Letters, Volume 2 (83–130) (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 18)

Letters, Volume 2 (83–130) (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 18)

Translated by SISTER WILFRID PARSONS
Copyright Date: 1953
Pages: 415
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32b2c2
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  • Book Info
    Letters, Volume 2 (83–130) (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 18)
    Book Description:

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    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1118-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    The letters in this volume (Numbers 83 to 130) were written in years 408 to 412. These five years were crowded and busy ones for Augustine, filled with the most varied problems of all sorts; he had, at times, to contend also with ill health. His conflict with Donatism reached its climax in the longed-for Conference between Catholics and Donatists held at Carthage in 411. Although it did not have the immediate effect of putting an end to the violent excesses of the Donatists, it did produce many conversions, and was, in fact, the beginning of the end for them....

  4. Letters
    • 83 To Bishop Alypius
      (pp. 3-7)

      The sad state of the church at Thiave² allows my heart no rest until I hear that they have been restored to their former good relations with you, which ought to be done quickly. For, if the Apostle was exercised about one individual only, saying: ‘Lest such a one be swallowed up by overmuch sorrow,’³ and again: ‘that we be not possessed by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his devices,’⁴ how much more is it incumbent on us to watch carefully that we do not have to make this plaint over a whole flock, and especially over those...

    • 84 To Bishop Novatus
      (pp. 8-9)

      I also feel how hard-hearted I seem to be, and I can scarcely bear my own conduct in not sending to your Holiness your brother, the deacon Lucillus, my son,² and allowing him to be with you. But, when you also begin to assign to the necessities of churches located far from you some of your dearest and sweetest nurslings, then you will feel with what pangs of longing I am torn, because some of those who are bound to me by ties of the strongest and sweetest friendship are not physically present with me. Suppose I send your relative...

    • 85 To Bishop Paul
      (pp. 9-11)

      You would not call me so unyielding if you did not think I was a liar. For, what else do you think of my dispositions when you write such things to me, except that there is in me a knot of discord, and a detestable hatred against you, as if I were not in reality on my guard, ‘Lest preaching to others, I myself be found a castaway,’² or that I should so wish to pluck the mote from your eye as to maintain a beam in my own?³ It is not as you think. See, I tell you again,...

    • 86 To Caecilian
      (pp. 11-12)

      The purity of your government, and the fame of your virtues, the praiseworthy diligence, also, of your Christian piety and your faithful uprightness—divine gifts granted you for your joy by Him from whom you hope for higher ones—have encouraged me to share with your Excellency the stormy state of my affairs. We are truly happy that you have provided for the restoration of Catholic unity with remarkable success in other parts of Africa, but we are equally grieved that Hippo Regius² and other territories of Numidia adjacent to it have not yet deserved to be helped by enforcement...

    • 87 To Emeritus
      (pp. 12-22)

      When I hear that someone endowed with a good mind and trained in the liberal studies—although the salvation of the soul does not depend on that—has a view different from what truth requires on a very easy question, I both wonder and ardently desire to know the man and talk with him, or, if I cannot do that, I long at least to meet his mind and be met by his through letters which fly afar. I hear that you are such a man, and I grieve that you are severed and separated from the Catholic Church, which...

    • 88 To Januarius
      (pp. 22-34)

      Your clerics and Circumcellions² are raging against us with a persecution of a new sort and of an unspeakable cruelty. If ours were to return evil for evil, they would act thus against the law of Christ; but now, comparing your actions and ours, we are found to suffer what is written: ‘They repaid me evil for good,’³ and in another psalm: ‘With them that hated peace, I was peaceable: when I spoke to them, they fought against me without cause.’⁴ But, since you have now reached such an advanced age, we think that you must know perfectly well that...

    • 89 To Festus
      (pp. 34-40)

      If men make such efforts in behalf of their error and accursed dissension and false teaching—even when completely refuted—that they do not cease to threaten the Catholic Church and to lay snares for her, though she seeks only their salvation, how much more reasonable and even obligatory is it for those who spread the truth of Christian peace and unity—so evident, though all malign and restrain it—to work constantly and untiringly not only for the strengthening of those who are Catholics, but also for the correction of those who are not. For, if obstinacy aims at...

