Apostolic Letter to the bishops, priests, religious families and
faithful of the whole Catholic Church on the occasion of the 16th
centenary of the conversion of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor, 28 August
AUGUSTINUM HIPPONENSEM (Augustine Of Hippo)
Pope John Paul II
Venerable brothers and beloved Sons and Daughters: Greetings and the
Augustine of Hippo, who, scarcely one year after his death, was called
"one of the best teachers" of the Church by my distant predecessor, St.
Celestine I, has been present ever since in the life of the Church and
in the mind and culture of the whole western world. In a similar fashion,
other Roman Pontiffs have proposed the example of his way of life and the
writings that embody his teachings as an object of contemplation and
imitation, and very many Councils have often drawn copiously from his
Pope Leo XIII praised his philosophical teachings in the Encyclical
Aeterni Patris; later, Pius XI made a brief synthesis of his virtues
and teachings in the Encyclical Ad salutem humani generis, declaring that,
of those who have flourished from the beginnings of the human race down to
our own days, none—or, at most, very few—could rank with Augustine, for
the very great acuteness of his genius, for the richness and sublimity of
his teachings, and finally for his holiness of life and defense of
Catholic truth. Paul VI later affirmed: "Indeed, over and above the
shining example he gives of the qualities common to all the Fathers, it
may be said that all the thought-currents of the past meet in his works
and form the source which provides the whole doctrinal tradition of
I too have added my voice to those of my predecessors, when I expressed my
strong desire "that his philosophical, theological and spiritual doctrine
be studied and spread, so that he may continue ... his teaching in the
Church, a humble but at the same time enlightened teaching which speaks
above all of Christ and love." On another occasion, I urged in
particular the spiritual sons of this great saint "to keep the fascination
of St. Augustine alive and attractive even in modern society." This is an
excellent ideal that must fire us with enthusiasm, because "the exact and
heartfelt knowledge of his life awakens the thirst for God, the attraction
of Christ, the love for wisdom and truth, the need for grace, prayer,
virtue, fraternal charity, and the yearning for eternal happiness."
I am very happy, accordingly, that the propitious circumstance of the
sixteenth centenary of his conversion and baptism offers me the
opportunity to evoke his brilliant figure once again. This commemoration
will be at the same time a thanksgiving to God for the gift that He has
made to the Church, and through her to the whole human race, with this
wonderful conversion. It will also be a very fitting occasion to recall to
all that this convert, when he had become a bishop, was a marvelous
example to pastors in his intrepid defense of the true faith, or, as he
would say, of the "virginity" of the faith. He was likewise the genius
who constructed a philosophy that can truly be called Christian because of
its harmony with the faith, and a tireless promoter of spiritual and
We know the progress of his conversion from his own works written in the
solitude of Cassiciacum before his baptism, and above all from the
famous Confessions, a work that is simultaneously autobiography,
philosophy, theology, mysticism and poetry, a work in which those who
thirst for truth and know their own limitations have always discovered
their own selves. Toward the end of his life, he wrote: "Which of my works
succeeded more often in being known and loved than the books of my
Confessions?" History has never contradicted this judgment, but has
amply confirmed it. Even today, the Confessions of St. Augustine are
widely read, since the richness of their interior insight and religious
emotion have a profound effect on the minds of men and women, stimulating
them and disturbing them. This is true not only of believers; even one
without faith, but in search at least of a certainty that will allow him
to understand himself, his deep aspirations and his torments, reads this
work with advantage. The conversion of St. Augustine, an event totally
dominated by the need to find the truth, has much to teach the men and
women of today, who are so often mistaken about the greatest question of
It is well known that this conversion took a wholly individual path,
because it was not a case of arriving for the first time at the Catholic
faith, but of rediscovering it. He had lost it, convinced that in so
doing, he was abandoning only the Church, not Christ.
He had been brought up in a Christian manner by his mother, the pious
and holy Monica. In virtue of this education, Augustine always
remained not only a believer in God, in providence and in the future
life, but also a believer in Christ, whose name he "had drunk in," as
he says, "with my mother's milk." After he had returned to the faith
of the Catholic Church, he said that he had returned "to the faith which
was instilled in me as a child and which had entered into my very
marrow." If one wishes to understand his interior evolution, and what
is perhaps the most profound aspect of his personality and his thought,
one must take this fact as one's starting-point.
He awoke at the age of nineteen to the love of wisdom, when he read the
Hortensius of Cicero—"That book altered my way of thinking . . . and I
desired wisdom's immortality with an incredible ardor in my heart." He
loved the truth deeply, and sought it always with all the strength of his
soul: "O Truth, Truth, how deep even then was the yearning for you in the
inmost depths of my mind!
Despite this love for truth, Augustine fell into serious errors. Scholars
who look for the reasons for this indicate three directions: first, a
mistaken, account of the relationship between reason and faith, so that he
would have to choose between them; second, in the supposed contrast
between Christ and the Church, with the consequent conviction that it was
necessary to abandon the Church in order to belong more fully to Christ;
and third, the desire to free himself from the consciousness of sin, not
by means of the remission of sin through the working of grace, but by
means of the denial of the involvement of human responsibility in the sin
The first error consisted, therefore, in a certain spirit of rationalism
which led Augustine to believe that "one should believe those who teach,
rather than those who issue commands." With this spirit, he read the
Sacred Scriptures and felt himself repelled by the mysteries that they
contain, mysteries that need to be accepted with humble faith. When he
spoke later to his people about this period of his life, he said: "I who
speak to you was once deceived, when I first came to the divine Scriptures
as a youth, preferring to discuss intellectual points rather than to seek
piety.... In my wretchedness, I thought that I could fly, and left the
nest; and before I could fly, I fell." It was at this time that
Augustine met the Manichaeans, heard them and followed them.
The chief reason for this was that "they said that, having set aside the
terrible authority, they would lead to God by pure and simple reason those
willing to listen to them, freed from all errors" Augustine then
presented himself as "one wishing to grasp and imbibe the open and
authentic truth" with the force of reason alone.
After long years of study, especially of philosophical study, he
realized that he had been deceived, but the effect of the Manichaean
propaganda was to keep him convinced that the truth was not to be found in
the Catholic Church. He fell into a profound depression and indeed
despaired of ever coming to know the truth: "the Academicians kept my
rudder for long in the middle of the streams, resisting all winds."
It was the same love for truth which he always had within him, that
rescued him from this interior crisis. He realized that it was impossible
that the path to truth should be closed to the human mind; if it is not
found, it is because men neglect and despise the means that will lead to
the discovery of truth. Strengthened by this conviction, he replies to
himself: "Rather, let us seek more diligently, and not despair." He
therefore continued to search, and reached the harbor under the guidance
of the divine grace which his mother implored for him in her supplications
and abundant tears.
He understood that reason and faith are two forces that are to cooperate
to bring the human person to know the truth, and that each of these
has its own primacy: faith comes first in the sequence of time, reason has
the absolute primacy: "the authority is first in the order of time, but in
reality the primacy belongs to the reason." He understood that if
faith is to be sure, it needs a divine authority, and that this is none
other than the authority of Christ, the supreme teacher—Augustine had
never doubted this—and that the authority of Christ is found in the
Sacred Scriptures that are guaranteed by the authority of the Catholic
With the help of the Platonist philosophers, he freed himself from the
materialistic concept of being that he had taken in from Manichaeism:
"Admonished by them to return to myself, I entered within myself, under
Your guidance.... I entered, and I saw as with the eye of my soul ... the
inalterable light above my mind." It was this inalterable light that
opened to him the immense horizons of the spirit of God.
He understood that the first question to be asked about the serious
question of evil, which was his great torment, was not its origin, but
what it was; and he saw that evil is not a substance, but the lack of
good: "All that exists is good. The evil about the origin of which I asked
questions is not a substance." He concluded that God is the creator of
everything, and that no substance exists that was not created by Him.
Taught by his own experience of life, he made the decisive discovery
that sin has its origin in the will of the human person, a will that is
free and weak: "It was I who willed and refused; it was I, I."
Although he could assert at this time that he had reached the point of
arrival, this was not yet the case, because he was caught in the tentacles
of a new error, the presumption that he could attain the beatifying
possession of the truth by natural powers alone. An unhappy personal
experience changed his opinion on this point. He understood then that
it is one thing to know the goal, another to reach it. In order to
find the necessary powers and the path itself, he took up "most eagerly,"
as he says, "the venerable Scripture of Your Spirit, and above all the
apostle Paul." He found Christ the teacher in the letters of Paul, as
he had always venerated Him, but also Christ the Redeemer, the incarnate
Word, the only mediator between God and men. He saw then in all its
splendor "the face of philosophy"—the philosophy of Paul that has as
its center Christ, "the power and wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24), and has
other centers in faith, humility and grace; the "philosophy" that is at
once wisdom and grace, so that it becomes possible not only to know one's
homeland, but also to reach it.
Having rediscovered Christ the Redeemer and embraced Him, Augustine had
returned to the harbor of the Catholic faith, to the faith in which he had
been brought up by his mother: "For I had heard while still a boy about
the eternal life promised to us by the God who in His humility came down
to our pride." The love for the truth, nourished by divine grace,
overcame all errors.
But the path was not yet at its end. A former plan was reborn in
Augustine's mind: to consecrate himself totally to wisdom once he had
found it, abandoning every earthly hope in order to possess wisdom.
