Augustine was born on November 13, 354, in Tagaste, modern Algeria, in 354. His parents, Patricius and Monica, belonged to the financially imperilled middle class. Of Augustine's childhood we know only what he chooses to tell us in the highly selective memoirs that form part of the Confessions. He depicts himself as a rather ordinary sort of child, good at his lessons but not fond of school, eager to win the approval of his elders but prone to trivial acts of rebellion, quick to form close friendships but not always able to foresee their consequences. While he was leading what he wants us to think was a rather conventionally boisterous adolescence, his parents were worrying about paying for his education. Finally, with the help of an affluent family friend, they managed to send him to the nearest university town a dozen miles away, then at age seventeen he went to Carthage to continue his studies. Augustine set up housekeeping with a young woman he met in Carthage, by whom a son was born not long after. This woman would stay with Augustine for over a decade and, though we do not know her name, he would say that he agonized when he had to give her up. The son, Adeodatus, stayed with Augustine until premature death took him in late adolescence.

Augustine's zeal for philosophy led him to join a religious cult from Persia that had planted itself in the Roman world as a rival of Christianity: Manicheism. At about age twenty-one, he went back to his home town to teach, but left a year later for Rome. Monica was determined to accompany him, but he tricked her and sailed alone. She followed shortly after, though, and found him as a professor of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan. Upon his arrival in Milan, Augustine had paid a courtesy visit to Bishop Ambrose, and soon began to sit through a few of the bishop's sermons. Here Christianity began to appear to him in a new light.

Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of Saint Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he still did not become a Christian, for he was convinced he could never live a pure life. One day, having heard of the life of Saint Anthony, he cried to his friend, "Unlearned people are taking heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!" Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and seemed to hear a child sing: "Take and read." He opened the Bible to the words of Saint Paul: "Let us live honorably as in the daylight; not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather put on the Lord Jesus Christ." After telling his mother of this revelation, Augustine made the necessary preparations and was baptized by Saint Ambrose. After the death of his mother, Augustine returned to Africa; he sold his property, gave the proceeds to the poor, and with his friends dedicated himself to serve the Lord by fasting, prayers, and good works. After three years he went to Hippo, where he entered the priesthood. In 393 Augustine was ordained a bishop and assumed responsibility for the Church at Hippo. While living a community life, for 35 years Augustine preached in his cathedral, administered the affairs of the Church, answered letters that came to him from all parts, and defended the faith against Manichaeism, Donatism, Pelagianism, and other heresies. His major works include his Confessions, a catechism for catechumens, and his great opus Christian Doctrine. In 410 when the barbarian Alaric laid siege to Rome, Augustine wrote The City of God, and two years later his treatise On the Trinity. Augustine died at the age of 76, when the Vandals were at the gates of the city of Hiippo. St. Bede states that Augustine's body was transferred to Sardinia to protect it from the Vandals. From there it was moved to Pavia, where it is venerated.

Adapted from various Lives of Saint Augustine.