He was born in 354 in a North African town set among the woods near the Mediterranean. His father was a pagan, but his mother, Monica, was of devout Christian stock. Augustine was an undisciplined child, idle and truant despite frequent beatings. He loved sports and pranks and soon discovered a host of adolescent pleasures. When he was 15 his father saw him in the public baths and realized his son was a man. He was. He later wished that “the high tides of my youth had spent their foam upon the shore of marriage.”
Augustine was also brilliant, and he soon moved to Carthage to further both his studies and his fun. Monica warned him against fornication, but “I ran headlong with blindness.” At about 18 he found himself the father of a son. At the same time he joined a cult.
Years passed, and Monica, praying ceaselessly, heard that Augustine was planning to leave Africa for Rome. She begged him not to go. When he refused, she determined to go with him. Using deception, he left her praying in a chapel and sailed without her; but she took a later boat and intercepted him. They traveled to Milan where she persuaded him to listen to the great Bishop Ambrose. The bishop’s razor-sharp sermons penetrated Augustine’s head, if not yet his heart. Monica continued praying, confiding her struggles to Ambrose. He told her not to worry: “It isn’t possible for the son of such prayers to be lost.”
One day as Augustine sat in a friend’s garden he heard a child singing, “Take up and read!” He opened the Bible near him and read from Romans 13: Don’t go to wild parties or get drunk or be vulgar or indecent. … Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. By the time he finished the sentence, he later said, he was converted.
On the eve of Easter, April 24, 387, Augustine and his son Adeodatus were baptized by Ambrose as Monica watched. Her lifetime of prayer was answered, and a church father was born.
So behave properly, as people do in the day. Don’t go to wild parties or get drunk or be vulgar or indecent. Don’t quarrel or be jealous. Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear. Then you won’t try to satisfy your selfish desires. (Romans 13:13,14)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Apr. 24.
Photo in Header by By Klearchos Kapoutsis from Santorini, Greece – Ἅγιος Γεώργιος ἐν Φαναρίῳ, CC BY 2.0,.