Pope Benedict XVI today continued his catechesis on St. Augustine, the fifth century saint whose writings express a passion and deep love for God that have led countless people reject despair and turn to help those in need.
The Holy Father, who is himself partial to St Augustine, recalled the period in history just prior to St Augustine's death when North Africa was beset by division and threatened by Vandals.
After designating his successor as bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine wanted to dedicate the last four years of his life to a more intense study of Scripture.
In fact, Pope Benedict said, "The years that followed were four years of extraordinary intellectual activity." Not only did the aged Augustine finish some important works, but he devoted himself to reconciling divided Christians and to bringing peace to the African provinces racked by division and threatened by Vandals.
Pope Benedict recalled how St. Augustine entertained public debates with heretics, but always looked to dialogue and prayer to bring about unity.
"Even when he was old and tired, Augustine remained all of his life in the breach, seeking solace for himself and others through prayer and meditation on God's providence."
Recalling the words of St. Augustine, the pope said, "even if the world itself is old, Christ is perpetually young. Don't refuse being made young again by being united to Christ. He says to us: Don't be afraid your youth will be renewed as that of an eagle."
Pope Benedict recalled St. Augustine’s words to his flock, "Christians must not become disheartened in difficult situations, but must themselves help others who are in need.”
And so, the great doctor suggests, in response to a bishop who asked him whether if under the invasion of the barbarians a bishop or priest or any man of the Church could flee to save his own life, Christian charity demands that man of the church, indeed all Christians, must attend to the needs of others as a father would attend to those of his own children.
"How many priests over the course of the centuries have accepted this message in deed and in fact?" Pope Benedict said.
Augustine's, who welcomed bishops and priests into his own home during the siege of Hippo in 431, devoted his last days to prayer and penance.
Pope Benedict concluded, "When I read the words of St. Augustine, he does not seem a man who has been dead more or less 1000 years, but he seems a contemporary, a friend who speaks to me, speak to us of his fresh and actual faith.
In St. Augustine, who speaks to us in his writings, we see the real faith that comes from Christ, the Eternal Word Incarnate, son of God and son of man, who is always the same, yesterday, today and forever."