Now he could no longer make excuses: the truth so long desired was now
certain. Nevertheless, he hesitated, seeking reasons to put off the
decision to do this. The bonds that tied him to the earthly hopes were
strong: honors, money, marriage, especially the last, in view of the
way of life that that had become customary for him.
Augustine knew well that he was not forbidden to marry; but he did not
want to be a Catholic Christian in any other way except by renouncing the
excellent ideal of the family in order to dedicate himself with "all" his
soul to the love and possession of wisdom. In taking this decision which
corresponded to his deepest aspirations but was in contrast to his most
deeply-rooted habits, Augustine was prompted by the example of Anthony and
of the monks who were beginning to spread in the West also and whom he
came to know by chance. He accused himself with great shame, "You
could not do what these men and women do." A deep and painful struggle
ensued, which was brought to its close by divine grace once again.
Augustine related to his mother his serene and strong decision: "Then we
went to my mother and related the matter to her: she rejoiced. We related
how it had come about: she exulted in triumph and she blessed You, who are
able to do more than we ask or think (Eph 3:20), because she saw that You
had given her so much more, as regarded me, than she had been accustomed
to ask with her unhappy and tearful groanings. For You converted me to
yourself, so that I might seek neither wife nor any hope of this
From this moment, Augustine began a new life. He finished the academic
year—the harvest holidays were near—and withdrew to the solitude of
Cassiciacum; at the end of the vacation, he gave up teaching, and
returned to Milan at the beginning of 387. He enrolled among the
catechumens and was baptized on the night of Holy Saturday—April 23-24—by
Ambrose, the bishop from whose preaching he had learned so much. "We were
baptized, and the care of the past life fled from us. I could not have
enough in those days of the wonderful sweetness of contemplating the
sublimity of Your plan of salvation for the human race." He adds, bearing
witness to the profound emotion of his mind, "How much I wept at the hymns
and canticles, keenly moved by the sweet voices of Your Church!"
After baptism, Augustine's one desire was to find a suitable place to live
with his friends according to his "holy resolution" to serve the Lord.
He found it in Africa, at Tagaste, his native town, where he went after
the death of his mother at Ostia Tiberina and after spending a few
months at Rome to study the monastic movement. When he arrived at
Tagaste, "having now cast off from himself the cares of the world; he
lived for God with those who accompanied him, in fasting, prayers, and
good works, meditating on the law of the Lord by day and by night." The
passionate lover of the truth wanted to dedicate his life to asceticism,
to contemplation, and to the intellectual apostolate. His first biographer
indeed goes on to say: "In his discourse and his books, he taught about
what God had revealed to his intellect as he pondered and prayed." He
wrote very many books at Tagaste, as he had done at Rome and Milan and at
After three years he went to Hippo, intending to look for a site to found
a monastery, and to meet a friend whom he hoped to win for the monastic
life. He found instead, in spite of himself, the priesthood. But he
did not give up his ideal: he asked and obtained permission to found a
monastery, the monastery of the laymen, in which he lived, and from which
many priests and many bishops came for all of Africa. When he became
bishop, five years later, he transformed the bishop's house into a
monastery, the monastery of the clerics. Not even as priest and bishop did
he abandoned the ideal conceived at the moment of his conversion. He wrote
also a rule for the servants of God, which has had so much influence in
the history of western religious life, and continues to play its part
I have dealt at some length with the essential points of the conversion of
Augustine, because they offer so much useful teachings, not only for
believers, but for all men and women of good will: they teach how easy it
is to go astray on the path of life, and how difficult it is to rediscover
the way of truth. But this wonderful conversion also helps us to
understand better his life afterwards as monk, priest and bishop who
always remained the great man who had been struck by the lightning-flash
of grace: "You had shot at our heart with the arrow of Your love, and we
bore Your words transfixed in our breast." Above all, the conversion
helps us to penetrate more easily into his thought, which was so universal
and profound that it rendered incomparable and imperishable service to
Christian thought, so that we have good reason to call him the common
father of Christian Europe.
The hidden force of his tireless search was assuredly the same force that
had guided him on the path of his conversion: love for the truth. He
himself indeed says: What does the soul desire more strongly than the
truth?" In a work of lofty theological and mystical speculation,
written more out of personal need than for external requirements, he
recalls this love and writes: "We are caught up by the love of seeking out
the truth." This time, the object of the search is the august mystery
of the Trinity and the mystery of Christ, the Father's revelation,
"knowledge and wisdom" of the human person: thus was born the great work
On the Trinity.
Two coordinates guided the research, which was unceasingly nourished by
love: the deepening of the Catholic faith and its defense against those
who denied it, such as the Manichaeans and the pagans, or who interpreted
it erroneously, such as the Donatists, the Pelagians and the Arians. It is
difficult to venture forth upon the sea of Augustine's thought, and even
more difficult to summarize it—this indeed is almost impossible. I may
however be permitted to recall some illuminating insights of this mighty
thinker, for the edification of all.
1. Reason and faith
First of all, there is the problem that occupied him most in his youth and
to which he returned with all the force of genius and the passion of his
spirit: the problem of the relationship between reason and faith. This is
a perennial problem, no less acute today than yesterday, and the direction
taken by human thought depends on its solution. It is a difficult problem,
however, because one must pass safely between two extremes, between the
fideism that despises reason and the rationalism that excludes faith.
Augustine's intellectual and pastoral endeavor aimed to show, beyond any
shadow of doubt, that "since we are impelled by a twin pull of gravity to
learn," both forces, reason and faith, must work together.
He always listened to what faith had to say, but he exalted reason no
less, giving each its own primacy in time of importance. He told all,
"Believe that you may understand," but he repeated also, "Understand that
you may believe." He wrote a work, perennially relevant, on the
usefulness of faith, and explained that faith is the medicine designed
to heal the eye of the spirit, the unconquerable fortress for the
defense of all, especially of the weak, against error, the nest in
which we receive the wings for the lofty flights of the spirit, the
short path that permits one to know, quickly, surely and without errors,
the truths which lead the human person to wisdom. He also emphasizes
that faith is never without reason, because it is reason that shows "in
what one should believe." "For faith has its own eyes, by means of
which it sees in a certain manner that what it does not yet see is
true." Therefore "no one believes anything, unless he has first
thought that it is to be believed," because "to believe is itself nothing
other than to think with assent . . . if faith is not' thought through, it
is no faith."
The outcome of the discourse on the eyes of faith is the discourse on
credibility, of which Augustine often speaks, adducing the reasons for
credibility as if to confirm the consciousness with which he himself had
returned to the Catholic faith. It is good to listen to one of these
texts: "There are many things that most properly keep me in the bosom of
the Catholic Church; to say nothing of the most genuine wisdom . . . let
me therefore omit mention of this wisdom" (for this argument, which for
Augustine was extremely strong, was not accepted by his opponents). "The
consensus of peoples and races keeps me in the Church, as does the
authority based on miracles, nourished by hope, increased by charity,
strengthened by its ancient character; likewise the succession of the
priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord
entrusted the care of His sheep after the resurrection, down to the
episcopate of today; finally, the very name of the Catholic Church keeps
me in her, because it is not without reason that this Church alone has
obtained such a name amid so many heresies."
In the great work on the City of God, which is at once apologetic and
dogmatic, the problem of reason and faith becomes that of faith and
culture. Augustine, who did so much to establish and promote Christian
culture, solves this problem by developing three main arguments: the
faithful exposition of Christian doctrine; the careful salvaging of pagan
culture, to the extent that it had elements capable of being salvaged (in
the area of philosophy, this was no small amount); and the insistent
demonstration of the presence in Christian teaching of whatever was true
and perennially valid in pagan culture, with the advantage of finding it
perfected and exalted there. It was not for nothing that the City of
God was widely read in the middle ages; and it greatly deserves to be read
today as well, as an example and stimulus to deepen the encounter of
Christianity with the cultures of the peoples. An important text of
Augustine may be usefully quoted here: "The heavenly city ... draws
citizens from all peoples ... taking no account of what is different in
customs laws and institutions; ...she neither suppresses nor destroys
anything of these, but rather preserves and fosters it. The diversities
that may exist in the diverse nations work together for the single goal of
earthly peace, unless they obstruct the practice of the religion that
teaches the worship of the one, true and most high God."
2. God and man
The other great word-pair which Augustine continuously studied is God and
man. As I have said above, when he freed himself from the materialism
which prevented him from having an exact concept of God—and hence the true
concept of man—he made this word-pair the center of the great themes of
his study, and always studied the two together: man thinking of God,
God thinking of man, who is His image.
In the Confessions, he asks himself these two questions: "What are You for
me....What am I myself for You?" He brings all the resources of His
thought and all the unwearying labor of his apostolate to bear on the
search for an answer to these questions. He is fully convinced of the
ineffability of God, so that he cries out: "Why wonder that you do not
understand? For if you understand, it is not God." It follows that "it
is no .... small beginning of the knowledge of God, if before we are able
to know what He is, we already begin to know what He is not." It is
necessary therefore to strive "that we should thus know God, if we are
able and as far as we are able, the one who is good without quality, great
without quantity, the creator not bound by necessity," and thus going
through all the categories of reality that Aristotle has described.
