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Saint Augustine of Hippo

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Essay title: Saint Augustine of Hippo

As one of the most prominent figures of the early church, Saint Augustine is not only recognized for his leadership but also for his knowledge and influence on the thinking and doctrine of the Christian Church. As a priest, he was an important leader of the early African Church; as a philosopher, he brought a new approach to Church Doctrine through the ideas of pagan philosophy (TeSelle 892). These accomplishments put him among the ranks of Thomas Aquinas and other great Church philosophers whose ideas revolutionized the Church. Because of his accomplishments and influence, Augustine was named a Doctor of the Church.

Aurilius Augustine was born in Tagaste in 354 A.D. to a pagan father and a saintly mother. His father, although poor and uneducated, was a Roman citizen and official. He did however provide enough to give Augustine a classical education, which provided a background for a well rounded individual, intellectual, and Christian. His mother, Saint Monica, was a great influence on Augustine throughout his life, and was the main cause for the development of his faith (Brown 19). In the year 370, Augustine began his studies at the university in Carthage. There he studied rhetoric in order to become a lawyer. He soon abandoned this path, and devoted his studies to the literary arts and later to philosophy (TeSelle 892).

With such an extensive knowledge in rhetoric and philosophy, Augustine began to teach. Beginning in the 360s, he taught in Tagaste and Carthage and continued this for almost a decade. After this, he moved on to Rome in 383 and started a school of rhetoric, but soon became discouraged by the attitudes of the students and eventually abandoned it. A year later, he was appointed chair of rhetoric at the university at Milan (Delaney 78).

During this time of study, he continued to gradually desert his faith. This shaken faith would lead him down many different roads until his conversion back to the faith. He met and lived with a mistress for fifteen years who bore him a son, Adeodatus, in 372 (Delaney 78). About a year later he began to believe in the doctrine and ideals of Manechaeism. This duelist sect believed in the Devine God who was the embodiment of everything good and an equal evil power. They also believed that the flesh was inherently evil. In the next few years after settling his beliefs with Manechaeism and realizing its faults, Augustine would fall into believing in several other non-Christian movements (Brown 31). After being encouraged to do so by many of his friends, he read many of the writings of the Greek philosophers known as neoplatonists. Along with the sermons of Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, these writings convinced Augustine to contemplate his return to the Christian faith. Eventually he overcame his numerous encounters with heresy, and was baptized into the Catholic Church in the year 387

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