Although Augustine of Hippo’s early life was disordered and undisciplined, his adult life is marked by maturity and spiritual searching. His steadfast spiritual journey – one identified with penance and dedication – will lead him to a profound understanding of the message of Christ. He attains a refined reverence for the omnipotent will of God. Although St. Augustine lived at an age that was far removed from St. Francis Assisi’s, some of the values cherished and preached by the latter is easily applicable to the former’s life. Reverence is one such Franciscan value that is represented by Augustine’s lifelong spiritual journey. The rest of this essay will highlight this connection by citing relevant passages from the Confessions as well as scholarly commentary given upon it.
One of the early influences on St. Augustine was the Greek theologian Plotinus, whose famous words ‘alone with the Alone’ made an impact on the young aspirant. This peculiar theory appeared so valid to the young Augustine because it relieved him from the moral conundrums upon which he was entangled. Further,
“by articulating God as the distant and perfect One, it allowed Augustine to think of ultimate reality apart from materialistic and this–worldly categories. Further, by removing God from this obviously ambiguous realm through a series of ontological buffers, it allowed Augustine to see how God is not directly implicated in evil. He could breathe easy again.” (Barron, 2007)
St. Augustine of Hippo’s early years was marked by confusion and unscrupulous behaviour. As a result there was no scope for spiritual development. In his early youth he believed in the Manichaean religion which was full of superstition. His blind belief in astrology also hampered his intellect. It was not until his conversion to Christianity that Augustine came to realize his true calling. His reverence for life and its divine purpose began to dawn at that moment. One of the turning points in St. Augustine’s progress is when he committed to upholding eternal matters – that which is spiritual and heavenly – over the temporal. He believed that Christian emperor Constantine’s rise to power “was not necessarily the answer to biblical prophecy or a show of God’s providence in an eternal Roman Empire.” (Smither, 2007) This shows that Augustine was able to separate theology from surrounding politics at an early stage of his monkhood.