Page 4, 29th August 1941

29th August 1941
Page 4
Page 4, 29th August 1941 — Augustine's Message

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Locations: Canterbury


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Augustine's Message

E wrote much and that with such godliness and understanding that he is held among the very chiefest of them by whom the teachings of Christianity have been shown forth." It is thus in imitation archaic style that the late Marquis of Bute translated the sum-' ming up of the Breviary lesson on the stupendous intellectual position of St. Augustine of Hippo. When he was ill with his last illness, the Vandals, who had been gradually enclosing the Roman Empire, appeared before the gates of Hippo and laid siege to it. Augustine could only pray for his fellow-citizens. He died during the progress of the siege, on August 28, 430, and was spared the indignity of seeing the city in the hands of the precursors of the Nazis.

Augustine had died amidst all the external signs of crumbling ruin and chaos. He had been full of admiration for the power and extent of the Empire. He had praised its peculiarly effective administration. But at the same time he saw the danger. For its very size made it only comparable to a flood: " The greater the volume of water, the greater the danger." he remarks in the City of God. • But it was only the external framework which had perished at the blows of the Teutonic demolition gang. In the year that Augustine died Patrick landed in Ireland. In the next century another Augustine came to Canterbury, and in the next England sent St. Boniface to be the Apostle of Germany. The work of re-creating the City of God went on persistently and effectively until Christendom arose, and in that amalgam of what was best in the Old Empire and what the Church had moulded out of the barbaric straih, the name of Augustine of Hippo was indeed " the very chiefest of those by whom the teachings of Christianity " were studied and applied to the new Europe.

We are again facing the menace of the Teutonic gangsters, who are out to complete the destruction of " Augustine's Europe "—though we ourselves shared in that work of destruction when we broke the unity of Christendom four centuries ago. We are again thinking of the New Europe, which we would like to rebuild when the tornado is over. Perhaps we are too Penguin-minded to sit down and seriously study the immortal work of St. Augustine—a work which occupied thirteen years of his busy life—the City of God. And yet it is in that great treasurehouse of wisdom, from which so much of the Leonine encyclicals was drawn, that lie stored the real plans of reconstruction.

However, there is one piece of penetrating advice which we may well ponder in formulating our peace aims.

" If all your prudence, by which you try to watch over human affairs; if all the resolution with which you meet, without fear, the iniquities of which you are a victim; if all the temperance by which you keep yourself uncorrupted in the welter of human corruption surrounding you; if all the justice by the right application of which, you render to each his due; if all this effort and striving have, as their sole aim, that those to whom you wish well. may be sound in body, and safe and untroubled by the wickedness of anybody—yours will not be true virtues, nor will the happiness of these for whom you exercise them. be true happiness."

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