Although God is transcendent and ineffable, Augustine is nevertheless
able, starting from the self-awareness of the human person who knows that
he exists and knows and loves, and encouraged by Sacred Scripture, which
reveals God as the supreme Being (Ex 3:14), highest Wisdom (Wis, passim)
and first Love (1 Jn 4:8), is able to illustrate this threefold notion of
God: the Being from whom every being proceeds through creation from
nothing, the Truth which enlightens the human mind so that it can know the
truth with certainty, the Love that is the source and the goal of all true
love. For God, as he so often repeats, is "the cause of what exists, the
reason of thought and the ordering of living, or, to use an equally
famous formula, "the cause of the universe that has been created, and the
light of the truth that is to be perceived, and the fountain from which
happiness is to be drunk."
But it was above all in studying the presence of God in the human person
that Augustine used his genius. This presence is both profound and
mysterious. He finds God as "the eternal internal," most secret and
most present—man seeks Him because he is absent, but knows Him and
finds Him because He is present. God is present as "the creative substance
of the world," as the truth that gives light, as the love that
attracts, more intimate than what is most intimate in man, and higher
than what is highest in him. Referring to the period before his
conversion, Augustine says to God: "Where were You then for me, and how
far away? And I was a wanderer far away from You.... But You were more
internal than what was intimate in me, and higher than what was highest in
me"; "You were with me, and I was not with You." Indeed. he
insists: "You were in front of me; but I had gone away from myself and did
not find myself, much less find You." Whoever does not find himself
does not find God, because God is in the depths of each one of us.
The human person, accordingly, cannot understand himself except in
relationship to God. Augustine found ever new expressions of this great
truth, as he studied the relationship of man to God and stated this in the
most varied and effective way. He sees the human person as a tension
directed toward God; his words, "You have made us for yourself and our
heart has no rest until it rests in You," are very well known.
He sees the human person as a capacity of existence elevated to the
immediate vision of God, the finite who reaches the Infinite. He writes in
the De Trinitate that man "is the image of the one whom he is capable of
enjoying, and whose partner he can become." This faculty "is in the
soul of man, which is rational or intellectual ... immortally located in
his immortality," and therefore the sign of his greatness: "he is a great
nature, because he is capable of enjoying the highest nature and of
becoming its partner." He sees the human person also as a being in
need of God, because he is in need of the happiness that he can find only
in God. Human nature "has been created in such an excellent state that
even although it is itself mutable, it reaches happiness by cleaving to
the unchangeable good, that is, to God. Nor can it satisfy its need unless
it is totally happy; and only God suffices to satisfy it."
It is because of this basic relationship between man and God that
Augustine continually exhorts men to the life of the spirit. "Go back into
yourself; the truth dwells in the inner man; and if you discover that your
nature is mutable, transcend yourself also," in order to find God,
the source of the light that illuminates the mind. Together with the truth
there is in the inner man the mysterious capacity to love, which is like a
weight (in Augustine's celebrated metaphor) that draws him out of
himself, toward the others and especially toward the Other, i.e. God. The
force of attraction exercised by love makes him social by his very
nature, so that. as Augustine writes "there is nothing so social by
nature .... as the human race." Man's interiority, where the
inexhaustible riches of truth and love are stored, is "a great
abyss," which St. Augustine never ceases to investigate with
Here we must add that, for one who reflects on himself and on history, the
human person appears as a great problem—as Augustine says, a "great
question." Too many enigmas surround him: the enigma of death, of the
profound division that he suffers in himself, of the incurable imbalance
between what he is and what he desires. These enigmas can be synthesized
in the fundamental enigma of the greatness of the human person and his
incomparable wretchedness The Second Vatican Council spoke at length of
these enigmas when it wished to cast light on the "mystery of the human
person." Augustine tackled these problems with passion and employed
all the genius of his interest, not only to discover the reality, which is
often very sad—if it is true that no one is more social by nature than the
human person, it is no less true, adds the author of the City of God,
taught by history, that "no one is more prone to discord by vice than the
human race"—but also and above all to seek and propose their
solution. He finds only one solution, which had already appeared on the
eve of his conversion: Christ, the Redeemer of man. I too have felt it
necessary in my first Encyclical, called precisely Redemptor Hominis, to
draw the attention of the Church's children and all of men and women of
good will to this solution; I was happy to take up with my own voice the
voice of all the Christian tradition.
As Augustine's thought penetrates these problems, it becomes more
theological, while remaining fundamentally philosophical; and the
word-pair Christ and Church, which he had at first denied and later
recognized in his younger years, began to illuminate the more general
word-pair of God and man.
3. Christ and the Church
One may rightly say that the summit of the theological thinking of the
Bishop of Hippo is Christ and the Church; indeed, one could add that this
is the summit of his philosophy too, in that he rebukes the philosophers
for having done philosophy "without the man Christ." The Church is
inseparable from Christ. From the time of his conversion onwards, he
recognized and accepted with joy and gratitude the law of providence which
has established in Christ and in the Church "the entire summit of
authority and the light of reason in that one saving name and in His one
Church, recreating and reforming the human race."
Without doubt, he spoke profusely and sublimely of the Trinitarian mystery
in his work on the Trinity and in his discourses, tracing the path that
was to be taken by later theology. He insisted both on the equality and on
the distinction of the divine Persons, illustrating these through his
teaching on their relations: God "is what He has, with the exceptions that
are predicated of each Person in respect of the other." He developed
the theology of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and from the
Son, but "principally" from the Father, because "the Father is the
principle of all the divinity, or, to put it better, of the Godhead,"
and He has granted to the Son the spiration of the Holy Spirit, who
proceeds as Love and therefore is not begotten. To reply better to
the "garrulous rationalists," he proposed the "psychological"
explanation of the Trinity, seeking its image in the memory, in the
intellect and in the love of the human person, and studying thus the most
august mystery of faith together with the highest nature of creation, the
Yet when he speaks of the Trinity, he never removes his gaze from Christ,
who reveals the Father, nor from the work of salvation. Having come to
understand the reason for the mystery of the incarnate Word, shortly
before his conversion, he did not cease to investigate this more
deeply, summarizing his thought in formulae that are so full and effective
that they are like an anticipation of the teaching of Chalcedon. In an
importance passage of one of his last works, he writes: "the believer . .
. believes that .in him there is the true human nature, that is our
nature, although it is taken up in a unique way into the one Son of God
when God the Word receives it, such that the One who received it and what
He received formed one Person in the Trinity. The assumption of man did
not make a quarternity, but the Trinity remained: this assumption wrought
in an ineffable manner the truth of one person in God and man. Therefore
we do not say that Christ is only God . . . nor only man . . . nor man in
such a way that He would lack something that certainly belongs to human
nature . . . but we say that Christ is true God, born of God the Father .
. . and the same is true man, born of a human mother ... nor does His
humanity, in which He is less than the Father, take away anything from His
divinity, in which He is equal to the Father . . . The one Christ is both
of these." He puts it somewhat more briefly: "The same one who is
man, is God; and the same one who is God, is man—not by the confusion of
the nature but in the unity of the person," "one ... person in both
With this solid vision of unity of the person in Christ, who is called
"wholly God and wholly man," Augustine covers an immense ground in
theology and history. If his eagle's eye gazes on Christ the Word. of the
Father, he insists no less on Christ the man; indeed, he asserts
vigorously that without Christ the man there is neither mediation, nor
justification, nor resurrection, nor membership of the Church. whose head
is Christ. He returns often to this theme and develops it broadly,
both to explain the faith which he had obtained again at the age of
twenty-two and because of the needs of the Pelagian controversy.
Christ, the man-God, is the sole mediator between the righteous and
immortal God and mortal and sinful human beings, because He is at once
mortal and righteous. It follows that He is the universal way, "which
has never been lacking for the human race, no one has been set free no one
is set free, no one will be set free."
The mediation of Christ is accomplished in the work of redemption, which
consists not only in the example of righteousness, but above all in the
sacrifice of reconciliation, which was supremely true, supremely
free, and completely perfect. The essential characteristic of
the redemption by Christ is its universality, which shows the universality
of sin. This is how Augustine repeats and interprets the words of St.
Paul, "If one has died for all, then all have died" (2 Cor 5:14), i.e.,
dead because of sin: "The Christian faith, accordingly, exists precisely
because of these two men"; "One and one: one for death, one for
life." Therefore "every man is Adam; likewise, for those who have
believed, every man is Christ."
In Augustine's view, to deny this doctrine is the same as "emptying the
cross of Christ" (1 Cor 1:17). To prevent this, he wrote and spoke much
about the universality of sin, including the doctrine of original sin,
"which the Catholic faith has believed from ancient times." He
teaches that "Jesus Christ came in the flesh for no other reason .... than
to give life and salvation to all, to free, redeem, and enlighten those
who beforehand were in the death of sins, in sickness, slavery, captivity,
and darkness.... It follows that those who are not in need of life,
salvation, liberation and redemption cannot have anything to do with this
dispensation of salvation by Christ."
