official accounts of the truths of the Catholic Faith—at least by those who have not fallen into the errors of modernism and its disdain for objective truth.

    It is unlikely that anyone in this room has the intellect of an Augustine or an Aquinas—but what truly distinguished both of these men was their holiness and their realization that God created whatever is true … that God created the minds that knew the truth … and that nothing we know is of any value if our knowledge of it fails to glorify God.

    If he were here today, the Doctor of Grace would surely say that it is far more important to be in the state of God’s grace than to be able to define God’s grace.  The soul in the state of grace gives more glory to God than all of the writings of mankind—Augustine and Aquinas included!  Saint Augustine wrote about this in his Confessions:

    O Lord God of truth, does whoever knows all those things therefore please You? Unhappy is the man who knows all things, but knows You not.  But happy is he who knows You, though these things he may not know. But he who knows both You and them is not the happier on account of them, but is happy on account of You only, if knowing You he glorify You as God, and gives thanks, and becomes not vain in his thoughts.[5]

    Through the intercession of Saint Augustine, may God grant all of us the wisdom to likewise ignore the things of the world and to glory in the grace of God alone!



[3]   Cf. The Confessions of Saint Augustine

[4]   Cf. Confessions Book IX, Chapter 6

[5]   Confessions, Book V, Chapter 4


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