St. Augustinus or Augustine of Hippo Statue for Czechia people and foreigner travelers visit at Charles Bridge crossing Vltava river on August 30, 2017 in Prague, Czech Republic

“Not So Saint” St. Augustine

Words by Tysen Romeo


Did you know the person they named St. Augustine after was actually an atheist, a thief and a playboy? Turns out “Saint” Augustine of Hippo was anything but a saint.


Born in 354 A.D., Augustine was the son of Patricius, a pagan who worked and saved to give him a good education, and Monica, a committed Christian who prayed endlessly for him. Too bad her prayers didn’t work very well as Augustine grew up atheist and treaded down a scandalous path in his youth.


His first dabble into his acts of sin was at 16 years old when he and his friends stole pears from his neighbor’s tree. Augustine apparently didn’t even like pears; he stole them just to steal them. He later wrote that stealing the pears and throwing them away “pleased us all the more because it was forbidden.” Looks like Eve wasn’t the only one tempted by forbidden fruit. This was only the beginning of Augustine’s bad boy era. 


Throughout his teens Augustine was completely obsessed with girls. He wrote that from the time he was about 16, “the frenzy gripped me and I surrendered myself entirely to lust.” We have all been teenagers once, obsessed with sex and doing anything to get the attention of those we find attractive. But Augustine was probably a borderline sex addict and had lots of it … before marriage. Sex before marriage is one of the worst things he could have possibly done back in the 4th century. (Even nowadays, many people regard sex before marriage a sin.)


Things got even crazier. Even with all the sex he was having, Augustine fell in love. But don’t cue the wedding bells too soon because marriage was not in the picture for this lover boy. She did become his girlfriend, however … and then got pregnant. So Augustine, still in his teens, fathered a child out of wedlock. How’s that for controversial? 


He did not leave them to fend for themselves, however. Augustine’s son Adeodatus was born in 372 A.D. Augustine described the experience as “given by God,” as he considered the birth unplanned and thought his son was some sort of divine intervention. As a result, Augustine became interested in religion. Though he and the mother of his son never married, they all lived as a family together faithfully for 13 years, so there are some redeeming qualities about him.


Unlike the love stories we read in the books, Augustine and his family didn’t live happily ever after. 


In 385 A.D. Augustine was living in Milan with his family and mother. His mother arranged a marriage but not with the mother of his child. This outraged Augustine’s unnamed mistress and she left him. Taken aback from this, he pondered why he never married her and described her as “stronger than I.” He could never find the strength to marry her, but she could find the courage to leave him. And the marriage that was arranged was with a girl too young to marry, as she had to wait two more years to be of marriageable age. 


All of which led Augustine to find another mistress. He had fallen back into the era of being a playboy. He wrote that this time in his life he was “impatient of the delay” and “a slave to lust.” This all broke his mother’s heart. 


He remained an atheist for most of his youth, which isn’t surprising considering he kept a mistress, had a child out of wedlock, didn’t marry his son’s mother and, instead, found another mistress. 


So much for a saint, right? We named a city in Florida after a guy who would do all this in his youth? He was a good for nothing most of his life and not exactly a role model at the time.


Don’t be so quick to judge, though. Augustine, despite all his mistakes in his life, eventually found God. Not to say you have to “find God” to get past your mistakes in life or that “finding God” solves all your problems. While some find ways of expressing themselves through art, writing or singing, Augustine found it through religion. 


Augustine was baptized in 387 A.D. by Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. He soon returned to his birthplace of Thagaste and was ordained. A few years later, he would be made bishop of the city of Hippo, becoming Augustine of Hippo. He would also go on to write about his sexual corruption and his mother’s concern for his well-being, admitting his sins and righting his wrongs. 


It takes a lot to admit one’s’ faults and truly grow as a person. Being able to think about the complexities of selflessness and how to address one’s personal issues is also super intense. Augustine was actually a person who lived a full life: He did a lot wrong but also did a lot of good in his life.


Through his redemption era as a bishop, a father and as someone his mother could be proud of, he showed true resilience and strength. He would even be worthy enough to have our beloved city of St. Augustine named after him. 


St. Augustine is a place all about resilience and strength: the Castillo de San Marcos, the textbook symbol of resilience, and the shops and restaurants that survive the ebbs of tourism show true strength. Honestly, St. Augustine is kind of campy too. Campy, for those who don’t know, describes St. Augustine, as sort of funky, having that Southern charm and uniqueness to it. Kind of like how you feel as if you are always listening to a Lana Del Ray song when you are there. I think that the bad boy embodiment that Augustine gives off is a perfect example of the way you will feel when you are in St. Augustine. 


St. Augustine: Florida’s most resilient and campy city.


About Tysen Romeo

Folio’s newest intern, Tysen Romeo is excited to join the team. While working part-time and being in school, he still finds time to write about the things he loves here at Folio. He hopes to spread joy as well as the truth in his writing and we can’t wait to see all the potential he has.