This experience not only prepared him for his baptism immediately afterwards but also reinforced his desire for communal living.
His conversion took place in the late summer, in October of 386, which was not quite two years after his arrival in Milan.
A few days later Augustine was beset by medical problems.
He reported them to be pectoris dolor (Latin for "chest pains"), which allowed him to prescribe for himself optate tranquillitati, i.e., the rest he desired.
Taking advantage of the autumn holidays and, resigning his teaching position, Augustine went to a country estate at nearby Cassiciacum.
There he would devote himself to the pursuit of true philosophy which, for him, was now inseparable from Christian belief.
He went there with his mother, Monica,
his son, Adeodatus,
his brother, Navigius, two wards from Thagaste, Licentius and Trygetius, and two cousins - and a small core of pupils for whom Augustine still held himself responsible. His friend Alypius
was also present.
These seven months could be spent at Cassiciacum in preparation for baptism because this country estate had generously been put at his disposal by one of his friends, Verecundus, who was a Milanese grammarian. The villa was large, surrounded by fields, and had enclosed baths where they could gather when the weather was inclement.
This friend was not pleased with the growing interest of Augustine in the Christian religion because he feared that it would diminish their friendship.
Although the wife of Verecundus was a Christian, the man himself was not. In fact, he was baptised only much later in Rome at the end of his life.
Augustine later described the ideal serenity of this existence, which had been enlivened by the passion for truth. The weather was pleasant, but there were also a few very cold days. At one point, Augustine experienced a very bad toothache there.
In the rural delight of Cassiciacum this close-knit group formed a temporary "live in" community for Augustine.
Here was the delight of the company of kindred spirits, with time to pray, reflect and engage in discussion.
(Continued on the next page.)