    • 90 Nectarius to Augustine
      (pp. 41-42)

      You know how great is the love of country, so I say nothing of it. It is the only love which rightly surpasses that for parents. If there were any limit or legitimate restriction on our duty to serve our country,² we might honorably retire from public office. But, since our love and devotion to the state grows with each day, we have a greater desire, as life draws to its end, to leave our fatherland safe and in flower. Therefore, I am especially glad that my plea is being made to a man so well versed in learning. In...

    • 91 To Nectarius
      (pp. 42-50)

      I do not wonder that your heart glows with love of your country as old age slows down your body, and I praise you, both for remembering and for showing forth in your life and character that there is no limit or legitimate restriction to our duty to serve our country. This I admit without objection, or, rather, wholeheartedly. But there is a certain heavenly country, for whose holy love, according to our modest ability, we struggle and toil among those whom we are helping to attain it; of it we should like to see you such a devoted citizen...

    • 92 To Italica
      (pp. 50-55)

      I have learned from your letter, as well as from the statement of the bearer that you ardently desire a letter from me, in the belief that it will bring you the greatest consolation. I must not refuse or delay this letter, but you will have to see what good you can draw from it. Let the faith and hope and charity, which are diffused through the hearts of the faithful by the Holy Spirit,² be your consolation. We receive a little of it in this life as a pledge³ to make us learn how to long for its fullness....

    • 92A To Cyprian
      (pp. 55-56)

      I have sent a letter to our blessed daughter, Italica, and I ask you to be so kind as to take it to her yourself. In it I said something against the opinion of those who can hope nothing of God except what they experience in the body, although they do not dare to say that God is a corporeal being. However, they state this another way when they assert that He can be seen by bodily eyes, which he created for seeing corporeal objects only. Truly, it seems to me that they do not know what a body is,...

    • 93 To Vincent
      (pp. 56-106)

      I have received a letter which it seemed to me was not improbably yours, for the one who brought it to me, as he was evidently a Catholic Christian, would, I think, not venture to lie to me. But if, by any chance, the letter is not yours, I still think the writer ought to be answered, although I am now a more eager seeker for peace than I was when you knew me as a young man in Carthage, during the lifetime of Rogatus, to whom you have succeeded. But the Donatists are much too active, and it seems...

    • 94 Paulinus and Therasia to Augustine
      (pp. 106-115)

      ‘Thy word is [always] a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’² Thus, as often as I receive letters from your most blessed Holiness, I feel the darkness of my stupidity being dispelled, and, as if the eyes of my mind had been anointed with the salve of enlightenment,³ I see more clearly, when the night of ignorance has been driven away and the mist of doubt has been scattered. I have felt this often on other occasions, when the boon of your letters has been bestowed on me, but most especially in that recent letter of...

    • 95 To Paulinus and Therasia
      (pp. 115-123)

      When the brethren, our most intimate friends, see you constantly, and you frequently return their greetings, mutually desirous of each other’s company, it is not so much an increase of good fortune for us as an assuagement of ill fortune. Naturally, we do not like the reasons and necessities which force them to go overseas, in fact, we hate them, and we try to avoid them as much as we can, but somehow or other—I suppose it is what we deserve—such exigencies cannot be avoided. Yet, when they visit you and see you, the words of Scripture are...

    • 96 To Olympius
      (pp. 124-126)

      Whatever place you may hold in this world’s affairs, we write with complete confidence to our dearest and most upright fellow servant, our Christian Olympius. We know that this is more prized by you than any other distinction, and that it is rated by you as higher than any honor. Rumor indeed brings us word that you have attained a higher office, but we have as yet no confirmation of the truth of the report at the time of this present writing. However, since we know that you have learned from the Lord not to mind high things, but to...

