12 Quotes by Saint Augustine of Hippo

Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the great Doctors of the Church and one of the most popular canonized saints of the Catholic Church. He has been influencing Catholics to study their faith for over 1600 years, as well as bringing many sinners to Jesus Christ through his amazing conversion story.

Since he has influenced many with his writings over the centuries, I wanted to provide you with some quotes of his, which focus on a wide range of theological topics. Although there are countless writings and I could give you hundreds of quotes, here are 12 solid quotes from the Doctor of Grace himself –

1. “This is what you should think, if you wish to see God: ‘God is Love,’ What has love? What form has it? What height? What feet? What hands? No one can say. Yet is had feet, for they lead to the Church; it has hands for they care for the poor; it has eyes, for through them the needy one is known.”

2. “Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you! You were with me, but I was not with you. You cried out and pierced my deafness. You enlightened my blindness. I tasted you and I am hungry for you. You touched me, and I am afire with longing for your embrace.”

3. “Understanding is the reward given by faith. Do not try to understand in order to believe, but believe in order to understand.”

4. “If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is still humility. Not that there are not other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless.” (Wow…this one makes you think!)

5. “God has no need of money, but the poor have. You give it to the poor, and God receives it.”

6. “Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take that privilege from you. As He says: ‘Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me.’”

7. “Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” (How true is this in the modern age!)

8. “Out of the forward will lust had sprung; and lust pampered had become custom; and custom indulged had become necessity. These were the links of the chain; this is the bondage in which I was bound.”

9. “Christ martyrs feared neither death nor pain. He triumphed in them who lived in them; and they, who lived not for themselves but for him, found in death itself the way to life.”

10. “If they, why not I? – If these men and women could become saints, why cannot I with the help of Him who is all-powerful?”

11. “If a man wishes to take your coat, give him also whatever other articles of clothes you may have.”

12. “Imagine a man in whom the tumult of the flesh goes silent, in whom the images of earth, of water, of air, and of the skies cease to resound. His soul turns quiet and, self-reflecting no longer, it transcends itself. Dreams and visions end. So too does all speech and every gesture, everything in fact which comes to be only to pass away. All these things cry out: ‘We did not make ourselves. It is the Eternal One who made us.’”

St. Augustine of Hippo…Pray for Us 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Marian Prayer of St. Augustine of Hippo

Since today, August 28, is the memorial of one of the great Doctors and Early Church Fathers, St. Augustine of Hippo, I thought I would provide for you a Marian Prayer composed by the Doctor of Grace himself. Although St. Augustine lived over 1600 years ago, the Catholic Church still finds great amounts of orthodox theology from his many writings.

If you are not aware of his life and amazing conversion story, written by his own hand and titled, Confessions, I would suggest you research it this week. Because of his influence in the life of the Church and in my own daily work, I have personally written about him 6 times, which includes this blog post and the other one from today that gives you some more quotes from his different writings.

This is image is ‘Our Lady of Ostra Brama’ (Our Lady of Mercy). She is the patroness of the Marian Province in the United States.

Today’s Marian Prayer, written by the aforementioned saint, is a prayer dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy. If there were ever a saint that understands mercy and reconciliation with God, it would be the great saint of Hippo.

Blessed Virgin Mary,
who can worthily repay you with praise
and thanks for having rescued a fallen world
by your generous consent!
Receive our gratitude,
and by your prayers obtain the pardon of our sins.
Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven
and enable them to make our peace with God.

Holy Mary, help the miserable,
strengthen the discouraged,
comfort the sorrowful,
pray for your people,
plead for the clergy,
intercede for all women consecrated to God.
May all who venerate you
feel now your help and protection.
Be ready to help us when we pray,
and bring back to us the answers to our prayers.
Make it your continual concern
to pray for the people of God,
for you were blessed by God
and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world,
who lives and reigns forever. Amen.