Because Christ, the only mediator and redeemer of men, is head of the
Church, Christ and the Church are one single mystical person, the total
Christ. He writes with force: "We have become Christ. Just as He is the
head, we are the members; the whole man is He and ourselves." This
doctrine of the total Christ is one of the teachings that mattered most to
the Bishop of Hippo, and one of the most fruitful themes of his
Another fundamental theme is that of the Holy Spirit as the soul of the
mystical body: "what the soul is to the body of a man, the Holy Spirit is
for the body of Christ, which is the Church." The Holy Spirit is also
the principle of community, by which the faithful are united to one
another and to the Trinity itself. "By means of what is common to the
Father and the Son, They willed that we should have communion both among
ourselves and with Them. They willed to gather us together, through that
gift, into that one thing which both have in common; that is, by means of
God the Holy Spirit and the gift of God." He therefore says in the
same text: "the fellowship of unity of the Church of God, outside of which
there is no remission of sins, is properly the work of the Holy Spirit, of
course with the cooperation of the Father and the Son, because the Holy
Spirit himself is in a certain manner the fellowship of the Father and the
Contemplating the Church as body of Christ, given life by the Holy Spirit
who is the Spirit of Christ, Augustine gave varied development to a
concept which was also emphasized in a special way by the recent Council:
that of the Church as communion. He speaks in three different but
converging ways: first, the communion of the sacraments, or the
institutional reality founded by Christ on the foundation of the
apostles. He discusses this at length in the Donatist controversy,
defending the unity, universality, apostolicity and sanctity of the
Church, and showing that she has as her center the See of Peter, "in
which the primacy of the apostolic see has always been in force."
Second, he speaks of the communion of the saints, or the spiritual reality
that unites all the righteous from Abel until the end of the ages.
Third, he speaks of the communion of the blessed, or the eschatological
reality that gathers in all those who have attained salvation, that is,
the Church "without spot and wrinkle" (Eph 5:27).
Another theme dear to Augustine's ecclesiology was that of the Church as
mother and teacher, a theme on which he wrote profound and moving pages,
because it had a close connection to his experience as convert and to his
teaching as theologian. While he was on the path back to faith, he met the
Church, no longer opposed to Christ as he had been made to believe,
but rather as the manifestation of Christ, "most true mother of
Christians" and authority for the revealed truth.
The Church is the mother who gives birth to the Christians: "Two
parents have given us the birth that leads to death, two parents have
given us the birth that leads to life. The parents who gave us birth for
death are Adam and Eve: the parents who gave us birth for life are Christ
and the Church." The Church is a mother who suffers on account of
those who have departed from righteousness, especially those who destroy
her unity; she is the dove who moans and calls all to return or draw
near to her wings; she is the manifestation of God's universal
fatherhood, by means of the charity which "is mild for some, severe for
others; an enemy to none, but mother for all."
She is a mother, but also, like Mary, a virgin: mother by the ardor of
charity, virgin by the integrity of the faith that she guards, defends and
teaches. This virginal motherhood is linked to her task of teacher, a
task which the Church carries out in obedience to Christ. For this reason,
Augustine looks to the Church as guarantor of the Scriptures, and
attests that he will remain secure in her whatever difficulties arise for
him, urgently exhorting others to do the same: "Thus, as I have often
said and impress upon you with vehemence, whatever we are, you are secure
if you have God as your Father and His Church as your mother." From
this firm conviction then is born his passionate exhortation that one
should love God and the Church—God as Father and the Church as
Mother. Perhaps no one else has spoken of the Church with such great
affection and passion as Augustine. I have pointed out a few of his
statements, in the hope that these are sufficient to show the depth and
the beauty of a teaching that will never be studied sufficiently,
especially from the point of view of the love that animates the Church as
the effect of the Holy Spirit's presence within her. He writes, "We have
the Holy Spirit if we love the Church: we love the Church if we remain in
her unity and charity."
4. Freedom and grace
Even to indicate briefly the various aspects of St. Augustine's theology
would be an infinite task. Another important, indeed fundamental aspect,
linked also to his conversion, is that of freedom and grace. As I have
already mentioned, it was on the eve of his conversion that he grasped the
responsibility of the human person in his actions, and the necessity of
the grace of the sole Mediator, whose power he felt in the moment of
the final decision, as the eighth Book of his Confessions eloquently
testifies. His personal reflections and the controversies he later
experienced, particularly with the followers of the Manichaeans and the
Pelagians, offered him the opportunity to study more deeply the individual
facets of this problem and to propose a synthesis, although this was done
with great modesty because of the highly mysterious nature of the problem.
He always defended freedom as one of the bases of a Christian
anthropology, against his former co-religionists, against the
determinism of the astrologers whose victim he himself had once been,
and against every form of fatalism; he explained that liberty and
foreknowledge are not incompatible, nor liberty and the aid of divine
grace. "The fact that free will is aided, does not destroy it; but because
it is not taken away, it is aided." And the Augustinian principle is
well known: "He who made you without your participation, does not justify
you without your participation. He has made you without your knowledge; He
justifies you if you will it."
With a long series of biblical texts, he demonstrates to those who doubted
this compatibility, or upheld the contrary view, that freedom and grace
belong to divine revelation and that one must hold firmly to both of these
truths. Few are capable of grasping this compatibility in its
profundity, for this is an exceedingly difficult question which can
cause many people anxiety, because while defending liberty one can
give the impression of denying grace, and vice versa. One must
therefore believe in their compatibility just as one must believe in the
compatibility of the two entirely necessary offices of Christ, who is at
once savior aid judge, for it is on these two offices that freedom and
grace depend: "If then God's grace does not exist, how does He save the
world? And if free will does not exist, how does He judge the world?"
On the other hand, Augustine insists on the necessity of grace, which is
the same thing as the necessity of prayer. To those who said that God does
not command what is impossible, and that therefore grace is not necessary,
he replied that "God does not command what is impossible; but when He
commands, He exhorts you to do what you can and to ask for what you cannot
do," and God gives help so that the command becomes possible, since
"He does not abandon us unless we abandon Him first."
The doctrine of the necessity of divine grace becomes the doctrine of the
necessity of prayer, on which Augustine insists so much, because, as
he writes, "it is certain that God has prepared some gifts even for those
who do not pray, such as the beginning of faith; but other gifts only for
those who pray, such as final perseverance."
Grace is therefore necessary to remove the obstacles that prevent the will
from fleeing evil and accomplishing what is good. These obstacles are two
in number, "ignorance and weakness," but especially the latter
because "although it begins to be clear what is to be done and what goal
is to be striven for . . . one does not act, one does not carry it out,
one does not live well." Augustine calls this helping grace "the
inspiration of love so that we may carry out in holy love what we have
recognized . . . must be done.
The two obstacles of ignorance and weakness must be overcome if we are to
breathe the air of freedom. It will not be superfluous to recall that the
defense of the necessity of grace is, for Augustine, the defense of
Christian freedom. Starting from Christ's words, "If the Son sets you
free, then you will be truly free" (Jn 8:36), he defends and proclaims
this freedom which is inseparable from truth and love. Truth, love and
freedom are the three great good things that fired the spirit of Augustine
and exercised his genius; he shed much light on the understanding of
To pause briefly in consideration of this last good, that of freedom, we
must observe that he describes and celebrates Christian freedom in all its
forms, from the freedom from error—for the liberty of error is "the worst
death of the soul"—through the gift of faith which subjects the soul
to the truth, to the final and inalienable freedom, the greatest of
all, which consists in the inability to die and in the inability to sin,
i.e. in immortality and the fullness of righteousness. All other
freedoms which Augustine illustrates and proclaims find their place among
these two, which mark the beginning and the end of salvation: the freedom
from the dominion of the disordered passions, as the work of the grace
that enlightens the intellect and gives the will so much strength that it
becomes victorious in the combat with evil (as he himself experienced in
his conversion when he was freed from the harsh slavery); (181) the
freedom from time that we devour and that devours us, in that love
permits us to live anchored to eternity.
He sets forth the unutterable riches of justification—the divine life of
grace, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and
"deification"—and makes an important distinction between the
remission of sins which is total, full and perfect on the one hand, and on
the other hand the interior renewal which is progressive and will be full
and total only after the resurrection, when the human person as a whole
shares in the divine immutability.
In the case of the grace that strengthens the will, he insists that it
operates by means of love and therefore makes the will invincible against
evil, without removing from the will the possibility of refusal.
Commenting on the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, "No one comes to
me unless the Father draws him" (Jn 6:44), he writes, "Do not think that
you are drawn against your will: the spirit is drawn also by love."
But love, as he also observes, works "with liberal sweetness," so
that "the one who observes the precept with love, observes it in
freedom. "The law of freedom is the law of love."
Augustine teaches no less insistently freedom from time, a freedom that
Christ, the eternal Word, has come to bring us by his entry into the world
in the incarnation: "O Word that exists before time, through whom time was
made," he exclaims, "born in time although You are eternal life, calling
those who exist in time and making them eternal!" It is well known
that St. Augustine studied deeply the mystery of time and both felt
and stated the need to transcend time in order to exist truly. "That you
may be truly yourself, transcend time. But who shall transcend it by his
own power? Let Christ lift him up, as He said to the Father: 'I wish that
they too may be with me where I am.'"
Christian freedom, as I have briefly mentioned, is seen and meditated on
in the Church, the city of God, which manifests the fruits of this freedom
and, as far as is in her power, makes all people sharers in them, upheld
by divine grace. For she is founded on the "social love that embraces all
people and wishes to unite them in one justice and peace, unlike the city
of the wicked, which divides and sets people against one another because
it is founded on "private" love.
It is good to mention here some of the definitions of peace which
Augustine made according to the various contexts in which he was speaking.
