Thursday, January 15, 2015



163. Saint Augustine. Part Five


St Augustine did not perform any miracles (he might have but he did not record it in ‘Confessions’). However there are some incidents which are miraculous.


1. Episode of the voice in the garden, which led to his conversion. I have already narrated it.


2. He developed toothache. The pain was so great that he could not speak. He asked all his friends who were with him to pray to God for him. He wrote down the message and gave it to them to read, and as soon they all knelt down to offer to God their humble prayer, the pain vanished. He writes:


 ‘What was that pain? How did it vanish? My Lord and my God, I confess that I was terrified, for nothing like this had ever happened to me in my life. Deep within me I recognized the working of Your will.’


3. St Augustine writes: “God revealed Bishop Ambrose, in a vision, where the bodies of martyrs Protasius and Gervasius were hidden (see the footnote). All these years (over two hundred) You had preserved them incorrupt.”


4. While the bodies were being carried, on the way, several people who were tormented by evil spirits were cured. There was also a man who had been blind for many years, a well known figure in the city. He asked why the crowd was running wild with joy, and when they told him the reason, he leaped to his feet and begged his guide to lead him where the bodies lay. When he reached the place, he asked to be allowed to touch the bier with his handkerchief.  No sooner had he done this and put the handkerchief to his eyes, his eyesight was restored. The news spread.

What do the followers of David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, say about this episode? St. Augustine was there in the city of Milan. He would not have recounted it unless it was authentic. He may even have witnessed it. Augustine was a highly rational man, as is clear from his struggle to understand time, astrology, and how prophets could see future. He was not likely to suffer from what Hume calls ‘superstitious delusion’.


5. I have already recounted the visions of Monica; crossing of Mediterranean Sea, and Augustine and she on the wooden rule when she saw a young man in a halo of splendor.


Astrology. People used to consult sorcerers and astrologers, frequently, in St Augustine’s time. Young Augustine did not go to sorcerers because he did not want the sacrifice of any living thing to learn the future, but he frequented astrologers. He became friends with a wise old man. When the old man learnt that Augustine was an enthusiast for books of astrology, he told him to throw them away and waste no further pains upon such rubbish. He asked him why it was that the future was often correctly foretold by means of astrology. He gave him the only possible answer that it was all due to the power of chance.

St Augustine still did not give up astrology, but he started to have doubts.

One day a friend, Firminius, told him a story. The father of Firminius and a friend of his father were deeply interested in astrology. So much so, that they would note the exact time of birth of their domestic animals and studied the position of stars at the time of birth. When Friminius’s mother was pregnant, a female slave was also expecting a child. The two men made the most minute calculations to determine the time of labor of both women, counting the days, hours, even the minutes, and so it happened that both gave birth at exactly the same moment. This meant that the horoscopes which they cast for the two babies had to be exactly the same. If the horoscopes were the same, their lives should be the same!

The one baby born of a rich family had a good life. His wealth increased and high honors came his way. But the slave continued to serve his masters. His lot never improved.

This story made the final end of St Augustine’s doubts.

Later on, he considered astrologers as imposters



Footnote. The sons are said to have been scourged and then beheaded, during the reign of the Emperor Nero, under the presidency of Anubinus or Astasius, and while Caius was Bishop of Milan. Some authors place the martyrdom under the Emperor Diocletian, but others object to this time, because it is not clear how, in that case, the place of burial, and even the names, could be forgotten by the time of Saint Ambrose, as is stated. It probably occurred during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180)


St Ambrose in 386 had built a magnificent basilica at Milan, now called the Basilica Sant'Ambrogio. Asked by the people to consecrate it in the same solemn manner as was done in Rome, he promised to do so if he could obtain the necessary relics. In a dream he was shown the place where such relics could be found. He ordered excavations to be made outside the city, in the cemetery Church of Saints Nabor and Felix, who were at the time the primary patrons of Milan, and there found the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius. In a letter, St Ambrose wrote: "I found the fitting signs, and on bringing in some on whom hands were to be laid, the power of the holy martyrs became so manifest, that even whilst I was still silent, one was seized and thrown prostrate at the holy burial-place. We found two men of marvelous stature, such as those of ancient days. All the bones were perfect, and there was much blood

Source: Wikipedia: St Protasius and Gervasius

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