Over and over, I often hear people say “I could never be a saint. They’re so perfect.”
Really? is that what you think? Well, then let me introduce to you someone who was the furthest thing from perfect, but became a saint. St. Augustine of Hippo.
Augustine was born in what is now Souk Ahras, Algeria in 354 AD. His mother would become St. Monica, the patron saint of mothers and victims of domestic abuse. His father, on the other hand, was a pagan who did not convert until he was on his deathbed.
Augustine went to school at the age of 11, and was exposed to both Roman Catholic and Pagan beliefs. In his Confessions, he said he had come to love his fallen nature. He loved the idea of sin. “It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.” At the age of 17, he had an affair with a young woman in Carthage, despite the objections of his mother. That affair led to a son who was born out of wedlock. He was a brilliant man, mastering several languages. The sole language he could not master, try as he might, was Greek. Yet throughout this, he reveled in debauchery and heresy, to the point where he made his mother weep in her prayers one night in church. A bishop came to her and said “A son of such tears will not be lost.”
But at the age of 31, that all changed. He heard the story of St. Anthony of the Desert. He said he heard a childlike voice tell him to open a Bible and read the first thing he saw. That thing was Romans 13:13-14: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Both he and his illegitimate son were baptized on the Easter vigil in 387, exactly one year after his conversion. His mother died that year.
When Augustine became a priest, he went to Africa. There he fought the Manichean heresy, the very thing he once reveled in prior to his conversion. Sadly, it was another heresy, Arianism, that invaded Roman Africa, where he was stationed as a priest. He died of illness during that invasion.
Augustine wrote two books that to this day are still read by Christians all over the world: Confessions and City of God. He did not choose arrogance in his life. He acknowledged his sinful life. “There is no saint without a past. And there is no sinner without a future.” He wrote.
My favorite quote of his is “We are all born with restless hearts, O Lord. And they will not rest until they rest in you.”
I am glad not to be perfect. St. Augustine reminds me that I am a sinner. But I am not lost. For I also have God.