Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pope: St. Augustine Similar to Youth Today

Says Saint Fell Away From the Faith as a Student

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2007 ( Similar to many young people in the Church today, St. Augustine fell away from the faith as a student, despite admitting later that he always had a love for Jesus, says Benedict XVI.

Returning to his series of reflections during the general audience on figures of the early Church, the Pope spoke today of the bishop of Hippo, who he called "a man of passion and faith, of high intelligence and untiring pastoral zeal."

He said the saint, who is even known by those who "ignore Christianity," was influential to the point that it could be said "all the roads of Christian Latin literature lead to Hippo."

"Rarely has a civilization encountered a figure so great," said the Pope. "Moreover, Augustine is the Father of the Church who has left the greatest number of writings. His biographer Possidius says: It seemed impossible that a man could write so much during his life."

Promising to touch upon his writings in a future general audience, the Holy Father commented on the life of Augustine, as reconstructed through his writings, particularly the "Confessions."

Benedict XVI noted that Augustine was born in Tagaste, which was located in the Roman province of Africa, in 354, and that his mother, Monica, a "passionate woman, venerated as a saint, was a big influence on her son and educated him in the Christian belief."

"As happens with a lot of young people today," said the Holy Father, the young man, who later admitted that "he had always loved Jesus," fell away from the faith.


The Pope said that Augustine's road back to the Church began while he was studying in Carthage. Reading the work "Hortensius" by Cicero, which has since been lost, "a love of wisdom" was awakened in the young student. Augustine wrote of the moment in "Confessions": "The book changed my feelings. […] Suddenly, every vain hope became empty to me, and I longed for the immortality of wisdom with an incredible ardor in my heart."

After a first attempt to pursue his rational search for wisdom and truth in sacred Scriptures, which left him "disappointed," the Pontiff said the young man "fell into the net of the Manichaeans, who presented themselves as Christians and promised a totally rational religion."

Augustine eventually distanced himself from the Manichaeans, and after obtaining a post in the imperial court in Milan, he began to attend the lectures of Bishop Ambrose. "He was charmed by his words," noted the Holy Father, "not only because of their eloquence, but because they touched his heart."

Benedict XVI said that after listening to the teachings of the bishop of Milan, Augustine found "the key to understanding the

beauty, the philosophic depth of the Old Testament, and he understood the unity of the mystery of Christ in history, as well as the synthesis between philosophy, rationality and faith in the Logos, in Christ, the eternal Word that became flesh."

His conversion in 386, said the Pope, was "the apex of a long and tormented inner journey."

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