St Augustine: Conversion and Ordination
Help came in a curious way. A countryman of his, Pontitianus, visited him and
told him things which he had never heard about the monastic life and the
wonderful conquests over self which had been won under its inspiration.
"Take up and read." It seemed to him a heavenly indication;
he picked up the copy of St. Paul's epistles which he had left where he and
Alypius had been sitting, and opened at Romans xiii. When he came to the words,
" Let us walk honestly as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in
chambering and wantonness," it seemed to Mm that a decisive message had been
sent to his own soul, and his resolve was taken.
Augustine, intent on breaking wholly with his old life, gave up his position,
and wrote to Ambrose to ask for baptism. The months which intervened between
that summer and the Easter of the following year, at which, according to the
early custom, he intended to receive the sacrament, were spent in delightful
calm at a country-house, put at his disposal by one of his friends, at
Cassisiacum (Casciago, 47 m. n. by w. of Alilan).
he whole party returned to
Milan before Easter (387), and Augustine, with Alypius and Adeodatus, was
baptized. Plans were then made for returning to Africa; but these were upset by
the death of Monnica, which took place at Ostia as they were preparing to cross
the sea, and has been described by her devoted son in one of the most tender and
beautiful passages of the Conlessiones.
Here, where he had been most closely associated with the
Manicheans, his literary warfare with them naturally began; and he was also
writing on free will, though this book was only finished at Hippo in 391. In the
autumn of 388, passing through Carthage, he returned to Thagaste, a far
different man from the Augustine who had left it five years before.
The years which he spent in the presbyterate (391-395) are the last of his
formative period. The very earliest works which fall within the time of his
episcopate show us the fully developed theologian of whose special teaching we
think when we speak of Augustinianism.
Other details of this period are that he appealed to Aurelius, bishop of Carthage, to suppress the custom of holding banquets and entertainments in the churches, and by 395 had succeeded, through his courageous eloquence, in abolishing it in Hippo; that in 392 a public disputation took place between him and a Manichean presbyter of Hippo, Fortunatus; that his treatise De fide et symbols was prepared to be read before the council held at Hippo October 8, 393; and that after that he was in Carthage for a while, perhaps in connection with the synod held there in 394.
Extract from St Augustine IEP © 2001 Ref url: http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/a/augustin.htm
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