Denver, Colo., Aug 28, 2011 / 05:59 am
On August 28, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of Saint Augustine of Hippo, the North African educator who became one of history's greatest teachers of the faith after his dramatic conversion.
The story of Augustine's upbringing and conversion is well-known to many through his autobiographical “Confessions.” In that work, Augustine recounts his birth in 354 to his pagan father Patricius and Catholic mother Monica – later St. Monica – in the city of Tagaste. His parents' difficult marriage included a dispute over whether to baptize their children.
Augustine was nearly baptized during a childhood illness, but his father withdrew permission when he recovered. During his adolescence, Monica's Christian influence over her son's life began to wane, giving way to the self-interested pursuit of a secular education and career as well as social acceptance and romantic love.
At age 16, Augustine traveled to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. There, the young student indulged the desires of his heart and flesh, though he later admitted that this way of life brought him pain and torment along with its pleasure and satisfaction. He was, as he later wrote, “scourged with the burning iron rods of jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and strife.”