Stained glass window: St. Augustine and St. Monica "Vision at Ostia"

St. Augustine (354-430), one of the four Doctors of the Western Church was born in Tagaste in North Africa (now part of Algeria). His father, Patricius was a pagan (converted to Christianity just before his death) and his mother St. Monica a devout Christian who fervently prayed through Augustine’s life for his conversion. St. Augustine was provided an excellent education by his civil servant father during his early years at Tagaste, then in the influential learning center of Carthage in North Africa, before seeking what he thought were bigger things in Rome and Milan.

St. Augustine had a thirst for the truth which he originally tried to satisfy with a study of the Greek philosophers including Plato and later by following the heretical Manichaean sect. He also had a desire for the passions of the flesh which expanded during an idle school year. His communications through his writing and sermons about his failings and eventual conversion make him one of the most beloved saints.

In Italy, St. Augustine became acquainted with the teachings of St. Ambrose and became one of his most ardent followers; and he was baptized by St. Ambrose at Easter in 387. Throughout his life, St. Augustine wrote extensively on liturgical, spiritual and theological topics and is known for being able to bridge the Greek philosophical thought with the Scriptural writings. He is considered to be the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul. He catalogued his numerous writings with, reportedly, over five million written words surviving today. His most famous works, Confessions (c. 400) and City of God (c. 415), are considered classics from both a theological and humanist standpoint and remain widely-read today. Many have been moved to proclaim the greatness of God through the Confessions; and many can quote this famous line, “You move us to delight in praising You; for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Although never intending to be part of the clergy, St. Augustine was ordained a priest at Hippo in 391 by the bishop of Hippo, Valerius; and he eventually served as bishop of Hippo in his home in North Africa for thirty-four years. St. Augustine died in Hippo on August 28, 430 and his feast day is on August 28th.

St. Augustine’s mother St. Monica (~333 – 387), is remembered for her unconditional love and persevering prayer for her son, especially, during the adventurous time of his life. Her prayers were answered when Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. After St. Augustine’s baptism, he and his mother were waiting at the Port of Ostia for a ship to return to their home in north Africa, and had days of conversations about spiritual topics. He and his mother experienced a vision of heaven while sitting near a window overlooking a garden at a house in Ostia – St. Augustine eloquently narrated the scene of their “Vision at Ostia” in Chapter IX of his book, Confessions. St. Monica died shortly after her son’s conversion. Her feast day is celebrated on August 27th.