Saint Augustine is one of the most influential philosophers and theologians in Western ecclesiastical and cultural history. Born in 354 at Thagaste (in what is today Algeria), he was the son of a Christian mother, Monika, and a pagan father, Patricius. His parents enabled him to obtain a sound education in Thagaste, Madaura and Carthage. It was also in Carthage that he became a professional rhetor, joined the sect of Manichaeism and his son Adeodatus was born.
Later, Augustine pursued a professional career in Milan and gradually turned away from Manichaeism. It was not least owing to the influence of Milan’s Bishop Ambrose that Augustine converted to Christianity; together with Adeodatus, he was baptised by Ambrose during the Easter vigil of 387.
After his baptism, he returned to his native North Africa via Rome. He founded his first abbey on his father’s country estate in Thagaste. Spontaneously ordained as a priest on a trip to Hippo Regius (today’s Annaba on the Algerian mediterranean coast), he built the “Garden Abbey” on a plot of land that Bishop Valerius of Hippo Regius, a great supporter of Augustine, had given him. When Valerius died, Augustine became his successor. Even as a bishop he did not abandon the canonical way of life, gathering all the priests in his episcopal municipality around him to form a community. The Rule that he wrote for his canonical life quickly spread over North Africa and Europe and it is this very text that still functions as a standard for many religious orders: the Augustinian Canons, Premonstratensian Canons, Augustinian Eremites, Dominicans, Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God and many others.
In addition to fighting the Manichaeists, Augustine’s ministry was shaped by his dispute with the Donatists and the Pelagians. As a writer, Augustine excelled with his great works “De civitate Dei” (The City of God) and “De trinitate” (On the Trinity) and countless other writings, letters, sermons, etc. He gained great influence with his book “Confessiones” (Confessions), an autobiographical work relating his development from birth to his baptism that allows revealing insights into human psychology which are valid even today.
Augustine died on 28 August 430 in the municipality of Hippo Regius, which was besieged by the Vandals at that time. The feast day of Saint Augustine is celebrated annually on 28 August.