Augustine believed in miracles. His writings clearly indicate that he believed that God miraculously healed people of illness in order to support the authority of those who ministered in the name of Christ. The most detailed examples of this are written in the last book of his huge work, City of God.
Material that Augustine collected appears there in Book 22 of City of God, the eighth chapter of which is entitled, Of Miracles Which Were Wrought that the World Might Believe in Christ, and Which Have Not Ceased Since the World Believed. (To read this chapter, click on: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120122.htm )
In Chapter 8 of Book 22, Augustine gives a very lengthy description of miracles. These were physical cures which he had either witnessed himself, or about which he had heard from those whom he considered to be reliable witnesses. There the reader learns about a blind man cured in Milan while Augustine and Alypius were there as laymen. Augustine devotes many lines to another man named Innocentius, whom he knew a little later in Carthage, when Augustine as a layman was a guest in the house of Innocentius. The miraculous cure of this man, who had been an advocate of the deputy prefecture, happened under the eyes of Augustine. Innocentius was being treated by medical men for fistulae, of which he had a large number intricately seated in the rectum.
The description by Augustine is quite dramatic writing. The cure of this man, who had been an advocate of the deputy prefecture, happened under Augustine's very own eyes: "... tried aid him good. Still they persisted in promising that they would cure that fistula by drugs, without the knife. They called in doctors...." To read this chapter on the Internet, click on: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/augustine-cityofgod-22-9-10.html
Augustine changed his attitude about miracles from that of a suspicious teacher to that of an eyewitness. Augustine wrote that the bones of Saint Stephen the martyr were taken on a tour to Africa, where Augustine lived at that time. A large number of people met the ship with the bones aboard. Augustine writes that a blind woman begged to be taken immediately to the bones, and she was conveyed there. But the man in charge gave her only the flowers that were on the bones. She put the flowers on her eyes and her blindness was instantly healed. These flowers were then placed under the pillow of a man who was known to have no religious belief at all. The next day, he discovered that he had been converted in his sleep, and awoke full of love, speaking the words, "Christ, receive my spirit." Those were the last words of Stephen, too.
Another man was instantly healed of a cancer when he carried a bone of Stephen. A priest, dead and being bound up for burial, was brought back to life when his friend applied a bone of Stephen. Augustine wrote that he personally witnessed other cures and conversions that took place through these bones. He reported healings from gout and pain, several persons returning from death and many other miracles. In fact Augustine went so far as to state, "Were I ... to record the miracles of healing which were wrought in the district by means of Stephen, they would fill many volumes." (City of God, 22:8) Above: You Tube (1 min 47 secs) of the shrine to Our Lady of Childbirth at the Church of St Augustine, Rome. AL223
His examples of miracles
The writings of Saint Augustine indicate that he clearly believed that God by miracles healed people of illness in order to support the authority of those who ministered in the name of Christ. The most detailed examples of this are written in the last book of his huge work, City of God. It contains a very lengthy description of miracles which he had either witnessed himself, or about which he had heard from those whom he considered to be reliable witnesses.
In Book 22, Chapter 8 of City of God, the reader learns about a blind man cured in Milan while Augustine and Alypius were there as laymen.
The miracle of Innocentia
The story of Innocentia, reported by Augustine in his City of God, shows how dramatically he had changed his mind on the subject of miracles. Innocentia was a respected and holy woman who discovered that she had cancer of the breast. She was a citizen of Carthage whom Augustine himself had met.
Doctors gave her no hope, and Augustine reports, "She turned for help to God alone, in prayer." In a dream, Innocentia was told to wait in the church for the first woman who came out after receiving baptism, and to ask this woman to make the sign of Christ over her breast. Innocentia did so, and was completely cured.
In North Africa in the time of Augustine, belief in miracles was widespread. Early in his ministry, however, Augustine assumed a position against miracles. He mocked these popular claims as being part of a "folk religion".
For example, in his treatise De vera religione ("On the True Religion") written in the year 390, Augustine stated that miracles like those in the Bible had ended in the era soon after the death of Jesus. "These miracles," he wrote, "were no longer permitted to continue in our time, lest the mind should always seek visible things, and the human race should be chilled by the customariness of the very things whose novelty had inspired them."
But then, late in life, Augustine decided to examine and record the miracles that he personally encountered and to give the verifiable miracles maximum publicity. In fact, he writes that when he learned Innocentia had not told others about her healing, "I was indignant that so astounding a miracle, performed in so important a city, and on a person far from obscure, should have been kept a secret like this; and I thought it right to admonish her and to speak to her with some sharpness on the matter."
When Innocentia did tell her friends what had happened, "They listened in great amazement and gave praise to God." The hope of Augustine was that, as the miracles of the disciples of Jesus had aided the growth of the early church, miracles in his own day would draw people to the Christian Faith. He wrote, "What do these miracles attest but the Faith? … God may himself perform them. Being eternal, he is active in temporal events; or he may affect them through the agency of his servants. … Be that as it may, they all testify to the faith in which the way to eternal life is proclaimed."
Photo Gallery For the Augnet gallery on the Augustinian Church of Sant’Agostino in Rome (including the photographs on this page), click here.
Augustine: City of God: Book 22:8-10. On Miracles
Chapter 8.- Of Miracles Which Were Wrought that the World Might Believe in Christ, and Which Have Not Ceased Since the World Believed.
Chapter 9.- That All the Miracles Which are Done by Means of the Martyrs in the Name of Christ Testify to that Faith Which the Martyrs Had in Christ. Chapter 10.- That the Martyrs Who Obtain Many Miracles in Order that the True God May Be Worshipped, are Worthy of Much Greater Praise Than the Demons, Who Do Some Marvels that They Themselves May Be Supposed to Be God. For the entire City of God, click on: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120122.htm AN2324