Starting from the idea that "the peace of mankind is ordered harmony," he
defines other kinds of peace, such as "the peace of the home, the ordered
harmony of those who live together, in giving orders and in obeying them,"
likewise the peace of the earthly city and "the peace of the heavenly
city, the wholly ordered and harmonious fellowship in enjoying God and
enjoying one another in God," then "the universal peace that is the
tranquility of good order," and finally the order itself that is "the
disposition that gives its place to each of the various equal and unequal
"The pilgrimage of Your people sighs" for this peace "from its departure
until its return," and for this peace it works.
5. Charity and the ascent of the spirit
This brief synthesis of Augustine's teaching would remain seriously
incomplete, if we did not mention his spiritual teaching, which, united
closely to his philosophical and theological teaching, is no less rich
than these. We must return once more to conversion, with which we began.
It was then that he decided to dedicate himself totally to the ideal of
Christian perfection. He remained always faithful to this ideal; even more
than this, he committed himself with all his power to showing others the
path of perfection, drawing both on his own experience and on the Bible,
which is for all the first nourishment of piety.
He was a man of prayer; one might indeed say, a man made of prayer—it
suffices to recall the famous Confessions which he wrote in the form of a
letter to God—and he repeated to all, with incredible persistence, the
necessity of prayer: "God has willed that our struggle should be with
prayers rather than with our own strength", he describes the nature
of prayer, which is so simple and yet so complex, the interiority
which permits him to identify prayer with desire: "Your desire is itself
your prayer; and if your desire is continuous, then your prayer too is
continuous." He brings out its social usefulness also: "Let us pray
for those who have not been called, that they may be called. For perhaps
God has predestined them in such a way that they will be granted and
receive the same grace in answer to our prayers"; and he speaks of
its wholly necessary link to Christ "who prays for us, and prays in us,
and is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our priest; He prays in us, as
our head; He is prayed to by us, as our God. Let us therefore recognize
our voices in him, and his voice in us."
He climbed with steady diligence the steps of the interior ascents, and
described their program for all, an ample and well-defined program that
comprises the movement of the spirit toward contemplation—purification,
constancy and serenity, orientation toward the light, dwelling in the
light—the stages of charity—incipient, progressing, intense,
perfect—the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are linked to the
beatitudes, the petitions of the Lord's Prayer, the examples
given by Christ himself.
If the Gospel beatitudes constitute the supernatural environment in which
the Christian must live, the gifts of the Holy Spirit bring the
supernatural touch of grace which makes this climate possible; the
petitions of the Lord's Prayer, or in general, prayer which can be
narrowed down to these petitions, gives the necessary nourishment; the
example of Christ provides the model that is to be imitated; and charity
is the soul of all, the source of radiation outwards and the secret power
of the spiritual life. It is no small merit of Augustine to have narrowed
all of Christian doctrine and life down to the question of charity. "This
is true love: that we cling to the truth and live righteously."
We are led to this by Sacred Scripture, which in its entirety "tells the
story of Christ and admonishes us to charity," and also by theology,
which finds its own goal in charity, by philosophy, by
pedagogy, and finally by the study of politics.
Augustine located the essence and the norm of Christian perfection in
charity, because it is the first gift of the Holy Spirit and the
reality which prevents one from being wicked. It is the good with
which one possesses all goods, and without which the other goods are of no
avail. "Have charity, and you will have them all; because without charity,
whatever you have will be of no benefit."
He indicated all the inexhaustible riches of charity; it makes easy
whatever is difficult, gives newness to what has become a habit;
it gives irresistible force to the movement toward the supreme Good,
because charity is always imperfect here on earth; it frees from
every interest that is not God; it is inseparable from
humility—"where there is humility, there is charity"—and is the
essence of every virtue, since virtue is nothing else but well-ordered
love; it is the gift of God. This final point is crucial, because it
separates and distinguishes the naturalistic and the Christian concepts of
life. "Whence comes the love of God and of neighbor that exists in men, if
not from God himself? Because if it is not from God, but from men, the
Pelagians have won: but if it is from God, then we have defeated the
Charity gave birth in Augustine to the anxious desire to contemplate
divine things, a desire that belongs to wisdom. He frequently
experienced the highest forms of contemplation, not only in his famous
experience at Ostia, but in other forms too.
He says of himself, "I often do this," referring to his recourse to the
meditation of Scripture so that his pressing cares may not oppress him:
"This is my delight, and I take refuge in this pleasure as much as the
things I must do permit me to relax.... Sometimes You lead me into an
interior sentiment that is utterly unusual, to a sweetness I cannot
describe: if this were to reach its perfection in me, I cannot say what
that would be, but it would not be this life." When these experiences
are united to the theological and psychological acuteness of Augustine,
and to his uncommon talent as a writer, we understand how he was able to
describe the mystical ascents with such precision, so that he has been
called by many people the prince of mystics.
Despite his predominating love for contemplation, Augustine accepted the
burden of the episcopate and taught others to do likewise, responding thus
with humility to the call of our mother the Church. But he also
taught through his example and his writings how to preserve the taste for
prayer and contemplation among the tasks of pastoral activity. It is worth
while to recall the synthesis that he offers us in the City of God, which
has become classical. "The love of the truth seeks the holy repose of
leisure, but the necessity of love takes on the just duty. If no one
imposes this burden, one should spend one's time in perceiving and
grasping the truth: but in this case, the delight in the truth must not be
altogether abandoned, lest the sweetness be lost, and necessity become
oppressive." The profound teaching set out here merits a long and
careful reflection, which becomes more easy and fruitful if we look to
Augustine himself, who gave a shining example of the way to reconcile both
aspects of the Christian life, prayer and action, which are apparently
It is not irrelevant to recall the pastoral activity of this bishop, who
is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest pastors of the Church.
This activity also had its origin in his conversion, because the
conversion gave birth to his resolve to serve God alone. "Now I love You
alone.... I am ready to serve You alone." When he then realized that
this service must also include pastoral activity, he did not hesitate to
accept it; he accepted it with humility and trepidation, but out of
obedience to God and to the Church.
This apostolate had three fields which spread out like concentric circles:
the local church of Hippo, which was not large, but was troubled and
needy; the African Church, which was sadly divided between Catholics and
Donatists; and the universal Church, which was attacked by paganism and
Manichaeism, and disturbed by heretical movements.
He saw himself as the servant of the Church in every way: "Christ's
servant, and through him the servant of his servants." He drew all
the consequences of this, including the most taxing, such as risking his
own life for the faithful: he asked the Lord for the strength to love
them in such a way as to be ready to die for them "in reality or in
disposition." He was convinced that one who was placed at the head of
the people without this disposition was "a scarecrow standing in the
vineyard" rather than a bishop. He did not want to be safe without
his faithful, and he was ready for any sacrifice, if it would bring
those in error back to the way of truth. At a time of extreme danger
because of the invasion by the Vandals, he taught his priests to stay
among their faithful even at the risk of their own lives. In other
words, he wished that bishops and priests should serve the faithful as
Christ served them. "Let us therefore see in what sense the bishop who is
set over others is a servant: in the same way as the Lord himself."
This was his constant program of action.
In his diocese, which he never left except in a case of necessity, he
was assiduous in preaching—he preached on Saturday and Sunday, and
frequently throughout the entire week—in catechesis; in what he
called "the bishop's audience," which sometimes lasted for an entire day,
so that he did not eat; for the care of the poor; in the
formation of the clergy; in directing the monks, many of whom were
later called to the priesthood and the episcopate, and in the
guidance of the monasteries of nuns. When he died, "he left the
Church a very numerous clergy, and monasteries of men and women full of
those consecrated to chastity under their superiors, and libraries."
He worked with equal tirelessness for the Church in Africa, accepting the
task of preaching whenever he was asked. He took part in the frequent
regional councils, despite the difficulties of travel, and undertook with
intelligence, assiduity and passion the work of terminating the Donatist
schism which divided that Church into two parties. He strove hard to
achieve this success, which was his great merit. He recorded the history
of the doctrine of Donatism in innumerable writings, explaining the
Catholic doctrine of the sacraments and of the Church; he promoted an
ecumenical conference between Catholic and Donatist bishops, and he
animated it by his presence.
He proposed the removal of all obstacles to reunification, including that
of the renunciation of the episcopate by the Donatist bishops, and
obtained this. He published the conclusions of this conference, and
brought the process of pacification to full success. When persecutors
sought his death, he once escaped from the hands of the Donatist
circumcelliones because their guide took the wrong way.
He composed very many works and wrote many letters for the universal
Church, entering into many controversies. The Manichaeans, the Pelagians,
the Arians and the pagans were the object of his pastoral concern in the
defense of the Catholic faith. He worked untiringly by day and by
night. Even in the last years of his life, he would dictate one work
by night and another, when he was free, by day. When he died at the
age of seventy-six, he left three works unfinished: these three works are
the most eloquent testimony to his sleepless diligence and to his
unconquerable love for the Church.
Before concluding, let us ask this extraordinary man what he has to say to
the modern man. I believe that he has indeed much to say, both by his
example and by his teaching.
He teaches the person who searches for truth not to despair of finding it.
