Historical People Who Practiced Servant Leadership: St. Augustine (354 - 430)




Augustine was born in Tagaste, part of the Roman Empire in North Africa. Patricius, his father, was a pagan; Monica, his mother, was a Christian. In his early years he learned about the faith of his mother. As a university student in Carthage, he turned his back on the faith his mother taught. At first he studied to become a lawyer, but soon abandoned that notion. Instead he pursued literary and philosophical interests. He also took a mistress, with whom he had a son, Adeodatus. He stayed with the mistress for fifteen years. He was devoted to their son.

Augustine became a professor at his university, but later was drawn to power and glory of Rome. Having met famous and influential people in Rome, he became a professor of rhetoric in Milan. There he met Bishop Ambrose, whose wisdom, faith and piety stood in sharp contrast to the moral decay of the times. In his Confessions Augustine described his disgust with the moral vacuum of society during this late period of the Empire. Indeed, Rome was crumbling. Alaric, the Visigoth invader, conquered Rome in 410 A.D. Moral decay and political decline went hand in hand.

With great concern about her son's welfare, Monica came to Milan to care and pray for him. Listening to the sermons of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, led to Augustine's renewed interest in the Bible. His spirit was in deep struggle. His study marked the beginning of his revelation. "It was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness and doubt was dispelled," Augustine wrote.

Following his conversion, a dramatic transformation experienced by followers of Jesus over the centuries, Augustine and his mother returned to North Africa. Monica's prayers were answered. Her son devoted the rest of his life to serving God. Augustine was ordained a priest and later was named Bishop of Hippo.

His The City of God, a work of genius, has influenced thinking people for sixteen centuries. Augustine demonstrated profound insight about the great questions of good and evil, justice and sin, God's will and the purpose of life, the relationship of state and church.


 Augustine drew comparison between Rome and the the eternal city:

What else was there for them to love save glory? For, through glory, they desired to have a kind of life after death on the lips of those who praised them. . . .
The Heavenly City outshines Rome, beyond comparison. There, instead of victory, is truth; instead of high rank, holiness; instead of peace, felicity; instead of life, eternity. . . .
For those who live by faith and righteousness in a world of sin and evil, Augustine said there is the hope of eternal peace in the Heavenly City. Therefore, followers of Christ should practice good for the sake of God and one's neighbor. Eternity offers a life of perfect fellowship.


Augustine was the intellectual giant who illuminated the path between this world and eternity.


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