Aurelius Augustine was born in north Africa in the year 354, at the close of the Roman Empire.
His home town is Tagaste, 250 kms (200 miles) from the Mediterranean coast and two thousand feet above it, cut off from the sea by great forests of pine trees.
He lived with his father, Patricius, and mother, Monica.
As a young boy at school, he is beaten by the teacher because he loved to play and could not see the use of learning at school.
One night - then sixteen years old - for the simple thrill of doing wrong, he and his friends steal from the pear tree of a neighbour, and throw the pears to pigs.
At seventeen he takes a concubine ("I was in love with love", he wrote), and at the age of eighteen years is the father of a son.
He completes his Roman education at the capital city of Carthage and becomes a teacher, and opens his own school in his home town of Tagaste. He finds the students noisy, frustrating and difficult.
In search of a philosophy of life he studies astrology, and joins a religious sect called Manichees.
But in Milan he meets a saint, Ambrose, and is converted to the Christian Faith. At Easter time and at thirty three years of age, Augustine is baptised with his son and his best friends.
He gives up lecturing and his ambition to become a Provincial Governor, and chooses a celibate life, with neither wife nor concubine.
VIDEO: Biography of St Augustine Uploaded on 15 Sep 2010. (6 minutes 11 seconds) Merrimack's community is committed to scholarship and service to others, and provides students myriad opportunities to develop intellectually, spiritually, socially and ethically. At Merrimack (at Andover, Massachusetts, USA), our dedication to the Augustinian values of hospitality, community, and the pursuit of truth will make you feel right at home as you explore the world and gain the experiences you need to chart your future. This video details the origins of St Augustine and how they relate to your experience at Merrimack.
At thirty Augustine is a professor of liberal arts in Rome and soon wins the appointment of Public Orator in Milan, the imperial capital.
Back in Africa Augustine begins to live as a monk in a community of friends. The search for wisdom becomes the one goal of his life. His son Adeodatus dies aged seventeen.
At thirty six Augustine is pressured by the people of Hippo to become their priest, though he is only three years a Christian.
He later commented about this, "I was made to stand at the helm of the ship when I did not know how to hold an oar."
But his acceptance of the Christian Faith had flooded his heart with light.
He is sustained by a brilliant mind and memory (the classics and the Bible he knows by heart) and his faith in God absorbs him completely.
Love now becomes the one goal in his life. He unifies all existence, all feeling, all knowledge, all friendship into one love. And it is love to the utmost.
Augustine founds monasteries to promote the community ideal but circumstances force him to govern and teach the church in his city of Hippo.
He was pressed to become a priest, and then a bishop. In fact he becomes the Christian teacher to the whole Western Empire. He is faithful to contemplation but finds time to write 113 books.
People take his books to read and publish them before he finishes writing them. Popular even today are his "Confessions" and his "City of God". He leaves behind him 200 letters and 500 sermons.
In the year 430, when seventy six years of age, Augustine dies while praying. The great Roman empire is in collapse and confusion.
Murder and pillage are everywhere. The Vandals are at the very walls of Hippo, yet Augustine its bishop had become a saint. He made no will and left no property.
So Augustine lives a changing and dramatic life. His is an age of distress, with civilisation falling to pieces around him.
He has a restless, seeking, dissatisfied adolescence which he later confesses as "sinful", and a spiritual unease.
But peace comes to his heart at the age of thirty three.
He awakens out of doubt and confusion, a wave of religious faith breaking within his mind.
He writes that God called to him, broke through his deafness and touched him: "I came to know You late," he prayed.
In his personality and emotions, before and after this turning point, Augustine needs to love and to be loved.
He is timid, however, and finds it hard to give his confidence to others. He knows the difficulty of entering into communication with others.
But once he overcomes that difficulty, what capacity for friendship, what power of attraction!
He remains young in spirit till the end of his life, keeping the memory of his childhood and youth clearly before him.
He is refined at heart, sensitive to feeling and in love with truth. Of his writings an admirer has said, "his words have a beauty and a thrill of emotion that I find in no other."
Sixteen centuries separate our present age from Augustine of Hippo. After he died his the Christian Church in North Africa disappeared, destroyed; its descendants passed to Islam and now speak Arabic.
His land above the pine forests we now know as Algeria.
But his influence entered Europe, and Augustine came to be recognised in history as the founder of the Middle Ages and the architect of Western civilisation.
In his teaching he established the patterns of learning upon which the first universities were founded; our western contemporary ideals of freedom, progress and social justice owe much to him.
He is called in fact the spiritual and intellectual ancestor of the 20th century. People who read his books today discover that in many ways he is truly a modern scholar. AN1303