The greatest of the Church Fathers was Saint Augustine , born on this day, 354(CE) in North Africa. With a brilliant mind and a restless heart, Augustine followed philosophy & pleasure, until his mother’s prayers, a bishop’s counsel, & a child-like voice wooed him into the Christian faith. He then became a church leader in a crucial time, shaping the church for centuries to come.
Augustine devoted himself to the service of the Church. In public debate & in his writings, he defended the teachings of the Church against heretics & those who would cause schism in the Church. The controversies which occupied so much of Augustine's time & energy were witht the Manicheans, the Donatists, & the Pelagians.
The teachings of Augustine largely dominated the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages; & from this, Luther & the other Reformers also received their inspiration.
The two most famous works of Augustine are his Confessions & The City of God. In his Confessions Augustine lets his early life"all hang out" & shares the innermost depths of his heart. In the City of God he gives his philosophy of history. Other witings include On the Trinity, On Christian Doctrine, & Enchiridion.
The measure of Augustine’s importance goes beyond the rare title, “Doctor of the Church,” given to him in the Middle Ages. He was the first to give a self-examination before God in the form of his Confessions and because of that give the church a biblical understanding of a man’s life under the grace of God. He was the first to give a biblical view of history, time, and the state in his City of God. He established the doctrine of the church in his anti-Donatist writings, a view that prevailed in the church for centuries. He gave the Western church a clear statement concerning the person of Christ, which was later established as doctrine by Leo. He made the grace of God in the gospel the theme of theology in the West.
Some great biographies have been written about St. Augustine. James O'Donnell is a brilliant Augustine scholar & has the most recent bio out. But, in my estimation, the best biography of Augustine is Peter Brown's. If you would like a primer on his work, here is a good start, & here is the more advanced steps.
For more information, visit Augustine's Wikipedia article here, James O'Donnell's website on Augustine here, & CCEL's information here.