Biographies of Catholic Saints

Saints are men and women who live their life as followers of Christ in their ordinary life and a source of wisdom for those who would like to be faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. May their examples inspired us to live the way of life Jesus has taught us

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Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is “a philosophical and theological genius of the first order, dominating, like a pyramid, antiquity and the succeeding ages. Compared with the great philosophers of past centuries and modern times, he is the equal of them all; among theologians he is undeniably the first, and such has been his influence that none of the Fathers, Scholastics, or Reformers has surpassed it.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church) Elsewhere, we have discussed his life and his writings; here, we shall treat of his teaching and influence in three sections:

source: Catholic Encyclopedia

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General Apology

In The City of God (begun in 413, but Books 20-22 were written in 426) Augustine answers the pagans, who attributed the fall of Rome (410) to the abolition of pagan Divine Providence with regard to the Roman Empire, he widens the horizon still more and in a burst of genius he creates the philosophy of history, embracing as he does with a glance the destinies of the world grouped around the Christian religion, the only one which goes back to the beginning and leads humanity to its final term. The City of God is considered as the most important work of the great bishop. The other works chiefly interest theologians; but it, like the Confessions, belongs to general literature and appeals to every soul. The Confessions are theology which has been lived in the soul, and the history of God’s action on individuals, while The City of God is theology framed in the history of humanity, and explaining the action of God in the world.

 

 

Other apologetic writings, like the “De Verâ Religione” (a little masterpiece composed at Tagaste, 389-391), “De Utilitate Credendi” (391), “Liber de fide rerum quæ non videntur” (400), and the “Letter 120 to Consentius,” constitute Augustine the great theorist of the Faith, and of its relations to reason. “He is the first of the Fathers,” says Harnack (Dogmengeschichte, III, 97) “who felt the need of forcing his faith to reason.” And indeed he, who so repeatedly affirms that faith precedes the intelligent apprehension of the truths of revelation — he it is who marks out with greater clearness of definition and more precisely than anyone else the function of the reason in preceding and verifying the witness’s claim to credence, and in accompanying the mind’s act of adhesion. (Letter to Consentius, n. 3, 8, etc.) What would not have been the stupefaction of Augustine if anyone had told him that faithproofs of the divine testimony, under the penalty of its becoming science! Or if one had spoken to him of faith in authority giving its assent, without examining any motive which might prove the value of the testimony! It surely cannot be possible for the human mind to accept testimony without known motives for such acceptance, or, again, for any testimony, even when learnedly sifted out, to give the science — the inward view — of the object.

source: Catholic Encyclopedia

Editions of St. Augustine’s works

The best edition of his complete works is that of the Benedictines, eleven tomes in eight folio volumes (Paris, 1679-1700). It has been often reprinted, e.g. by Gaume (Paris, 1836-39), in eleven octavo volumes, and by Migne, PL 32-47. The last volume of the Migne reprint contains a number of important earlier studies on St. Augustine — Vivés, Noris, Merlin, particularly the literary history of the editions of Augustine from Schönemann’s “Bibl. hist. lit. patrum Lat.” (Leipzig, 1794).

source:Catholic Encyclopedia

Pastorals and Preaching

The theory of preaching and religious instruction of the people is given in the “De Catechizandis Rudibus” (400) and in the fourth book “De Doctrinâ. Christianâ.” The oratorical work alone is of vast extent. Besides the Scriptural homilies, the Benedictines have collected 363 sermons which are certainly authentic; the brevity of these suggests that they are stenographic, often revised by Augustine himself. If the Doctor in him predominates over the orator, if he possesses less of colour, of opulence, of actuality, and of Oriental charm than St. John Chrysostom, we find, on the other hand, a more nervous logic, bolder comparisons, greater elevation and greater profundity of thought, and sometimes, in his bursts of emotion and his daring lapses into dialogue-form, he attains the irresistible power of the Greek orator.

source:Catholic Encyclopedia 

Dogmatic and Moral Exposition

Dogmatic and Moral Exposition

 The fifteen books De Trinitate, on which he worked for fifteen years, from 400 to 416, are the most elaborate and profound work of St. Augustine. The last books on the analogies which the mystery of the Trinity have with our soul are much discussed. The saintly author himself declares that they are only analogous and are far-fetched and very obscure.

 The Enchiridion, or handbook, on Faith, Hope, and Love, composed, in 421, at the request of a pious Roman, Laurentius, is an admirable synthesis of Augustine’s theology, reduced to the three theological virtues. Father Faure has given us a learned commentary of it, and Harnack a detailed analysis (Hist. of dogmas, III, 205, 221).

 

Several volumes of miscellaneous questions, among which “Ad Simplicianum” (397) has been especially noted.

 Numberless writings of his have a practical aim: two on “Lying” (374 and 420), five on “Continence,” “Marriage,” and “Holy Widowhood,” one on “Patience,” another on “Prayer for the Dead” (421).