He teaches this by his example—he himself rediscovered it after many years
of laborious seeking—and by means of his literary activity, the program of
which he had fixed in the first letter after his conversion. "It seems to
me that one must bring men back . . . to the hope of finding the
truth." He teaches therefore that one must seek the truth "with
piety, chastity and diligence," in order to overcome doubts about the
possibility of returning into oneself, to the interior realm where truth
dwells; and likewise to overcome the materialism which prevents the
mind from grasping its indissoluble union with the realities that are
understood by the intelligence, and the rationalism that refuses to
collaborate with faith and prevents the mind from understanding the
"mystery" of the human person.
Augustine's legacy to the theologians, whose meritorious task is to study
more deeply the contents of the faith, is the immense patrimony of his
thought, which is as a whole valid even now; above all, his legacy is the
theological method to which he remained absolutely faithful. We know that
this method implied full adherence to the authority of the faith, which is
one of its origin—the authority of Christ—and is revealed through
Scripture, Tradition and the Church. His legacy includes the ardent desire
to understand his own faith—"Be a great lover indeed of
understanding," is his command to others, which he applies to himself
also; likewise the profound sense of the mystery—"for it is better,"
he exclaims, "to have a faithful ignorance than a presumptuous
knowledge"; and likewise the sure conviction that the Christian
doctrine comes from God and thus has its own original source, which must
not only be preserved in its integrity—this is the "virginity" of the
faith, of which he spoke—but must also serve as a measure to judge the
philosophies that conform to it or diverge from it.
It is well known how much Augustine loved Sacred Scripture, proclaiming
its divine origin, its inerrancy, its depth and inexhaustible
riches; and it is well known how much he studied Scripture. But the
aim of his own study, and of his promotion of study by others, is the
entirety of Scripture, so that the true thought, or as he says, the
"heart" of Scripture may be indicated, harmonizing it where necessary
with itself. He takes these two principles to be fundamental for the
understanding of Scripture. For this reason he reads it in the Church,
taking account of the Tradition, the nature and obligatory force of
which he forcefully underlines. He made the celebrated statement: "I
should not believe the Gospel unless I were moved to do so by the
authority of the Catholic Church."
In the controversies that arose concerning the interpretation of Sacred
Scripture, his recommendation was that one should discuss "with holy
humility, with Catholic peace, with Christian charity," until the
truth itself be grasped, which God "has set ... upon the throne of
unity." One will then be able to see that the controversy had not
broken out in vain, because it "was the occasion for learning" and
progress has been made in the understanding of the faith.
Another contribution of Augustine's teaching to the men and women of today
which we may briefly mention is his proposal of the twofold object of
study that should occupy the human mind: God and man "What do you wish to
know?" he asks himself.
And he replies: "God and the soul are what I wish to know." Nothing more?
Nothing at all. Confronted with the sad spectacle of evil he reminds
modern men and women that they must nevertheless have confidence in the
final triumph of the good, i.e., of the City "where the victory is the
truth; where dignity is holiness; where peace is happiness where life is
Further, he teaches scientists to recognize the signs of God in the things
that have been created and to discover the "seeds" which God has sown
in the harmony of the universe He recommends above all to those who
have control over the destinies of the peoples that they love peace,
and that they promote it, not through conflict, but with the methods of
peace, because, as he wisely writes, "there is more glory in killing the
wars themselves with a word than in killing men with the sword, and there
is more glory in achieving or maintaining peace by means of peace than by
means of war."
Finally, I should like to address the young people whom Augustine greatly
loved as a professor before his conversion and as a pastor
afterwards. He recalls three great things to them: truth, love and
freedom—three supreme goods which stand together. He also invites them to
love beauty, for he himself was a great lover of beauty. It is not
only the beauty of bodies, which could make one forget the beauty of the
spirit, nor only the beauty of art, but the interior beauty of
virtue and especially the eternal beauty of God, from which is
derived the beauty of bodies, of art and of virtue.
Augustine calls God "the beauty of all beauties." "in whom and from
whom and through whom exist as good and beautiful everything that is good
and beautiful." When he looked back on the years before his
conversion, he regretted bitterly that he had been late in loving this
"beauty, ever ancient, ever new"; he admonished the young not to
imitate him in this, but to love beauty itself always and above all else,
and to preserve to the end the interior glory of their youth in
I have recalled the conversion of St. Augustine and have sketched briefly
a panorama of the thought of an incomparable man whose children and
disciples we all are in a certain fashion, both in the Church and in the
western world itself. I express once again my fervent desire that his
teaching should be studied and widely known, and his pastoral zeal be
imitated, so that the authoritative teaching of such a great doctor and
pastor may flourish ever more happily in the Church and in the world, for
the progress of the faith and of culture.
The sixteenth centenary of the conversion of St. Augustine offers a highly
favorable opportunity to increase the study of St. Augustine and to spread
devotion to him. I exhort in particular the religious orders, male and
female, which rejoice to bear his name, live under his patronage and
follow his Rule in whatever way, to dedicate themselves to this task, so
that this may be for them the occasion to follow St. Augustine's example
of wisdom and holiness, and to spread this zealously to others.
I shall be present in spirit, with gratitude and best wishes, at the
various initiatives that celebrate this centenary, invoking on each of
them with all my heart the heavenly protection and the efficacious help of
the Virgin Mary, whom the Bishop of Hippo proclaimed as Mother of the
Church. As a pledge of grace I am happy to impart my Apostolic
Blessing with this Letter.
Given at Rome, at St. Peter's on August 28, on the feast day of St.
Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, in the year 1986, the eighth
of my Pontificate.
1 Celestine I, Apostolivi verba (May 431): PL 50, 530 A.
2 Cf. Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris (August 4, 1879): Acta Leonis III, I, Rome
1881, p. 270.
3 Cf. Pius XI, Ad salutem human generis (April 22, 1930): AAS 22 (1930),
4 Paul VI, Discourse to the Religious of the Augustinian Order (May 4,
1970): AAS 62 (1970), p. 426; cf. L’Osservatore Romano, English edition,
May 21, 1970.
5 John Paul II, Discourse to the Professors and students of the "Augustinianum"
(May 8, 1982): AAS 74 (1982), p. 800; cf. L’Osservatore Romano, English
edition, June 14, 1982.
6 John Paul II, Discourse to the General Chapter of the Augustinian Order
on August 25, 1983: Insegnamenti VI-2 (1983), p. 305; cf. L’Osservatore
Romano, English edition, September 3, 1983.
7 Cf. St. Augustine, Serm. 93, 4; 213, 7: PL 38, 1063. (Henceforth, all
references not expressly naming the author are to be understood as "St.
8 Cf. De beata vita 4: PL 32,961, Contra Acad. 2, 2, 4-6, PL 32, 921-922,
Solil. 1, 1, 1-6, PL 32, 869-872.
9 De dono perseu. 20, 53: PL 45, 1026.
10 Confess. 1, 11, 17: PL 32, 699.
11 Cf. Confess. 9, 8, 17-9, 13, 17: PL 32, 771-780.
12 Cf. Confess. 6 5,8: PL 32,723.
13 Confess. 3, 4, 8: PL 32, 686; ibid. 5, 14, 25: PL 32, 718.
14 Contra Acad. 2,2,5: PL 32,921.
15 Confess. 3,4,7: PL 32,685.
16 Confess. 3, 6, 10: PL 32, 687.
17 De beata vita 4: PL 32, 961.
18 Serm. 51, 5, 6: PL 38, 336.
19 De ultitate cred. 1, 2: PL 42, 66.
21 Cf. Confess. 5, 3, 3: PL 32,707.
22 Cf. Confess. 5, 10, 19; 5, 13, 23; 5, 14, 24: PL 32, 715, 717, 718.
23 De beata vita 4: PL 32, 961; Cf. Confess. 5, 9, 19; 5, 14, 25; 6, 1, 1:
PL 32, 715, 718, 719.
