Saint of the Day – 5 May – Feast of the Conversion of St Augustine (354-430) Bishop, Father and Doctor of Grace. Born on 13 November 354 at Tagaste, Numidia, North Africa (Souk-Ahras, Algeria) as Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis and died on 28 August 430 at Hippo, North Africa, which date is his primary Feast day. The Augustinians celebrated today’s memorial on 24 April. St Augustine is the Patron of against sore eyes, against vermin, brewers, printers, theologians, 7 Dioceses, 7 Cities
The Roman Martyrology states of today’s memorial: “In Milan, the Conversion of St Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, whom the blessed Bishop St Ambrose instructed in the Catholic Faith and baptised on this day.”
The story of a soul’s journey to God is what we celebrate today in the feast of the Conversion of Saint Augustine. Or, perhaps, we might also say, the story of God’s tireless pursuit of His beloved and the attentiveness and openness of that soul at last to God’s love. Conversion, or the turning to God, is a movement that is possible for us at every moment of our journey – not simply once and forever but continually and ever more deeply.
During the Easter Vigil, on the night between 4 and 5 April 387, Augustine was baptised by Bishop Ambrose in the Cathedral of Milan ,together with his son, Adeodatus and a small group of friends, including the ‘brother of (his) heart,’ Alypius. Thus was brought to its happy end, the long and tiring journey of Augustine’s conversion to the Catholic faith. Augustine himself records, in Book 8 of the Confessions, the climactic moment in which he surrendered to God’s grace and was relieved of the doubts and fears, which had so long kept him imprisoned.
How many things came together now, in one moment, to bring him freedom: – the story of a visiting countryman, the song of a young child, repeating Tolle Lege, Tolle Lege – Take up, read. Take up, read, moving him to pick up St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, to find there, the response to his heart’s longing.
“I found myself weeping in the bitter sorrow of my heart. And suddenly I heard a voice from a nearby house, a child’s voice, boy or girl I do not know – but it was sort of a sing song that repeated over and over again. ‘Take and read, take and read.’ Wiping away my tears I took this as a divine command and opened the Scriptures and in silence read the passage on which my eyes first fell – ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in debauchery and impurity, not in contention and envy but put on the Lord Jesus…’”
“How sweet did it suddenly become to me to be free of the sweets of folly -things that I once feared to lose, it was now joy to put away. You cast them forth from me, You the true and highest sweetness, You cast them forth and in their stead, You entered in, sweeter than every pleasure…” (Conf. 9, 1).
Certainly the story of Augustine’s conversion, numbers among the most well-known and most significant of all of Christian history – well-known, through Augustine’s own recording of it in his Confessions; significant, not only for the impact which his life of faith – as Monk, Bishop and Theologian – has had on the Catholic Church ever since but also, on the many men and women of every period, whose own personal lives have been altered by reading it and then hastening to go on and read and read and read the words of love of St Augustine!
Let us now thank God for the great light that shines out from St Augustine’s wisdom and humility and pray the Lord to give to us all, day after day, the conversion we need to lead us toward true life. And we ask our beloved Father and Doctor of Grace, St Augustine, to not forget us in his supplications and intercessions. as he gazes on the Face of God. Amen.