[St. Pachomius Library]

St. Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

IV/V Centuries
Although his mother, St. Monica, was a Christian, Augustine grew up to be a highbrow playboy, a professor of rhetoric who joined the fashionable Manichee religion. Then he met St. Ambrose of Milan, became a Christian, and returned to his native Africa.

From the Orthodox point of view, St. Augustine's legacy is controversial. In the West, it would be impossible to overestimate the impact of his writings, starting in his own lifetime, and by the VI Century he was regarded as one of the greatest Latin Fathers, revered by Western saints whose Orthodoxy has never been questioned in the East. On the other hand, nearly all of those ideas which are most distinctively Augustinian -- in particular his views on the Trinity, on original sin, and on predestination -- have subsequently been rejected by the Orthodox Church, and are among the distinguishing points between Eastern and Western Christianity. Thus some Orthodox consider him not a saint, but an heresiarch.

This view, however, is probably the minority one; it is hard to reconcile with the esteem in which Augustine was held by pre-Schism saints. More often, St. Augustine's errors are cited as the foremost example of the fallibility of the Fathers: saints are human and make mistakes. Augustine was himself aware of this, and at the end of his life was working on a revised version of his works, rejecting some entirely and modifying others in accordance with his more mature later views. Had he lived longer, possibly he would have removed many of the more dubious sections of his writings.