 

Scriptural Exegesis

Augustine in the “De Doctrinâ Christianâ” (begun in 397 and ended in 426) gives us a genuine treatise of exegesis, historically the first (for St. Jerome wrote rather as a controversialist). Several times he attempted a commentary on Genesis. The great work “De Genesi ad litteram” was composed from 401 to 415. The “Enarrationes in Psalmos” are a masterpiece of popular eloquence, with a swing and a warmth to them which are inimitable. On the New Testament: the “De Sermone Dei in Monte” (during his priestly ministry) is especially noteworthy; “De Consensu Evangelistarum” (Harmony of the Gospels — 400); Homilies on St. John (416), generally classed among the chief works of Augustine; the Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians” (324), etc. The most remarkable of his Biblical works illustrate either a theory of exegesis (one generally approved) which delights in finding mystical or allegorical interpretations, or the style of preaching which is founded on that view. His strictly exegetical work is far from equalling in scientific value that of St. Jerome. His knowledge of the Biblical languages was insufficient: he read Greek with difficulty; as for Hebrew, all that we can gather from the studies of Schanz and Rottmanner is that he was familiar with Punic, a language allied to Hebrew. Moreover, the two grand qualities of his genius — ardent feeling and prodigious subtlety — carried him sway into interpretations that were violent or more ingenious than solid.

 

 

 

But the hermeneutics of Augustine merit great praise, especially for their insistence upon the stern law of extreme prudence in determining the meaning of Scripture: We must be on our guard against giving interpretations which are hazardous or opposed to science, and so exposing the word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers creation of the universe, and the gradual development of the world under the action of the natural forces which were placed in it. Certainly the instantaneous act of the Creator did not produce an organized universe as we see it now. But, in the beginning, God creatednebulous mass (the word is Augustine’s Nebulosa species apparet; “De Genesi ad litt.,” I, n. 27), and in this mass were the mysterious germs (rationes seminales) of the future beings which were to develop themselves, when favourable circumstances should permit. Is Augustine, therefore, an Evolutionist?

 

 

If we mean that he had a deeper and wider mental grasp than other thinkers had of the forces of nature and the plasticity of beings, it is an incontestable fact; and from this point of view Father Zahm (Bible, Science, and Faith, pp. 58-66, French tr.) properly felicitates him on having been the precursor of modern thought. But if we mean that he admitted in matter a power of differentiation and of gradual transformation, passing from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, the most formal texts force us to recognize that Augustine proclaimed the fixity of species, and did not admit that “from one identical primitive principle or from one germ, different realities can issue.” This judgment of the Abbé Martin in his very searching study on this subject (S. Augustin, p. 314) must correct the conclusion of Father Zahm. “The elements of this corporeal world have also their well defined force, and their proper quality, from which depends what each one of them can or cannot do, and what reality ought or ought not to issue from each one of them. Hence it is that from a grain of wheat a bean cannot issue, nor wheat from a bean, nor a, man from a beast, nor a beast from a man” (De Genesi ad litt., IX, n. 32).

source: Catholic Encyclopedia

Controversies with Heretics

Against the Manichæans:

 “De Moribus Ecclesiæ Catholicæ et de Moribus Manichæorum” (at Rome, 368);

  • “De Duabus Animabus” (before 392);
  • “Acts of the Dispute with Fortunatus the Manichæan” (392);
  • “Acts of the Conference with Felix” (404);
  • “De Libero Arbitrio” — very important on the origin of evil;
  • various writings “Contra Adimantum”;
  • against the Epistle of Mani (the foundation);
  • against Faustus (about 400);
  • against Secundinus (405), etc.

Against the Donatists:

 

 “Psalmus contra partem Donati” (about 395), a purely rhythmic song for popular use (the oldest example of its kind);

  • “Contra epistolam Parmeniani” (400);
  • “De Baptismo contra Donatistas” (about 400), one of the most important pieces in this controversy;
  • “Contra litteras Parmeniani,”
  • “Contra Cresconium,”
  • a good number of letters, also, relating to this debate.

Against the Pelagians, in chronological order, we have:

 

 

  • 412, “De peccatorum meritis et remissione” (On merit and forgiveness);
  • same year, “De spiritu et litterâ” (On the spirit and the letter);
  • 415, “De Perfectione justitiæ hominis” — important for understanding Pelagian impeccability;
  • 417, “De Gestis Pelagii” — a history of the Council of Diospolis, whose acts it reproduces;
  • 418, “De Gratiâ Christi et de peccato originali”;
  • 419, “De nuptiis et concupiscentiâ” and other writings (420-428);
  • “Against Julian of Eclanum” — the last of this series, interrupted by the death of the saint.

Against the Semipelagians:

 

 “De correptione et gratiâ” (427);

  • “De prædestinatione Sanctorum” (428);
  • “De Done Perseverantiæ” (429).

Against Arianism:

 

 “Contra sermonem Arianorum” (418) and

  • “Collattio cum Maximino Arianorum episcopo” (the celebrated conference of Hippo in 428).

source: Catholic Encyclopedia