    • 97 To Olympius
      (pp. 126-129)

      We have lately heard that you have received a well-deserved promotion, and, although the report has not yet been confirmed, we assume that your attitude toward the Church of God—of which we rejoice that you are truly a son—is the same as that you have recently shown in your letter. Moreover, we write to you with greater confidence, excellent and deservedly renowned lord, son greatly to be honored in the charity of Christ, after reading your letter in which you went so far as to send us, of your own accord, when we were feeling diffident and downcast,...

    • 98 To Bishop Boniface
      (pp. 129-138)

      You ask me whether parents do harm to their baptized babies when they try to cure them by means of sacrifices to demons, and, if they do not harm them, how the faith of parents is beneficial to their children when they are baptized, whereas their infidelity cannot harm them. To this I answer that the power of the sacrament—that of saving baptism—is so great in the structure of the Body of Christ that a person born once through the carnal pleasures of others, and reborn once through the spiritual will of others, can thereafter not be bound...

    • 99 To Italica
      (pp. 139-141)

      I had received three letters from your Benignity when I began to write this: the first asking for a letter from me; the second acknowledging the receipt of mine, and the third proving your kind consideration for us in regard to the house of the noble and illustrious youth, Julian,² which adjoins our walls. I am answering this last letter at once, as your Excellency’s agent writes that he can send it promptly to Rome. I was deeply troubled that your letter gave us no hint of what is happening³ there in or around the city, nor did it confirm...

    • 100 To Donatus, Proconsul
      (pp. 141-143)

      I should prefer that the Church in Africa, beset as it is with trials, should not have to depend on the help of any temporal power. But the Apostle says: ‘There is no power but from God’;² hence, when help is given to the Church by the most devoted sons of our Catholic mother, such as you are, there is no doubt that ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’³ Anyone can see, excellent Sir, deservedly honored and pre-eminently praiseworthy son, that no slight comfort has been sent us by Providence in these...

    • 101 To Bishop Memorius
      (pp. 144-148)

      I really ought not to answer the letter of your holy Charity without sending you the books² which you requested of me by the most insistent claim of holy love, but in this at least I can obey you by answering the letters by which you were so kind as to load me rather than to laud³ me. Still, when I am bowed down under my load, I am equally lifted up by your love. And I am not so loved, lifted up, and chosen by just anybody, but only by that man and priest of the Lord who is...

    • 102 To Deogratias [Six Questions Answered for Pagans]
      (pp. 148-177)

      When you choose to refer to me the questions propounded to you, I imagine you are not actuated by sloth but by an excessive affection for me, which makes you want to hear me explain things which you know yourself. For my part, I would rather they were answered by you, because that friend of yours who asked the questions is timid about having anything to do with me, if I can judge by his failure to answer certain letters—only he can tell why. At least, I suspect it is so, and my suspicion is not unkind or unfounded,...

    • 103 Nectarius to Augustine
      (pp. 177-180)

      I have received the letter of your Excellency, in which you have laid low the worship of idols and the ceremonial of temples, and in it I did not seem to hear the voice of that philosopher, whom rumor describes as sitting on the Lycean ground of the Academe² in its shaded corners, buried in some profound thought, with his forehead bowed upon his knees, so that some impoverished prosecutor could attack the finely developed theories of others, and, while defending no skilled arguments of his own, should belittle those of other men. But, summoned by your words, there appeared...

    • 104 To Nectarius
      (pp. 180-195)

      I have read the letter of your Benignity which you sent me as an answer a long time after I had sent you mine. I wrote to you while my holy brother and fellow bishop, Possidius,² was still with us, before he sailed, but this letter, which you were so kind as to give him for me, reached me on March 27, almost eight months after my answer to you. I have no idea why my letter was so late in reaching you, or yours in reaching me, unless, perhaps, your Prudence decided to write to me only now, after...

    • 105 To the Donatists
      (pp. 195-211)

      The charity of Christ, for whom we wish to gain every man, as far as in us lies, does not allow us to remain silent. If you hate us because we preach Catholic unity to you, we serve a Lord who says: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,’² and it is written in the psalm: ‘With them that hated peace, I was peaceable: when I spoke to them, they fought against me without cause.’³ For that reason, certain of the priests of your sect sent us a message: ‘Keep away from our flocks,...