24 Cf. De ultitate credendi 8, 20: PL 42, 78-79.
25 Confess. 6, 11, 18: PL 32. 719.
26 Cf. Confess. 3, 12, 21: PL 32, 694.
27 Cf. Contra Acad. 3, 20, 43: PL 32, 957; Confess. 6, 5, 7: PL 32,
28 De ordine 2, 9, 26: PL 32, 1007.
29 Cf. Confess. 7, 19, 25: PL 32, 746.
30 Cf. Confess. 6, 5, 7; 6, 11, 19; 7, 7, 11: PL 32, 723, 729, 739.
31 Cf. Confess. 7, 7, 11: PL 32, 739.
32 Confess. 7, 10, 16: PL 32, 742.
33 Cf. Confess. 7, 1, 1; 7, 7, 11: PL 32, 733, 739.
34 Cf. Confess. 7, 5, 7: PL 32, 736.
35 Confess. 7, 13, 19: PL 32, 743.
36 Cf. Confess. 7, 12, 18: PL 32, 743.
37 Cf. Confess. 7, 3, 5: PL 32, 735.
38 Confess. 8, 10, 22: PL 32, 759; Cf. Ibid. 8, 5, 10-11: PL 32, 753-754.
39 Cf. Confess. 7, 17, 23: PL 32, 744-745.
40 Cf. Confess. 7, 21, 26: PL 32, 749.
41 Confess. 7, 21, 27: PL 32, 747.
42 Contra Acad. 2, 2, 6: PL 32, 922.
43 Cf. Confess. 7, 21, 27: PL 32, 748.
44 Confess. 1, 11, 17: PL 32, 669.
45 Cf. Confess. 6, 11, 18; 8, 7, 17: PL 32, 729, 757.
46 Cf. Confess. 8, 5, 11, 12: PL 32, 754
47 Cf. Confess. 6, 12, 21: PL 32, 730.
48 Cf. Confess. 6, 6, 9: PL 32, 723.
49 Cf. Confess. 6, 15, 25: PL 32, 732.
50 Cf. Confess. 8, 1, 2: PL 32, 749.
51 Cf. Confess. 8, 6, 13-15: PL 32, 755-756.
52 Confess. 8, 11, 27: PL 32, 761.
53 Cf. Confess. 8, 7, 16-12, 29: PL 32, 756-762.
54 Confess 8, 12, 30: PL 32, 762.
55 Confess. 9, 2, 24; PL 32, 763.
56 Cf. Confess. 9, 4, 7-12: PL 32, 766-769.
57 Cf. Confess. 9, 5, 13: PL 32, 769.
58 Confess. 9, 6, 14: PL 32, 769.
59 Cf. Confess. 9, 6, 14: PL 32, 769.
60 Cf. Confess. 9, 12, 28s: PL 32, 775s.
61 Cf. De mor. Eccl. cath. 1, 33, 70: PL 32, 1340.
62 POSSIDIO, Vita S. Augustini 3, 1: PL 32, 36
63 Cf. Serm. 355, 2: PL 39, 1569.
64 Cf. POSSIDIO, Vita S. Augustini 11, 2: PL 32, 42.
65 Cf. L. VERHEIJEN, La regle de Saint Augustin, Paris 1967, I-II.
66 Confess. 9, 2, 3: PL 32, 764; cf. ibid. 10, 6, 8: PL 32, 782.
67 Tractatus in Io 26, 5: PL 35, 1609.
68 De Trin. 1, 5, 8: PL 42, 825.
69 Contra Acad. 3, 20, 43: PL 32, 957.
70 Cf. De ordine 2, 9, 26: PL 32, 1007.
71 Cf. Serm. 43, 9: PL 38, 258.
72 Cf. De ultitate credendi PL 42, 65-92.
73 Cf. Confess. 6, 4, 6: PL 32, 722: De serm Domini in monte 2, 3, 14: PL
74 Cf. Ep. 118, 5, 32: PL 33, 447.
75 Cf. Serm. 51, 5, 6: PL 387, 337.
76 Cf. De quantitate animae 7, 12: PL 32, 1041-1042.
77 De uera relig. 24, 45: PL 34, 1041-1042.
78 Ep. 120, 2, 8: PL 33, 456.
79 De praed. sanctorum 2, 5: PL 44, 962-963.
80 Contra ep. Man. 4, 5: PL 42, 175.
81 Cf. Eg. De civ. Dei 2, 29, 1-2: PL 41, 77-78.
82 De civ. Dei 19, 17: PL 41, 645
83 Cf. Solil. 1, 2, 7: PL 32, 872.
84 Confess. 1, 5, 5: PL 32, 663.
85 Serm. 117, 5: PL 38, 673.
86 Ep. 120.3.15: PL 33, 459.
87 De Trin. 5, 1, 2: PL 42. 912; cf. Confess. 4, 16, 28: PL 32; 704.
88 De civ. Dei 8, 4: PL 41, 228.
89 De civ. Dei 8, 10, 2: PL 41, 235.
90 Confess. 9, 4, 10: PL 32, 768.
91 Cf. Confess. 1, 4, 4: PL 32, 662.
92 Ep. 187, 4, 14: PL 33, 837.
93 Cf. De magistro 11, 38-14, 46: PL 32, 1215-1220.
94 Cf. Confess. 13, 9, 10 PL 32, 848-849.
95 Confess. 3, 6, 11: PL 32, 687-688.
96 Confess. 10, 27, 38: PL 32, 795.
97 Confess. 5, 2, 2: PL 32, 707.
98 Confess 1, 1, 1: PL 32, 661.
99 De Trin. 14, 8, 11: PL 12, 1044.
100 De Trin. 14, 4, 6: PL 42, 1040.
101 De civ. Dei 12, 1, 3: PL 41, 349.
102 De uera relig. 39, 72: PL 34, 154.
103 Cf. Confess 13, 9, 10: PL 32, 848-849.
104 Cf. De bono coniugali 1, 1: PL 40, 373.
105 De civ. Dei 12, 27: PL 41, 376.
106 Confess. 4, 14, 22: PL 32, 702,
107 Confess. 4. 4. 9: PL 32, 697.
108 Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes. n. 10, cf. nn. 12-18.
109 De civ. Dei 12, 27: PL 41, 376.
110 De Trin. 13, 19, 24: PL 42, 1034.
111 Ep. 118, 5, 33: PL 33, 448.
112 De civ. Dei 11, 10, 1: PL 41, 325.
113 De Trin. 4, 20, 29: PL 42, 908.
114 Cf. De Trin. 15, 17, 29: PL 42, 1081.
115 Cf. De Trin. 15, 27. 50: PL 42, 1097; ibid. 1, 5, 8: PL 42, 824-825;
9, 12, 18: PL 42, 970-971.
