Although now popular and successful as a professor in the imperial city of Milan, Augustine at the age of thirty-two years continued to experience personal turmoil. Hearing that the Bishop of Milan, Ambrose, was a great orator, Augustine attended his sermons out of curiosity. He was interested in the style, and not in the content. A conversion of his mind slowly took place as Ambrose led him to an understanding of the Gospels. He began to attend church regularly, but was not yet thoroughly convinced. He said he wanted to be as certain of these things as he was that seven plus three equals ten. [Confessions 6:4]
Augustine is now coming to accept Christianity intellectually, but as yet he is unable to lay aside his worldly aspects that were incompatible with Christianity. He decides to consult Simplicianus, Ambrose’s teacher. Simplicianus congratulates him for studying the books of the Platonists (and what is now termed Neo-Platonism). Simplicianus also told him the story of Victorinus who was a distinguished rhetor in Rome, and for most of his life had been a vocal defender of paganism. In his old age, he accepted Christianity, but he was afraid to attend church or be baptized. Finally, he decided to be publicly baptized. Augustine observed that things lost are dearer when found again, and that the conversion of those who were previously opponents of the faith sets a great example for others. VIDEO: St. Augustine - Conversion Scene (7 minutes 28 seconds). A dramatized version.Augustine's greatest conversion is about to happen. This was the conversion of his heart, when God penetrates the very self. For Augustine it happened in an unusual way. Another North African, Pontitianus, visited Augustine and told him things which he had not previously heard about life in Christian community and the wonderful conquests over self which had been won through it. He saw that those without education were entering the kingdom of heaven, while he with all his learning was still held captive by the flesh. This offended his pride. When Pontitianus had gone, Augustine spoke a few vehement words to Alypius, his friend and companion. He then went hastily with Alypius into the garden to consider this new problem. Overcome by his conflicting emotions, Augustine moved away from Alypius. He threw himself down under a fig tree, and tears came to his eyeThen Augustine was jolted, like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, into another reality. Then followed the conversion scene so often described. Augustine told it in his Confessions in these words: "I was suddenly asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard a sing-song voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it as the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain "Take and read, take and read."
“At this I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before. I stemmed the flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall. So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sitting, for when I stood up to move away I had put down the book containing the epistles of Paul.... I seized it and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: "Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh (Romans 13:13-14)." (It has been noted by scholars - often with some wonderment - that Romans 13:13-14 was given no particular significance by Augustine in anything he wrote prior to the Confessions.) "I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled."
Alypius found a word for himself a few lines further, "He that is weak in the faith receive ye;" and together they went into the house to bring the good news to Monica. This was at the end of the European summer of the year 386.
Augustine's description of the "garden incident" - appearing vague and lacking in some desired details - in his Confessions has been described as "a theological interpretation of a past event, as an attempt to render his past coherent to his present self." Augustine prepared for baptism, and at Easter 387 received its cleansing waters at the hands of Ambrose. This baptism most probably took place in the ancient baptistery (now excavated and able to be visited) underneath the present Cathedral in Milan.
The Conversion of Augustine. Extracts from the Confessions. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/aug-conv.html
The Conversion of Augustine. This is a scholarly coverage in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Scroll down to the appropriate section. http://www.iep.utm.edu/augustin/#Conversion%20and%20Ordination
The Conversion of Augustine. One page from the web site of the Midwest Augustinians in the United States of America. http://midwestaugustinians.org/conversion-of-st-augustine
Bautismo (Spanish) - Después de las vacaciones del 386 Agustín dijo adiós al profesorado, y se retiró a la campiña , a Casiciaco, para dedicarse a estudiar, a escribir y a prepararse al bautismo. En la Vigilia Pascual del año 387 recibió el bautismo de manos de Ambrosio, juntamente con su hijo Adeodato y su amigo Alipo.http://www.oala.villanova.edu/agustin/conversion2.html AN1109