    • 106 To Macrobius
      (pp. 211-212)

      I have heard that you are planning to rebaptize a certain deacon of ours. Do not do it: if you would live in God, if you would please God, if you would not make void the sacraments of Christ, if you would not be cut off forever from the body of Christ. I beg you, brother, not to do it; I beg it for your own sake. Pay attention for a little to what I say. Felician of Musti² condemned Primian of Carthage³ and was himself also mutually condemned by him. For a long time Felician remained in the accursed...

    • 107 Maximus and Theodore to Augustine
      (pp. 212-212)

      According to the directions of your Holiness, we went to bishop Macrobius. When we delivered the letter of your Beatitude to him, he refused at first to allow it to be read to him. Then, somewhat later, he was influenced by our urging and agreed to have it read to him. After the reading, he said: ‘I cannot but receive those who come to me and give them the faith which they ask.’² But, when he heard what was said about the conduct of Primian, he said that, as he was but recently ordained, he could not be a judge...

    • 108 To Macrobius
      (pp. 213-237)

      When those honorable men, my dearest sons,² had delivered my letter to your Benignity, in which I urged and begged you not to rebaptize our deacon, they wrote back to me that you had answered: ‘I cannot but receive those who come to me and give them the faith which they ask.’ Yet, if someone who had been baptized in your communion should come to you after a long absence from you, and, through ignorance, should think that he ought to be baptized again, and should ask for this, you would inquire and find out when he had been baptized,...

    • 109 Bishop Severus to Augustine
      (pp. 238-241)

      Thanks be to God, brother Augustine, who gives us whatever good joys we have. I confess that my well-being is from you, and I read you much. I will say something wonderful, but absolutely true: as much as your presence is usually absent to me, so much has your absence become present. No disturbing interruptions of temporal affairs come between us. I do as much as I can, although I am not able to do as much as I wish. Why should I say as much as I wish? You know well how greedy of you I am, yet I...

    • 110 To Bishop Severus
      (pp. 241-245)

      The letter which my dearest son, our fellow deacon, Timothy,¹ brought to you, was ready for his departure, when our sons, Quodvultdeus² and Gaudentius, came to us with your letter. Hence it happened that he did not take you my answer, because he was on the point of starting off, and he stayed so short a time after their arrival that he seemed about to go from hour to hour. But, even if I had sent my answer by him³ I should still be in your debt. Even now, when I seem to have answered you, I am in debt,...

    • 111 To Victorian
      (pp. 245-254)

      Your letter filled my heart with deep sorrow, but to your request that I answer you at some length I can only say that prolonged tears and grief are more appropriate to such sorrows than lengthy books. Indeed, the whole world is afflicted with such great disasters² that there is scarcely a part of the earth where such things as you have described are not being committed and lamented. A short time ago the brothers were massacred by the barbarians in the deserts of Egypt, where the monasteries, cut off from all disturbance, existed in a relative security. I am...

    • 112 To Donatus, Proconsul
      (pp. 254-256)

      I had a great desire to see you while you were in office, but I was not able to, even when you came to Tibilis.² I suppose that happened so that I might enjoy communication with your mind, free from public cares, rather than a mere greeting, while I, at leisure, might be with you while you were engaged, which, however satisfactory it might be, would not curb the longing of either of us. Recalling the sincerity and uprightness of your character from an early age, I think you have a heart large enough for Christ to pour Himself generously...

    • 113 To Cresconius
      (pp. 256-257)

      If I were to let drop the case about which I am writing to your Holiness³ this second time,⁴ not only your Excellency, but even that individual, whoever he is, on whose account Faventius⁵ was thus arrested, would justly blame me and rightly reprove me. He would surely think that, if he himself had fled to the church for sanctuary,⁶ I would equally neglect him in his need and distress. In the next place, beloved lord and revered son, if the opinion of men is to be despised, what shall I say to the Lord our God Himself, and what...

