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Sixth-century portrait of Augustine of Hippo (...

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Agostino Trape writes of the character of Augustine of Hippo in The Golden Age of Latin Patristic Literature: From the Council of Nicea to the Council of Chalcedon (vol. 4 of Patrology; ed. Placid Solari; Westminster, Md.: Christian Classics, 1991). While it might border on “hagiography,” it is still worth reciting:

Of particular interest in the study of Augustine’s character, for his outstanding moral qualities corresponded to his extraordinary intellectual abilities. He possessed a generous and strong constitution, and was endowed with an insatiable thirst for wisdom, a profound need for friendship, a vibrant love for Christ, the church and the faithful, and an astonishing devotion and stamina for work. Augustine was further marked by a moderate yet austere asceticism, a sincere humility which did not hesitate to acknowledge his own errors (cf. the Confessions and the Retractions), and an assiduous dedication to the study of Scripture, to prayer, to the interior life and to contemplation.

The Bishop of Hippo was a pastor who considered himself as “servant of Christ and servant of the servants of Christ” (Ep. 117), and who accepted the full consequences of such a definition: complete availability for the needs of the faithful, the desire not to be saved without them (“I do not wish to be saved without you” Serm. 17, 2), prayer to God to be ever ready to die for them aut effectu aut affectu (MSCA I 404), love for those gone astray even if they did not desire love and even if they gave offense (“Let them say against us whatever they will; we love them even if they do not want us to.” In ps. 36 3, 19). He was a pastor in the full sense of the word. (353)

So may our pastors love their people.

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