Our Lady of Mercy…Pray for Us

St. Augustine of Hippo…Pray for Us

The Marian Writings of St. Augustine of Hippo

August 28th is commonly the memorial of Saint Augustine of Hippo, but since it fell yesterday, which was on a Sunday, the Sunday Solemnity always trumps it and we celebrated the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (in the Latin Rite). Since yesterday was August 28th, I found it fitting today to discuss with you some of the Marian writings of Saint Augustine of Hippo. He continued the strong tradition of explaining her role in the Church, as did his predecessors, especially drawing from his master, another theological powerhouse, Saint Ambrose of Milan.

I would encourage you, as I do often, to research on your own the writings of these great saints that I draw from for this blog. I would also encourage you to check out my previous writings on him – Saint Augustine of Hippo: The Doctor of Grace, The Life of Saint Augustine Through the Words of Pope Benedict XVI, and The Words of Saint Augustine of Hippo.

The writings of St. Augustine are so dynamic and profound that many of his statements show up in the writings of the Second Vatican Council. The Council Fathers found his writings so impactful, that they singlehandedly cite his quotations the most of all the Early Church Fathers. And since we are drawing from St. Augustine today, this blog post is bit lengthier than most of my other “Mondays with Mary.” Remember, Pope Benedict XVI spent five Wednesday audiences on him in 2008, the most time he spent on one Early Church Father.

The first theme we are going to focus on today is the idea of ‘Mary and the Predestination of Christ.’ Predestination is a central theme in the writings of St. Augustine, although the very concept has been confused and distorted in theological circles over the centuries. His concepts of this subject found their genesis in his battling with the Pelagians and the Pelagian heresy. He says first and foremost that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is a subject of divine predestination –

“I repeat: there is no more outstanding example of predestination than the Mediator himself. The faithful Christian who wishes to understand this well should pay attention to this example, for in it he will find himself.”

Coming after Our Lord, St. Augustine follows up with the predestination of Mary. She is an indispensible part of God’s plan, chosen by Christ himself upon the cross –

“Then [at the foot of the Cross] he recognized her; yet, he had always known her. Even before he was born of her, he knew his Mother in her predestination. Before he, as God, created her from whom he would be created as man, he knew his Mother.”

According to St. Augustine, the Virgin Mary’s future destiny originates from God himself and through his divine will. God knows her and chooses her. She was completely chosen by God –

“And so he created a Virgin, whom he had chosen to be his Mother; a woman who did not conceive according to the law of the sinful flesh…He chose her, to b created from her…He came into the Virgin, who existed before the Virgin. He chose the Mother he had created; he created the Mother he had chosen.”

Another theme we see his writings, drawing from the first theme, is Mary as Virgin and Mother. These two prerogatives define her role in salvation history for it gives her a personal and intimate relationship with both Christ and the Church. Her role in the Incarnation, Augustine says, is a vital element for protecting the one true faith.He goes on to say that for a Christian to obtain salvation, he or she must place their faith in the word of God.

Mary’s divine motherhood, according to St. Augustine, derives from the divine Son that she carried in her womb, which in its own right is a miraculous sign. Her womb was sanctified for all time – which makes her the Perpetual Ever Virgin. Augustine writes – “Virgin in conceiving, virgin in giving birth, virgin with child, virgin mother, virgin forever.”

Madonna and Child with Angels - Duccio

Madonna and Child with Angels – Duccio

Although this divine plan was of God, Augustine argues that Mary’s decision to be a consecrated virgin (my words) did not eliminate a free choice on her own part. St. Augustine is considered the first Early Church Father in the West to think that Mary made a vow of virginity at some point in time before the Annunciation. In the East, St. Gregory of Nyssa believed the same concept. Augustine says the proof of this vow lies in her own words at the Annunciation when she is perplexed and questions the divine messenger –

“Because she had made a vow of virginity and her husband did not have to be the thief of her modesty instead of its guardian (and yet her husband was not its guardian, since it was God who guarded it; her husband was only the witness of her virginal chastity, so that her pregnancy would not be considered the result of adultery), when the angel brought her the news, she said: How can this be, since I do not know man?” (Lk 1:34). Had she intended to know man, she would not have been amazed. Her amazement is a sign of the vow.”