    • 114 To Florentinus
      (pp. 257-258)

      By whose authority and command you carried off Faventius² is something for you to look to for yourself, but this I know, that all authority set up under the power of the emperor is subject to law. I sent a copy of the law by my brother and fellow priest, Caelestinus,³ which you certainly ought to have known about, even before I sent it. According to it, those who are summoned by some official to appear in court are to be produced in the municipal court, and there asked whether they wish to spend thirty days under light guard, in...

    • 115 To Bishop Fortunatus
      (pp. 258-260)

      Your Holiness is well acquainted with Faventius, who was a tenant-farmer on the estate² of Paratianis.³ He had some kind of reason to fear the lord of the estate, so he took sanctuary in the church at Hippo, and waited there, as refugees generally do, to see if his difficulty could be settled by our intervention. Then, as often happens, he grew less and less careful as time went on and, as if his adversary had given up, went out to dinner with a friend, and was suddenly abducted, as he was coming out, by one Florentinus, said to be...

    • 116 To Generosus
      (pp. 260-260)

      Although the praise and esteem awarded your governorship and your own high reputation have always given me great joy, in proportion to the affection which we owe to your merits and your goodness, my dearest lord and revered son, I have never before found it hard to appeal to your Excellency to ask a favor. But now, when your Excellency finds out what happened in the city in which I serve the Church of God from the letter which I have given to my revered brother and fellow bishop, Fortunatus, your Benignity will perceive what necessity forced me to interrupt...

    • 117 Dioscorus to Augustine
      (pp. 261-262)

      A ceremonious preface is both useless and annoying to you, interested as you are in things rather than words, so listen to this simple request. The Elder, Alypius,² after many petitions from me, promised that he would join with you in answering a few little questions about the Dialogues,³ and, since I hear that he is today in Mauretania, I beg and implore you with all my strength, please answer me, yourself alone, as unquestionably you would have done if your brother were present. If you had money or gold, you would undoubtedly give it to help anyone, but now...

    • 118 To Dioscorus
      (pp. 262-294)

      You thought to besiege or, rather, to take me by storm with a sudden throng of endless questions. But, even if you believed that I was free and at leisure, when could I, even in unlimited leisure, solve so many knotty points for someone in such a hurry, and, as you wrote, on the eve of a journey? I should be entangled by the very number of the points, even if the knots were easy to undo, but they are so involved in obscurity, and so complicated and difficult, that even though they were few and I were completely free...

    • 119 Consentius to Augustine
      (pp. 294-300)

      Some time ago, in a short conversation, I reminded the holy Bishop Alypius, your brother, a man esteemed by me for all his gifts of mind, of the nature of my request, hoping that he would do me the favor of helping on my prayer to you. But, as the circumstance which has forced you to go to the country has cheated me of your company,² I thought it better to put my request into a letter than to suffer suspense of mind. If you see fit to grant me what I ask, I think the very quiet of the...

    • 120 To Consentius
      (pp. 300-317)

      I asked you to come to us because I have found much pleasure in your natural ability as shown in your books. For that reason I wanted you here with us, not far away from us, to read certain works of mine which I thought indispensable to you, so that you could easily ask me in person about what you might not have understood completely, Thus, from my explanation and our mutual exchange of views—as far as the Lord should grant me to give and you to receive—you should personally recognize and correct anything in your books that...

    • 121 Bishop Paulinus to Augustine
      (pp. 317-333)

      The bearer of letters is in a hurry to get to his ship and has affected me with his hurry, so I am setting down in great haste a few points on certain matters which have come into my mind, so that you may not have to answer me without advance payment. If these thoughts are clear, whereas they seem obscure to me, let none of the wise sons—with, probably, some of ours—who stand around you at the hour of reading laugh at my foolishness; rather, let the kindness of fraternal charity do me the favor of enlightening...

