With today’s general audience Pope Benedict XVI concluded his series of teachings on St. Augustine of Hippo, telling the faithful that the saint’s journey of conversion remains a model for each of us.
Inclement weather forced the audience indoors this week, with the crowds of pilgrims and visitors divided between St. Peter's Basilica and the Paul VI audience hall.
The Holy Father began by greeting those gathered in the Vatican Basilica.
"Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking visitors present here today. May your stay in Rome strengthen your faith, and grant you courage to continue your Lenten journey in prayer, fasting, reconciliation and compassion".
He then made his way to the adjoining audience hall where he began the last of his reflections on the life and legacy of the great fourth century saint, with a discussion of the process of St. Augustine's interior conversion.
"In reading his Confessions, we see that his conversion was a life-long journey marked by a passionate search for truth. Despite living an errant life as a young man, Augustine had learned from his mother a love for the name of Christ. Platonic philosophy led him to recognise the existence of Logos, or creative reason in the Universe, which he later came to understand more fully by reading Saint Paul and finding faith in Christ. He completed this fundamental phase in his search for truth when he was baptized in Milan by Saint Ambrose".
Pope Benedict XVI then moved on to the he second stage of St. Augustine's conversion, which saw him return to Africa, where he founded a small monastery with a group of friends dedicated to contemplation and study.
"Three years later, he was ordained a priest and turned to the life of active ministry, placing the fruits of his study at the service of others through preaching and dialogue. The last stage was a conversion of such profound humility that he would daily ask God for pardon. He also demonstrated this humility in his intellectual endeavours, submitting all his works to a thorough critique. Augustine has had a profound effect on my own life and ministry," the Holy Father told the pilgrims listening to his address.
"Having converted to Christ Who is truth and love", the Pope continued, "Augustine followed Him throughout his life and stands as a model for all human beings who seek after God. ... Today too, as in his time, humankind needs to know this fundamental reality and, above all, to put it into practice: God is love and meeting Him is the only answer to the disquiet of our hearts".
Pope Benedict XVI said it was his hope that we can all learn from this great and humble convert who saw with such clarity that Christ is truth and love.
"Upon all of you”, the Pope said as he concluded the audience, “I invoke God's abundant blessings of joy and peace".