Another theme we see his writings is that of ‘Mary and the Church.’ Her spiritual motherhood is connected to the members of the Church since she herself is part of the Church, even though she preceded the Church. For St. Augustine, Mary’s motherhood and the motherhood of the Church are often united. He says,

“…She is clearly the Mother of his members; that is, of ourselves, because she cooperated by her charity, so that faithful Christians, members of the Head, might be born in the Church. As for the body, she is the Mother of its Head…Mary gave birth to our Head; the Church gave birth to you. Indeed, the Church also is both virgin and mother, mother because of her womb of charity, virgin because of the integrity of her faith and piety.”

The last theme we are going to focus on today is Mary’s holiness and faith. We believe that Mary is the highest and most holy of all creatures; Christ was not created but begotten – he always was a distinct person of the Most Holy Trinity. Through her Immaculate Conception (Augustine is a forerunner of the doctrine), she was given particular gifts, extraordinary gifts; that made her exceptional in a way no other creature of God had been created before. Mary’s holiness is rooted in the idea that God preserved her from all sin – both original and actual.

Augustine holds this position in complete opposition to the Pelagians who thought that man was capable of not sinning through the power of his own will. Following his master, St. Ambrose, Augustine believes that it’s only through a singular grace from God that allows the Virgin Mary to live without the effects of sin. St. Augustine says –

“With the exception of the holy Virgin Mary, in whose case, out of respect for the Lord, I do not wish there to be any further question as far as sin in concerned, since how can we know what great abundance of grace was conferred on her to conquer sin in every way, seeing that she merited to conceive and bear him who certainly had no sin at all?”

Again, like his master, St. Ambrose, the Doctor of Grace, emphasizes that Mary’s faith, which is rooted in her holiness, is seen practically at the Annunciation and in her dialogue with the angel and contrasts the questioning of Zechariah, who is punished for his skeptical words. True faith, authentic faith is rooted in our heart, requires obedience to God; a love for God, and we see this with the Virgin Mary most distinctly. St. Augustine writes –

“Because Mary says: ‘How will this happen, since I do not know man’ (Lk 1:34), calumniators might accuse her of having little faith. But she is inquiring about the “how” and does not doubt the power of God…

Zechariah, on the other hand, who spoke more or less in the same way, is reproved as unbeliever and punished by the loss of his voice. Why? Was it not because God does not judge according to the words we speak but according to what is in our hearts?”

When it comes down it all, Mary is a great example to us all in many things, but specifically that she hears the Word of God and knows how to practice it with obedience. When it comes to our own lives, we must have a Marian disposition, we must say “Yes” to God in obedience. Her fiat to God must be our fiat to God.

Holy Virgin and Mother of God…Pray for us.

St. Augustine of Hippo…Pray for us.

Source:

Gambero, Luigi. Mary and the Fathers of the Church. Ignatius Press, 1999.

Merry Christmas from Tom Perna

Nativity - Eastern Icon “Let us rejoice, my brethren, let the nations exalt and be glad because, not the visible sun, but the invisible Creator of the sun has consecrated this day [Christmas] on which the Virgin, a true but inviolate Mother, gave birth to Him who became visible for our sake and by whom she herself was created.” – St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermons

BLESSED CHRISTMAS to you and your loved ones during this beautiful season where we celebrate the Coming of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Thank you to everyone who follows my blog, follows me on Twitter, and has liked my Facebook page. I appreciate the support and the prayers you give me.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

The Life of Saint Augustine Through the Words of Pope Benedict XVI

Today, in the Western lung of the Catholic Church, we celebrate the great African Doctor – Saint Augustine of Hippo. Eloquent in his life and his words, the Church dons him the name – The Doctor of Grace. Even after 1600 years, the Catholic Church views him as one of the greatest theologians in her arsenal; an arsenal filled with many great fighters and defenders of Jesus Christ. The Church also sees him as one the greatest conversion stories of any saint.