    • 122 To His Brethren
      (pp. 334-335)

      First of all, I beg your Charity and I entreat you in the Name of Jesus not to grieve over my physical absence,¹ for I am sure you know that in spirit and in my heart’s love I can never be parted from you. Still, I grieve more deeply, perhaps, than you do that in my weak health I cannot reach out to all the services which the members of Christ have a right to exact from me, and which my fear and love of Him press me to render to you. Your Charity knows that I have never been...

    • 123 St. Jerome to Augustine
      (pp. 336-336)

      Many people are lame on both feet, and go about with bent head though their necks are not broken, keeping their attachment to the old error, although they no longer have the same liberty to preach it. The holy brothers, who share our littleness, and especially your holy and venerable daughters, greet you humbly. I beg your community to greet your brothers, my lord Alypius and my lord Evodius, in my name. Jerusalem has been taken, it is held by Nabuchodonosor² and would not heed the warnings of Jeremias; it even longed after Egypt, to die at Taphnis,³ and perish...

    • 124 To Albina, Pinian, and Melania
      (pp. 337-338)

      Because of my constitution and my state of health, I have never been able to bear the cold, but never could I have felt storms more keenly than I did this last dreadful winter, because they made it impossible for me, I will not say to go, but to fly, to you, when you were so close to me, after you had had to cross the seas in your flight, and had come from such a distance to see me. But your Holiness may have thought that the bad weather of the winter was the only reason for my suffering....

    • 125 To Bishop Alypius
      (pp. 339-344)

      I am deeply grieved, and it is not possible for me to make light of the fact, that the people of Hippo have protested loudly¹ against the injustice of your Holiness, but I find it much more grievous, my good brother, that such things should be thought of us than that they should be protested aloud. For, when we are suspected of wanting to keep the servants of God here, through the attraction of their wealth rather than through love of their goodness, is it not preferable that those who believe this should express their secret thought aloud, and thus...

    • 126 To Albina
      (pp. 344-356)

      Your letter tells me that the grief of your heart is indescribable, so the right thing for me to do is to relieve, not augment it; at the same time we wish, if possible, to allay your suspicions rather than add to the trouble of your soul, so revered and so devoted to God, by taking offense at them on our own account. Our holy brother, your son, Pinian, had no reason to fear death at the hands of the people of Hippo, although, perhaps, he did have some such fear. What we feared on our part was that some...

    • 127 To Armentarius and Paulina
      (pp. 356-364)

      Your relative,² my son Ruferius, a worthy man, brought me back word of the vow you have made to the Lord. I was cheered by his report, but at the same time afraid that a counter-suggestion might be made to you by that tempter who of old has hated such good works; hence, I have thought it my duty to urge your Charity, my excellent lord and deservedly honored and beloved son, to recall what is read in the divine words: ‘Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day,’³ and to be...

    • 128 To Marcellinus
      (pp. 365-369)

      By this letter we hereby make known that we assent to the decree of your Excellency by which provision is made for securing the peace and harmony of our conference and for publishing and safeguarding truth, and we agree to all the details as you have condescended to advise us of them, namely, the place and time of the conference and the number of those who are entitled to be present. We agree also that those whom we choose as conferees shall sign their report, and in the document by which we lay this burden on them, and in which...

    • 129 To Marcellinus
      (pp. 369-376)

      We feel great anxiety over the notice or letter of our brothers, whom we wish to convert from their deadly schism to our Catholic peace, since they refused to agree to the edict of your Nobility, by which you made provision for the peaceful and quiet conduct of our discussion, for, even if all of them do not attend, some of them could cause confusion and disorder by crowding in to our conference, which should be a peaceful and orderly one. Let us hope that such is not their plan, and that our suspicion is groundless. It may be that...

    • 130 To Proba
      (pp. 376-401)

      Mindful of your request and my promise to write you something on prayer to God, whenever time and opportunity should be available by the bounty of Him to whom we pray, I should since have paid my debt and given my tribute to your loving desire in the charity of Christ. I have no words to express my joy on receiving your request, which showed me how much importance you attach to this great duty. For, what occupation is more fitting for your widowhood than to persevere in prayer night and day, according to the advice of the Apostle? As...