"I am a Christian for my own sake, whereas I am a leader for your sake; the fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a leader for your advantage."
"You have made us for yourself o God, and our hearts will not rest until it rests in Thee."
Mindy Fitterling is a recent college graduate from St. Louis, Missouri. She now works in IT Security for a Healthcare company in Nashville, TN. When she is not fighting cyber crime by day, she is snuggling with her puppy and writing for young women on her personal blog, Women For Higher (womenforhigher.com).
Saint Augustine's Message to Today's Society
by Mindy Fitterling
St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430 AD) may be one the most recognizable, inspirational saints for our society today. Raised by his mother, Monica of Hippo (St. Monica), and pagan father Patricius in Tagaste (present-day Algeria), Augustine was one of, if not, the most intelligent Christian scholars of all time.
Because of his great intelligence, he was a questioning young man. It was through his scholarly upbringing that he began to study and believe pagan beliefs and practices. Although he agreed to be baptized after his mother’s request, he quickly vacated the religion to pursue Manichaesm - a religion most comparable to Buddhism and Dualism, with some various Christian elements.
Augustine enjoyed the sinful life, as mentioned in his autobiography The Confessions, stating that his nature was “foul, and [he] loved it.” From this mindset, his life was led into a downhill spiral of loose living, parties and worldly ambitions.
While studying rhetoric in Carthage, he met a group of men
who openly bragged about their sexual exploits. It was during this time in his
life that he spoke his famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but
He had a 15-year affair with a woman who eventually bore him
a son. After the crumbling of that relationship, he was later to marry a
Failure followed Augustine everywhere he went. After writing
an autobiography of his life and merits, and reaping no rewards, he packed his
bags for Roman Milan to teach rhetoric professionally.
It was in Milan where Augustine met Ambrose (St. Ambrose)
and was converted to Christianity through their friendship.
The Confessions documented Augustine’s conversion in great detail, telling of the first time he opened his bible. The story is told that he randomly opened the bible to Paul’s letter to the Romans chapters 12 through 15. This passage is titled “Transformation of Believers.”
Specifically, it was chapter 13 and 14 that affected him the most:
“13 Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; 18 he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats; 21 it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God; happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves.23 But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:13-23 NIV)
He writes later about this conversion:
Late have I loved
Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispell my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.
The story of Augustine is applicable to so many people today, both Christians and Non-Christians alike. Much in our society today is no different than what young Augustine was exposed to. We are surrounded by a myriad of distractions: technology, social media, countless extracurriculars, sex, drugs and perpetual entertainment.
For many Non-Christians, and just like Augustine, we want to be a part of what the rest of the world has. We have ambition, pride and passion that we wish to impart on one another. We want the best for ourselves and we strive for more and more and more. We wish to commit to nothing while having everything. This leads us on a destructive path to fill the emptiness of our soul with everything but the God that can give us true rest. The further we dive in too, the more hopeless we feel.
However, if there is one thing we can take away from
Augustine’s story, it is that all can find forgiveness and rest in Christ.
The story of St. Augustine challenges Christians in their
journey as well. The more secular our American society becomes, the easier it
is just to remain safely within our Catholic community. With this comes the
ability to just give up hope on our secular neighbors, to let them live their
lives in a destructive manner, and to watch them while being numb to the pain
they are going through.
The story of St. Augustine shows us that for there to be a transformation in the life of an unbeliever, there needs to be the presence of a St. Monica, fighting in prayer for the soul of the non-believer, as well as a Saint Ambrose, to lovingly be a witness, and to be patient in one’s faith journey.
Peace through Christ can only come to the unbelievers where
there is community and perseverance. In a time that may need God more than
ever, we can learn so much from the stories of our saints.