Today, I am not going to focus on his biographical life, since I have done this in years past. For today’s memorial, I want to share with you Saint Augustine through the words of Pope Benedict XVI. In his general audiences from March 7, 2007 to February 27, 2008, Benedict taught on the Church Fathers from Clement of Rome to Augustine. So important is Saint Augustine to the Catholic Church that the Holy Father dedicated five general audiences to him from January 9 – February 27, 2008.

Here are 10 excerpts from the five audiences –

1. “It could be said, on the one hand, that all the roads of Latin Christian literature led to Hippo (today, Annaba, on the coast of Algeria), the place where he was Bishop from 395 to his death in 430, and, on the other, that from this city of Roman Africa, many other roads of later Christianity and of Western culture itself branched out.”

2. “Augustine realized that the whole of the Old Testament was a journey toward Jesus Christ. Thus, he found the key to understanding the beauty and even the philosophical depth of the Old Testament and grasped the whole unity of the mystery of Christ in history…”

3. “Yet, if the world grows old, Christ is perpetually young; hence the invitation: “Do not refuse to be rejuvenated united to Christ, even in the old world. He tells you: Do not fear, your youth will be renewed like that of the eagle” (cf. Serm. 81,8). Thus, the Christian must not lose heart, even in difficult situations, but rather he must spare no effort to help those in need.”

4. “When I read St. Augustine’s writings, I do not get the impression that he is a man who died more or less 1,600 years ago; I feel like he is a man of today: a friend, a contemporary who speaks to me, who speaks to us with his fresh and timely faith. In Saint Augustine, who talks to us…for Christ is truly yesterday, today, and for ever.”

5. “Thus, Augustine’s entire intellectual and spiritual development is also a valid model today in the relationship between faith and reason, a subject not only for believers but for every person who seeks the truth, a central theme for the balance and destiny of all men.”

6. “Here, then, Augustine encountered God and throughout his life experienced him to the point that this reality – which is primarily his meeting with a Person, Jesus – changed his life, as it changes the lives of everyone, men and women, who in every age have the grace to encounter him. Let us pray that the Lord will grant us this grace and thereby enable us to find his peace.”

7. “In the first place, confessiones means the confession of our own faults, of the wretchedness of sin; but at the same time, confessiones also means praise of God, thanksgiving to God. Seeing our own wretchedness in the light of God becomes praise to God and thanksgiving, for God loves and accepts us, transforms us and raises us to himself.”

8. “Only by reading Saint Paul’s Epistles within the faith of the Catholic Church was the truth fully revealed to him. This experience as summarized by Augustine in one of the most famous passages of the Confessions: he recounts that, in the torment of his reflections, withdrawing to a garden, he suddenly heard a child’s voice chanting a rhyme never heard before: tolle, lege, tolle, lege, “pick up and read, pick up and read” (VIII, 12, 29).”

9. “We always need to be washed by Christ, who washes our feet, and be renewed by him. We need permanent conversion…Augustine converted to Christ, who is truth and love, followed him throughout his life, and became a model for every human being, for all of us in search of God.”

10. “Even today, as in his time, mankind needs to know and above all to live this fundamental reality: God is love, and the encounter with him is the only response to the restlessness of the human heart; a heart inhabited by hope…so much so that Saint Paul wrote that “in this hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24).”

It is my hope, as it is with many of my blog posts where I quote the Doctors, the Saints, and the Popes, that you will come to take their words to heart in order that you know Jesus Christ in a complete way as well as come to know the beauty of the Catholic Church.

For further magisterial reading on Saint Augustine of Hippo, I suggest the Apostolic Exhortation, Augustinum Hipponsenem, promulgated on August 26, 1986, by Pope St. John Paul II.

Saint Augustine of Hippo…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary’s Faith at the Annunciation

Continuing with the theme of the Annunciation for the month of March, which is one week from tomorrow, I want to focus today’s “Mondays with Mary” on two Early Church Fathers and their thoughts on Mary’s faith at the Annunciation. The Patristics play an integral role in the life of the Catholic Church since it was their theology and writings that really set the foundation for the years of organic development within Catholic theology. I can’t emphasize enough the importance the Early Church Fathers play in the life of the universal Church.

