St. Augustine of Hippo was born in around 354 AD and though he led an adulterous and vice-filled life in his youth, he eventually became a model for conversion and a Doctor of the Church.
Augustine was sent away to school by his mother in hopes that he might turn toward the Church and away from his life of debauchery, but instead he ended up developing belief systems that led him to Manichaeism, a major Persian religion. While at school, his life of sin began when he and a group of friends stole fruit from a neighborhood garden. In his later writing The Confessions, he tells the story and explains that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry, but because “it was not permitted,” and he goes on to say that his nature “was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own error--not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
Augustine eventually made friends with a group of men who enjoyed bragging about their sexual exploits, which encouraged him to experience some sexual exploits of his own. When he was 17, he began a relationship with a woman in Carthage, and though he never married her, he continued his relationship with her for fifteen years and even fathered a child with her. Eventually, at his mother’s insistence, he ended his relationship with his lover in order to prepare to enter into a “proper” marriage with a ten-year-old heiress.
Because the legal age requirement for married women at the time was twelve years old, Augustine had to wait two years before he could marry his bride. Augustine confessed that he did not particularly care for marriage, and was actually only interested in lust, and so during these two years between relationships, Augustine took a concubine and is reported to have said the following prayer: “Grant me chastity and continence--but not yet!” Augustine never actually married the twelve-year-old heiress because he decided to convert and become a Christian priest instead.
Throughout his extensive education, Augustine became incredibly intelligent and learned about two men who had been converted after reading about the life of St. Antony, and said to his friend, “Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!”
Augustine became very devout and even wrote the following phrase on the wall of his room: “Here we do not speak evil of anyone.” Of his late conversion to God he said, “Too late have I loved You!”
St. Augustine of Hippo is often depicted in the dress of a bishop with an elaborately decorated or embroidered cope in order to portray the rich history of the Church. St. Augustine is also pictured holding a human heart, sometimes aflame, and sometimes pierced by an arrow--as a reference to two of Augustine’s writings.
St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians. He is also invoked in prayer against sore eyes.