116 De Trin. 1, 2, 4: PL 42, 822.
117 Cf. Confess. 7, 19, 25: PL 32, 746.
118 De dono persev. 24, 67: PL 45, 1033-1034.
119 Serm. 186, 1, 1: 38, 999.
120 Serm. 294.9: PL 38, 1340.
121 Serm. 293, 7: PL 38, 1332.
122 Cf. Tractatus in Io 66, 2: PL 35, 1810-1811.
123 Cf. Serm. 47, 12-20: PL 38, 308-312.
124 Cf. Confess. 10, 42, 68: PL 32, 808.
125 De civ. Dei 10, 32, 2: PL 41, 315.
126 De Trin. 4:13, 17; PL 42, 899.
127 De Trin. 4, 13, 16: PL 42, 898.
128 De Trin. 4, 14, 19: 42, 901.
129 De gratia Christi et de pecc. orig. 2, 24, 28: PL 44, 398.
130 Serm. 151, 5: PL 38, 817.
131 Enarr. in Ps. 70, d. 2, 1: PL 36, 891.
132 De nupt et concup. 2, 12, 25: PL 44, 450-451.
133 De pedd. mer. et rem. 1, 26, 39: PL 44, 131.
134 Tractatus in Io 21, 8: PL 35, 1568.
135 Serm. 267, 4: PL 38, 1231.
136 Serm. 71, 12, 18: PL 38, 454.
137 Serm. 71, 20, 33: PL 38, 463-464.
138 Cf. Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, nn. 13-14: 21. etc.
139 Cf. De civ. Dei 1, 35; 18, 50: PL 41, 46; 612.
140 Cf. Eg. De unitate Ecclesiae: PL 43, 391-446.
141 Ep. 43, 7: PL 33, 163.
142 Cf. De civ. Dei 18, 51: PL 41, 613
143 Cf. Retract. 2, 18: PL 32, 637.
144 Cf. Confess. 6, 11, 18: PL 32 728-729.
145 De mor. Eccl. cath. 1, 30, 62: PL 32, 1336.
146 Cf. Confess. 7, 7, 11: PL 32, 739.
147 Cf. Ep. 48, 2: PL 33, 188.
148 Serm. 22, 10: PL 38, 154.
149 Cf. e.g. Psalmus contra partem Donati, epilogus: PL 43,31-32.
150 Cf. Tractatus in lo 6, 15: PL 35, 1432.
151 De catech. rud. 15, 23: PL 40,328.
152 Cf. Serm. 188, 4: PL 38, 1004.
153 Cf. Confess. 7, 7, 11: PL 32, 759.
154 Cf. De bapt. 3, 2, 2: PL 43, 139-140.
155 Contra litt. Petil. 3, 9, 10: PL 43, 353.
156 Cf. Enarr. in Ps. 88, d. 2, 14: PL 37, 1140.
157 Tractatus in Io 32, 8: PL 35, 1646.
158 Cf. Confess 8, 10, 22; 7, 18, 24: PL 32, 759-745.
159 Cf. e.g. Confess. 8, 9, 21; 8, 12, 29: PL 32, 758-759; 762.
160 Cf. De libero arb. 3, 1, 3: PL 32, 1272; De duabus animabus 10, 14: PL
161 Cf. Confess. 4, 3, 4: PL 32, 694-695.
162 Cf. De civ. Dei 5, 8: PL 41, 48.
163 Cf. De libero arb. 3, 4, 10-11: PL 32, 1276; De civ. Dei 5, 9, 1-4: PL
164 Ep. 157, 2, 10: PL 33, 677.
165 Serm. 169, 11, 13: PL 38, 923.
166 Cf. De gratia et lib. arb. 2, 2-11, 23: PL 44, 882-895.
167 Cf. Ep. 214, 6: PL 33, 970.
168 Cf. De pedd. mer. et rem. 2, 18, 28: PL 44, 124-125.
169 Cf. De gratia Christi et de pecc. orig. 47, 52: PL 44, 383-384.
170 Ep. 214. 2: PL 33, 969.
171 De natura et gratia 43, 50: PL 44, 271, Cf. Conc. Trid., D-S
172 De natura et gratia 26, 29: PL 44, 261.
173 Cf. Ep. 130: PL 33, 494-507.
174 De dono persev. 16, 39: PL 45, 1017.
175 De pedd. mer. et rem. 2 17, 26: PL 44, 167.
176 De spiritu et littera 3, 5: PL 44, 203.
177 Contra duas epp. Pel. 4, 5, 11: PL 44, 617.
178 Ep. 105, 2, 10: PL 33, 400.
179 Cf. De libero arb. 2, 13, 37: PL 32, 1261.
180 De corrept. et gratia 12, 33: PL 44, 936.
181 Cf. Confess. 8, 5, 10; 8, 9, 21: PL 32, 753; 758-759.
182 Cf. Confess. 9, 4, 10: PL 32, 768.
183 Cf. De vera relig. 10, 19: PL 34, 131.
184 Cf. Ennar, in Ps. 70, d. 2, 3: PL 36, 893.
185 Cf. Ep. 187: PL 33, 832-848.
186 Ennar, in Ps. 49, 2: PL 36, 565.
187 Cf. De pedd. mer. et rem. 2, 7, 9: PL 44, 156-157; Serm. 166, 4: PL
188 Tractatus in Io 26, 25: PL 35, 1607-1609.
189 Contra Iulianum 3, 112: PL 45, 1296.
190 De gratia Christi et de pecc. orig. 1, 13, 14: PL 44, 368.
191 Ep. 167, 6, 19: PL 33, 740.
192 Enarr. in Ps. 101, d. 2, 10: PL 37, 1311-1312.
193 Cf. Confess. lib. 11: PL 32, 809-826.
194 Tractatus in Io 38, 10: PL 35, 1680.
195 De Gen. ad litt. 11, 15, 20: PL 34, 437.
196 De civ. Dei 19, 13: PL 41, 840.
197 Confess. 9, 13, 37: PL 32, 780.
198 Contra Iulianum 6, 15: PL 45, 1535.
199 Cf. De serm. Domini in Monte 2, 5, 14: PL 34, 1236.
200 Enarr. in Ps. 37, 14: PL 36, 404.
201 De dono persev. 22, 60: PL 45, 1029.
202 Enarr. in Ps. 85, 1: PL 37, 1081.
203 Cf. De quantitate animae 33, 73-76: PL 32, 1075-1077.
204 Cf. De natura et gratia 70, 84: PL 44, 290.>
205 Cf. De serm. Domini in Monte 1, 1, 3-4: PL 34, 1231-1232; De doctr.
Christ. 2, 7, 9-11: PL 34, 39-40.
206 Cf. De serm. Domini in Monte 2, 11, 38: PL 34, 1286
207 Cf. De sancta virginitate 28, 28: PL 40, 411.
208 De Trin. 8, 7, 10: PL 42, 956.
209 De catech. rudibus 4, 8: PL 40, 315.
210 Cf. De Trin. 14, 10, 13: PL 42, 1047.
211 Cf. Ep. 137, 5, 17: PL 38, 524.
212 Cf. De catech. rudibus 12, 17: PL 40, 323.
213 Cf. Ep. 137, 5, 17; 138, 2, 15: PL 38, 524; 531-532.
214 Cf. De natura et gratia 70, 84: PL 44, 290.
215 Cf. Tractatus in Io 87, 1 : PL 35, 1852.
216 Cf. Tractatus in Ep. Io 7, 8; 10, 7: PL 35, 1441; 1470-1471.
217 Tractatus in Io 32,8: PL 35, 1646.
218 Cf. De bono viduitatis 21, 26: PL 40, 447.
219 Cf. De catech. rudibus 12, 17: PL 40, 323.
220 Cf. Serm. 169, 18: PL 38, 926; De perf. iust. hom.: PL 44, 291 318.
221 Cf. Enarr. in Ps. 53, 10: PL 36, 666-667.
222 Tractatus in Ep. Io, prol.: PL 35, 1977.
223 Cf. De civ. Dei 15, 22: PL 41, 467.
224 De gratia et lib. arb. 18, 37: PL 44, 903-904.
225 Cf. De Trin. 12, 15, 25: PL 42, 1012.
226 Cf. Confess. 9, 10, 24: PL 32, 774.
227 Confess 10, 40, 65: PL 32, 807.
228 Cf. Ep. 48,1: PL 33, 188.
229 De civ. Dei 19, 19: PL 41, 647.
230 Solil. 1, 1, 5: PL 32, 872.
231 Cf. Serm. 335, 2: PL 39, 1569.
232 Ep. 217: PL 33, 978.
233 Cf. Ep. 91, 10: PL 33, 317-318.
234 Miscellanea Ag. I, 404.
235 Miscellanea Ag. I, 568.
236 Cf. Serm. 17:2: PL 38, 125.
237 Cf. Serm. 46, 7, 14: PL 38, 278.
238 Cf. Ep. 128, 3: PL 33, 489.
239 Miscellanea Ag., I, 565.
240 Cf. Ep. 122, 1: PL 33, 470.
241 Cf. Miscellanea Ag. I, 353; Tractatus in Io 19, 22: PL 35, 1543-1582.
242 Cf. De catech. rudibus PL 40 309s.
243 Cf. POSSIDIO, Vita S. Augustini 19, 2-5 PL 32, 57
244 Cf. POSSIDIO, Ibid., 24, 14-25: PL 32, 53-54; Serm. 25.8: PL 38, 170;
Ep. 122, 2: PL 33, 471-472.
245 Cf. Serm. 335, 2: PL 39, 1569-1570; Ep. 65: PL 33, 234-235.
246 Cf. POSSIDIO, Vita S. Augustini 11, 1 : PL 32, 42.
247 Cf. Ep. 211, 1-4: PL 3, 958-965.
248 POSSIDIO, Vita S. Augustini 31, 8: PL 32, 64.
249 Cf. Retract., prol. 2: PL 32, 584.
250 Cf. Ep. 128, 3: PL 33, 489; De gestis cum Emerito 7: PL 43, 702-703.
251 Cf. Post collationem contra Donatistas: PL 43, 651-690.
252 Cf. POSSIDIO, Vita S. Augustini 9-14: PL 32, 40-45.
253 Cf. POSSIDIO, Ibid. 12, 1-2: PL 32, 43.
254 Cf. POSSIDIO, Ibid., 24 11: " . . . in die laborans et in nocte
lucubrans": PL 32, 54.
255 Cf. Ep. 224, 2: PL 33, 1001-1002.
256 Ep. 1, 1: PL 33, 61.
257 De quantitate animae 14, 24: PL 32, 1049; Cf. De vera relig. 10, 20:
PL 34, 131.
258 Cf. De vera relig. 39, 72: PL 34, 154.
259 Cf. Retract. 1, 8, 2: PL 32, 594; 1, 4, 4: PL 32, 590.
260 Cf. Ep. 118, 5, 33: PL 33, 448.
261 Cf. Contra Acad. 3, 20, 43: PL 32, 957.
262 Ep. 120, 3. 13: PL 33, 458.
263 Cf. De Trin. 1, 5, 8: PL 42, 825.
264 Serm. 27, 4: PL 38, 179.
265 Cf. De doctrina Christ. 2, 40, 60: PL 34, 55; De civ. Dei 8, 9: PL 41,
266 Cf. Enarr. in Ps. 90, d. 2, 1 : PL 37, 1159-1160.
267 Cf. Ep. 28, 3, 3: PL 33, 112; 82, 1, 3: PL 33, 277.
268 Cf. Ep. 137, 1, 3: PL 33, 516.
269 De doctrina Christ. 4, 5, 7: PL 34, 91-92.
270 Cf. De perf. iustr. hom. 17, 38: PL 44, 311-312.
271. Cf. De baptismo 4, 24, 31: PL 43, 174-175 m.
272 Cf. Contra Iulianum 6, 6-11: PL 45, 1510-1521.
273 Contra ep. Man. 5, 6: PL 42, 176; cf. C. Faustum 28, 2: PL 42,
274 De baptismo 2, 3, 4: PL 43, 129.
275 Ep. 105, 16: PL 3, 403.
276 De civ. Dei 16, 2, 1: PL 41, 477.
277 Solil. 1, 2, 7: PL 32, 872.
278 De civ. Dei 2, 29, 2: PL 41, 78.
279 Cf. De diversis quaestionibus 83, q. 46, 2: PL 40, 29-31.
280 Cf. De Gen. ad litt. 5, 23, 44-45; 6, 6, 16-6, 12, 20: PL 34, 337-338;
281 Cf. Ep. 189, 6: PL 33, 856.
282 Ep. 2298, 2: PL 33 1020.
283 Cf. Confess. 6, 7, 11-12: PL 32, 75; De ordine 1, 10, 30: PL 32, 991.
284 Cf. Ep. 26, 118-243, 266: PL 33, 103-107; 431-449; 1054-1059;
285 Cf. Confess. 4, 13, 20: PL 32, 701.
286 Cf. Confess. 10, 8, 15: PL 32, 758-786.
287 Cf. Confess 10, 34, 53: PL 32, 801.
288 Cf. Ep. 120, 4, 20: PL 33, 462.
289 Confess 3, 6, 10: PL 32, 687.
290 Solil. 1, 1, 3: PL 32, 870.
291 Confess 10, 27, 38: PL 32, 795.
292 Cf. Ep. 120, 4, 20: PL 33, 462.
293 Cf. De sancta virginitate 6, 6: PL 40, 339.
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