St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, says that the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation is the fundamental mystery of Mary’s life and mission. It is at the Annunciation that God not only tells her that she will conceive and bear a son, but he gives her a mission of salvation as well. From this moment on, Mary’s life is defined by her complete faith and total obedience to the will of God.

Mary is the first of God’s creatures to receive salvation since she willingly cooperated with human salvation in a unique way. Mary’s personal salvation is complete in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. As it is with all men, Mary’s salvation was Christological. Jesus Christ began the redemption of humanity with his own Mother.

Annunciation

St. Ambrose believes that Mary’s great faith from the moment of the angel’s words gave her the means to carry out her mission effectively and with the Holy Spirit, her divine spouse, beside her. Unlike Zechariah, who doubted the angel, Mary whole-heartedly and with complete faith trusts in God even though she says, “How will this happen, since I do not know man?”

In his Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, St. Ambrose says,

“She does appear to have doubted the event but asked how it would take place. Clearly, if she asked how it would happen, she must have believed its fulfillment. Thus she merited to hear the words, ‘Blessed are you, because you have believed’ (Lk 1:45).

Yes, truly blessed for having surpassed the priest [Zechariah]. While the priest denied, the Virgin rectified the error. No wonder that the Lord, wishing to rescue the world, began his work with Mary. Thus she, through whom salvation was being prepared for all people, would be the first to receive the promised fruit of salvation.”

Many of the Early Church Fathers focus heavily on the virginity of Mary, which was declared dogmatic in the year 649 A.D. This is an important element of the Annunciation, and one that I will focus on two weeks from today to conclude our catechesis on the subject.

Building on the words from St. Ambrose, let us briefly examine the faith of Mary as contemplated by an early Pope, Saint Leo the Great. Leo the Great has a real passion and love for the faith that the Blessed Virgin Mary displays when the Angel Gabriel visits her.  Drawing from St. Augustine of Hippo, Leo the Great writes that Mary conceived the divine and human offspring in her mind first and then she conceived him in her body. According to Leo, Mary’s faith was also affirmed when the Angel tells her that her kinswoman, Elizabeth, was also with child.

Focusing on the faith of Mary, Leo the Great wants us to understand the importance of it and says,

“Not only our memory but somehow our eyes as well contemplate the conversation between the angel Gabriel and the wondering Mary; likewise the conception by the Holy Spirit is wonderful both in its promise and in the faith that received it.”

On this day in Lent 2014, as we look towards the great Solemnity of the Annunciation, let us ask Jesus Christ for the faith that his Virgin Mother had not only at the moment of the angel’s words, but throughout her entire earthly life. Help us Lord through your Mother’s mediating intercession to teach us to be completely faithful to you, the Catholic Church, and to remain strong and obedient to the divine economy.

Source:

Gambero, Luigi. Mary and the Fathers of the Church. Ignatius Press, 1999.

Saint Augustine of Hippo – The Doctor of Grace

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote 5 Wednesday General Audiences on St. Augustine of Hippo in early 2008.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote 5 Wednesday General Audiences on St. Augustine of Hippo in early 2008.

In his Wednesday Audience from January 9, 2008, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said,

“This man of passion and faith, of the highest intelligence and tireless in his pastoral care, a great saint and Doctor of the Church, is often known, at least by hearsay, eve by those who ignore Christianity or who are not familiar with it, because he left a very deep mark on the cultural life of the West and on the whole world. Because of his special importance, Saint Augustine’s influence was widespread.”

Saint Augustine was born on November 13, 354 in Tagaste, a small town in Northern Africa in the Roman Province of Numidia. His father was Patricius, a pagan with a violent temper. His mother was Monica, a holy and pious woman, who through her conduct led her husband to be baptized before his death. Augustine had one brother, Navigius, and a sister who became the head of a monastery. From his mother, he learned the teachings of Christianity and how to pray, but was never baptized, because he put it off.

