Monday, September 27, 2010

St. Augustine --- The Greatest Church Father 聖奧斯定——教會最偉大的教父

In the last three weeks, we looked at the Church Fathers from the 4th century. They were great teachers and defenders of the Faith. This week, we are going to look at the life of the greatest Church Father--- St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).

His Life

Augustine was born in 354. His mother was St. Monica. His father, Patricius, was converted to the Catholic Faith by his wife shortly before his death. St. Augustine was a catechumen and had not been baptized.

Augustine studied rhetoric in Madaura and Carthage. He was a brilliant student, but idleness led him into the vice of lust and he also followed a heretical sect--- Manichees. His mother, St. Monica prayed night and day with tears for the conversion of her son.

In 384, Augustine went to Milan to be a professor of rhetoric. He was influenced by the preaching of St. Ambrose. Augustine began to experience conversion of the mind and saw the reasonableness of the Catholic Faith. But he still needed the conversion of heart, for he was still enslaved by lust and would pray: “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet."

One day Potitianus came to visit Augustine and his friend Alipius. Potitianus saw a book of St. Paul’s Epistles lying on the table, and took the occasion to speak to them about the life of St. Anthony the Great. The life of St. Anthony touched the heart of Augustine. He threw himself under a fig-tree and wept over his own life.

Suddenly, he heard a voice of a child singing, “Take up and read”. Augustine took the book of St. Paul Epistles and read Romans 13:13-14. Touched by divine grace, Augustine felt that all his hesitation and doubt disappeared.

The conversion of Augustine took place in 386, and he was baptized by St. Ambrose on Easter eve in 387. Augustine returned to North Africa for a life of solitude in fasting, prayer, and meditations.

In 391, Augustine was ordained a priest. He became a powerful preacher and Valerius, the bishop of Hippo, made Augustine to be his coadjutor in 395. Augustine succeeded Valerius the following year.

During his 35 years as bishop of Hippo, Augustine guided his flock, wrote against different heresies, and took a leading part in the activities of the Church in Africa. Augustine died on August 28,430.

His Teachings

St. Augustine wrote more than 100 books, which include his Confessions (a book about his youth and conversion), City of God (a grandiose defense of Christianity against paganism) and a rule for religious community. He was a popular preacher and his sermons were simple and deeply spiritual.

During his life, Augustine fought and wrote against heretics and schismatics: first, the Manicheans, then the Donatists, and finally the Pelagians. The Manicheans believed in two ultimate sources of creation, the one good and the other evil. They believed that physical matters are from the evil one. Against the Manicheans, Augustine taught that evil is the absent of good, the material world was created by God, and marriage is good.

The Donatists believed the validity of the Sacraments depends on the moral character of the minister. Against the Donatists, Augustine taught that there is but one Church of Christ, and outside the Church there is no salvation. He also taught that the Sacraments receive their validity, not from the minister, but from the invisible head of the Church, Jesus Christ. It is Christ who baptizes, confirms, etc., through his ministers.

Augustine’s answer to the Donatists in Africa, “secures judicat orbis terrarium”---“the whole world (the whole church) judges safely”---helped Blessed John Henry Newman (beatified last week on September 19) in his conversion to Catholicism.

The Pelagians believed man can merit eternal life by his natural power without the aid of grace. From 412 to 427, Augustine refuted Pelagianism by writing about the fall, original sin, grace, and free will. These writings won him the title, Doctor of Grace.

“You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is ill at ease till it rest in You.”

過去數週,我們探討了聖教會在四世紀的教父,他們都是捍衛信德的偉大導師。今日,我們談談最重要的教父——希波Hippo主教,聖奧斯定St. Augustine (354-430) 。


奧斯定出生於公元三五四年,母親是聖婦莫尼加St. Monica ,父親巴德利修Patricius被妻子勸化,去世前不久領洗入教。


公元三八四年,奧斯定到米蘭Milan當修辭學教授。因受聖盎博羅削St. Ambrose的講道影響,思維轉向接受聖教信仰的道理,但意志薄弱,沒有勇氣改過;他祈禱說:「請賜給我貞潔和克節之心,但不是現在。」

一日,教徒龐弟里Potitianus探訪奧斯定和他的朋友亞利比Alipius,看見桌上有一本聖保祿的書信,借此談起隱修聖人安當St. Anthony the Great的生平,使奧斯定不勝羞慚,跑到花園的無花果樹下,內心掙扎不已。突然似乎聽到一個孩童的聲音說:「拿起來讀吧!」他遂把聖保祿書信翻開,閱讀「致羅馬人書13:13-14」,天主聖寵在他心內油燃而生,他不再猶疑,決定皈依聖教,時為公元三八六年。翌年的復活節前夕,聖盎博羅削給他付洗。

奧斯定回到出生地北非North Africa,渡虔敬的生活,做嚴厲的補贖,專心祈禱和默想。公元三九一年,奧斯定晉鐸。公元三九五年,奧斯定神父被希波主教華肋廉Valerius遴選為助理主教,次年更繼任為希波主教。



聖奧斯定寫了超過一百本書。其中極負盛名的「懺悔錄Confession」,憶述他年青時期的生活,與及皈依的歷程;「天主之城City of God」是一本針對異教的護教書; 他也為修道團體撰寫了一本會規。



陶納派宣稱聖事施行的有效性,取決於施行者的道德。聖奧斯定除了堅持只有天主教會內才有教恩,更說明聖事的有效性來自耶穌基督,並非施行者。耶穌基督,藉施行者,親自施洗、赦罪、放堅振等。他駁斥陶納派的一句話,「全世界(全教會)穩妥地作判斷secures judicat orbis terrarium」,感應了真福若望.紐曼John Henry Newman(本年九月十九日被教宗宣福),使他皈依聖教。

白拉奇學說認為人單憑己力,不需要聖寵便可得救。公元四一二至四二七年間,聖奧斯定寫了多篇文章駁斥,有系統地分析有關人類的墮落、原罪、自由意志和天主聖寵,因而被冠「聖寵之師Doctor of Grace」的雅號。



Published at Pax Sinica column (September 27) of The B.C . Catholic newspaper