#4. St. Augustine
I would be amiss if I didn’t follow the last article up with Venerable Augustus Tolton’s namesake. He is the most important Church Father, highly respected by Catholics and Protestants. He’s kinda a big deal. And no one acknowledges that he was Black.
He is whitewashed in every. stinkin. depiction.
St. Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354-28 August 430) was born to a Christian mom and a pagan dad. To say his dad was a jerk is kind of an understatement. He slept around and beat his mom. They were part of the upper class though. They were freedmen and wealthy. They were full Roman citizens. He probably grew up speaking Latin and got the best in education. He grew up Christian, but he was very familiar with paganism.
He went to college in Carthage through the help of friends because it was above his family’s means. While in school, he lived a hedonistic lifestyle and became a Manichean. He discovered a love for philosophy and embarked on a search for truth.
He moved around teaching and learning until he reached Milan, where his next big milestone was met. He met St. Ambrose and became friends. St. Ambrose adopted him as a spiritual son. Between St. Ambrose, the constant intercession of his mother St. Monica, and his own search for truth, Augustine became a Christian at last. He renounced his mistresses and eventually broke off the engagement his mother had arranged in order to become a priest. He and his son from one of his mistresses were baptized in 387. His son and his mother died soon after. Augustine became a priest in 391. In 395, he was made Bishop of Hippo.
St. Augustine wrote some of the most influential books in the history of Christian thought. His autobiography, his Confessions, is considered a masterpiece even by non-Christians. Here is just a taste:
Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee. These things kept me far from thee; even though they were not at all unless they were in thee. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my blindness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace.
Like many early leaders of the Church, he was canonized by popular acclaim. That means, unlike today where people must go through a process to be canonized, St. Augustine was canonized because the Christians at the time generally agreed that he was a saint. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1298. He is popularly called “the Doctor of Grace.”
As one historian says, “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.”
I encourage you to read more of him and by him. It’s horrible that such a huge, huge, HUGE figure in Christian thought has been continuously whitewashed. St. Augustine, pray for us.
Here is a good article to read to learn more about him and the issues surrounding his ethnicity: https://face2faceafrica.com/article/father-of-the-catholic-church-st-augustine-was-an-african-and-this-is-why-you-must-know