How many sermons of of Augustine still exist?
It is estimated that Augustine preached about 8,000 times during his long life.
There remain copies of between 400 and 500 of his sermons.
They contain a total of 1,500,000 words and comprise almost a third of his surviving works.
Most of these 400-500 sermons were taken down by scribes as he preached without the use of a prepared script.
They are a faithful stenographic record of what Augustine actually said, with probably no subsequent editing of them by himself.
Persons who could not attend his homilies wanted copies of them.
For Augustine, allowing his sermons to be written down by stenographers was the most efficient means for him to transfer his thoughts into written records.
What is contained in these sermons?
As could be expected, they cover a wide range. Many are simple expositions based on the Scripture readings of the Mass that were laid down by the church rules of the time.
As well, Augustine as bishop and chief pastor sometimes instituted a series of catechetical sermons, or a number of sermons around a particular theme.
Professor James O'Donnell, now of Georgetown University in Washington D.C., notes that there are sermons on all 150 Psalms, deliberately gathered by Augustine in a separate collection, Enarrationes in Psalmos (392-418: Enarrations on the Psalms).
O'Donnell proposes that these are perhaps the best work of Augustine as a homilist, for he found in the uplifting spiritual poetry of the psalms many messages that he could apply consistently to his view of an austere and practical Christian Faith that was also time full of hope.
At a higher intellectual level are his sermons in the series called Tractatus in evangelium Iohannis 124 ("Tract on the Gospel of John"), which amounts to a full commentary on this, the most philosophical of the four Gospels.
Other sermons range over much of Scripture. O'Donnell noted that Augustine had little to say about the prophets of the Old Testament, and what he did have to say about Paul appeared in his written works rather than in his public sermons.