Dear Fellow Parishioners,
The coming week contains the feast day – August 28th – of one of the most notable and important saints in the history of the Church: St. Augustine of Hippo. (“Hippo” is not a reference to the pachyderm, but to Hippo Regius, where he served as bishop, the modern-day Annaba, the third-largest city in Algeria). Among other things, he is the namesake of St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously-inhabited American city of European origin, founded in 1565. It was founded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and named after St. Augustine because it was on his feast day, August 28, 1565, that the explorers first sighted the Florida coast from their ships.
Interestingly, despite the countless places in California that were named after saints – including his mother, St. Monica – there is no place of any note in our state named after St. Augustine. While one cannot be certain as to why, I suspect it might be because California was first settled by Franciscan, and not Augustinian, friars.
St. Augustine made an indelible contribution to the Church in a number of ways. First, several major works of his survive as classics of spirituality, including “The City of God,” “Confessions,” “On Christian Doctrine” and “On the Trinity.” The Christian historian Diarmaid MacCullough wrote that “Augustine’s impact on Western Christian thought can hardly be overstated; only his beloved example, Paul of Tarsus, has been more influential, and Westerners have generally seen Paul through Augustine’s eyes.” What made that accomplishment even more remarkable is that, due to a physically abusive schoolmaster, he refused to study Greek, the language of the New Testament.
The areas of Augustine’s influence include, but are not limited to, Church teaching on the Holy Trinity, Original Sin, Infant Baptism, Christian anthropology, Ecclesiology, Mariology, the theory of Just War, and opposition to slavery. He is the patron of brewers, printers, philosophers, theologians and sore eyes – the latter no doubt due to long hours of reading!
Before his conversion, he lived a dissolute life, and is known for his famously insincere prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” He fathered a son, Adeodatus, out of wedlock, who lived to the age of 16. For years, Augustine was the despair of his mother, St. Monica, a devout Christian who prayed ceaselessly for his conversion. (It is not surprising that St. Monica is the patroness of, among other things, “disappointing children”). Though he left behind countless nuggets of wisdom, three of my favorites are: “He who denies the existence of God, has some reason for wishing He does not exist,” “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination,” and, “Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His providence.”
Fr. Bill Donahue