Around the age of seventeen, Augustine ventured to Carthage to study in the school of rhetoric. He enjoyed his studies and took great pleasure in them. While in school, he engaged in an illicit relationship with a woman (as well as other immoral activities), who bore him a son by the name of Adeodatus. At this time in his life, Augustine had a real contempt for Christianity. His son’s name means – “a gift from God.”  He would remain with this woman till his conversion at the age of thirty-two.

After reading Cicero’s, Hortensius, his passion changed from rhetoric to philosophy. He also read the Bible, but found it dissatisfying. He desired to live with God, so he joined the Manicheans, who claimed to be the totally rational Christians. He found their dualistic approach of good and evil profound, until he met Faustus, the out of touch leader of the Manicheans. In the end, the Manicheans could never fully explain his doubts. Once departing from them, he opened up a school of rhetoric in Rome. Not enjoying this endeavor, Augustine left for Milan and applied for a lofty position in the imperial court located there under the pagan, Symmacus, the Prefect of Rome.

It was in Milan where he would meet St. Ambrose, the great Milanese Prelate. The two struck up a friendship based on academics, not necessarily the truth of Jesus Christ. Ambrose was Bishop of Milan at the time and found Augustine to of great intelligence and academic rigor. Augustine often attended the sermons of St. Ambrose, merely for curiosity sake; however, he found his rhetoric to be eloquent and engaging.

While in Milan, St. Monica hoped that he would marry the mother of Adeodatus, but he rejected the idea, it was an immoral life. Augustine continued down the rabbit hole of intellectual, moral, and spiritual suffering. After hearing a variety of stories of great men who converted their lives over to Jesus Christ after reading the life of St. Antony and writings of St. Paul, Augustine found himself distraught. He struggled immensely with the idea of chastity and the memories of his sins of the flesh.

st-augustine-of-hippo - painting

Hearing the words from a small child singing nearby, “Tolle lege! – Take up and read! – Augustine opened up St. Paul’s epistles and read, “Not in rioting and drunkenness; not in chambering and impurities; not in contention and envy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupisceneces.” Once reading this passage and words that followed, Augustine resolved his life with the Lord and quickly went to St. Monica, who rejoiced and gave praise to God.

On April 24, 387, during the Easter Vigil, St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine, along with his friend Alipius, and his son, Adeodatus. After the death of his sixteen-year-old son, Augustine returned to Africa. Upon his return, St. Monica entered eternal glory. With some friends, he lived in Tagaste for three years praying, fasting, doing good works and studying Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

Having no desire to be a priest initially, Augustine was ordained in 391. He served as an assistant to Valerius, Bishop of Hippo. He established a monastery where he and others lived. While living in the monastery, he wrote against the heresies of Manicheism and the start of Donatism. In 395, he was consecrated as coadjutor Bishop and later became Bishop of Hippo at the death of Valerius.

As Bishop of Hippo (on the coast of modern day Algeria) for thirty-five years, St. Augustine defended the Catholic faith against all kinds of heresies. He established a rule among his priests, deacons, and subdeacons that chose to live with him in residence. He fought courageously against the Donatists and even had to invoke civil laws to keep them out of Hippo.

Just as the Donatists began to die off, yet another heresy rose under Pelagius. The Pelagians did not believe in the doctrine of original sin. They believed that baptism was just a “ticket” to get into Heaven. Grace was not needed for salvation. Augustine responded with a great intensity and wrote heavily against these teachings. To read these words and others, see today’s complimentary blog post, The Words of Saint Augustine of Hippo.

In 410, when the Goths attacked Christianity with slander, St. Augustine began to write his second greatest work, Of the City of God, to counter attack them. At the age of seventy-two, he also wrote his greatest work, The Confessions, where he sets out his immoral conduct with great humility and penance.

His later years were filled with great struggle. During the siege of Hippo in 430 at the hands of the Vandals, St. Augustine was diagnosed with a fever. On August 28, 430, at the age of seventy-five years old, Saint Augustine silently entered the eternal glory of God.