St. Augustine also liked the dualistic morality because it entailed a very high morality for the chosen ones: and for those, like him, who adhered to it, it was possible to live a life more suited to the times, especially for a young man. He therefore became a Manichaean, convinced that he had found the synthesis between rationality, the search for the truth and the love of Jesus Christ.
And his private life benefited as well: Being a Manichaean opened career possibilities. To adhere to this religion, which included many influential personalities, allowed him to pursue a relationship he started with a woman, and to continue his career.
With this woman he had a son, Adeodatus, who was very dear to him, extremely intelligent, and who later on will be present in Augustine's preparation for baptism in Lake Como, forming part of the Dialogues that St. Augustine has passed on to us. Unfortunately, the boy died prematurely.
After teaching grammar in his hometown at the age of 20, he soon returned to Carthage, where he became a brilliant and celebrated master of rhetoric. With time, however, Augustine distanced himself from the Manichaean faith. It disappointed him intellectually as it was not capable of resolving his doubts.
He moved to Rome, and then to Milan, where he obtained a prestigious place in the imperial court, thanks to the recommendations of the prefect of Rome, the pagan Symmachus, who was hostile to the bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose.
At first with the purpose of enriching his rhetorical repertoire, Augustine began attending the impressive lectures of Bishop Ambrose, who had been a representative of the emperor in Northern Italy; he was charmed by his words, not only because of their eloquence, but because they touched his heart.
The main problem of the Old Testament -- the lack of oratory and philosophical elevation -- resolved itself in the lectures of St. Ambrose thanks to the typological interpretation of the Old Testament: Augustine understood that the Old Testament is a journey toward Jesus Christ.
So he found the key to understanding the beauty, the philosophic depth of the Old Testament, and he understood the unity of the mystery of Christ in history, as well as the synthesis between philosophy, rationality and faith in the Logos, in Christ, the eternal Word that became flesh.
Quickly, Augustine realized the allegorical reading of Scripture and the Neoplatonic philosophy practiced by the bishop of Milan helped him resolve the intellectual difficulties he encountered at a younger age, when he first approached the biblical texts, which he believed to be insuperable.
Augustine continued to read the writings of the philosophers along with Scripture, and especially the letters of St. Paul. His conversion to Christianity, Aug. 15, 386, is therefore placed at the apex of a long and tormented inner journey of which we will speak in another catechesis.
The African moved to the country north of Milan near Lake Como -- with his mother Monica, his son Adeodatus, and a small group of friends -- to get ready for baptism. At 32, Augustine was christened by Ambrose on April 24, 387, during Easter vigil in the Milan Cathedral.
After his baptism Augustine decided to return to Africa with his friends, with the idea of putting into practice a communal monastic life, in the service of God. But in Ostia, while waiting to leave, his mother suddenly fell sick and a little later died, leaving her son's heart in torment.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right).
Augustinians in Manila area, Philippines, October 2007.