Rest for the Restless Heart
All that We Have: The Image of Saint Augustine of Hippo in the Daily Mass Altar
Published on August 24-25, 2013 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Right next to the niche of Saint Rose of Lima (1586-1617) on the north-facing side of the altar in the Daily Mass Chapel is the image of Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Both of these saints are the patrons of the two parishes—one in Springfield in Washington County, the other in Lebanon in Marion County—that ministered to the Catholics here in Mercer County before Saint Andrew’s was established.
Records reveal that the Rev. David A. De Parcq (1795-1864), the priest in Lebanon, Kentucky, travelled to celebrate Mass here in Harrodsburg from 1824 to 1829. The parish in Lebanon had been established in 1815 by the Rev. Charles Nerinckx (1761-1824) and was called Saint Hubert’s. It was only after its second church was built in 1837 that the parish was renamed Saint Augustine.
The saint’s image enshrined in our altar is based on a stained glass window at Saint Thomas the Martyr Church in Oxford, England. That window was made around 1870 by the workshop of John Richard Clayton (1827-1913) and Alfred Bell (1832-1895). The image portrays Saint Augustine as a bishop vested for a Pontifical High Mass. He wears a green brocaded chasuble over a fringed dalmatic, a stole, and a white ornamented alb. A miter pretiosa rests on his head while he holds with his gloved left hand a golden crozier. He carries in his right hand a burning heart, evoking that famous line in his Confessions (Book I, Chapter 1): “inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in Te—our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Saint Augustine was born Aurelius Augustinus on November 13, 354 in Tagaste, Numidia, North Africa (in present day Algeria). He was the eldest of the three children of Saint Monica (331-387) and her pagan husband, Patricius (d. 371). Monica’s prayers and piety not only inspired her younger children, Navigius and Perpetua, to enter religious life; they also eventually brought about the conversion of Patricius to Christianity. But, her firstborn proved to be “the son of so many tears—filius istarum lacrimarum” (Confessions, Book III, Chapter 12). As a youth, Augustine pursued a life of hedonism and heresy. He took on a concubine who bore him a son, Adeodatus (372-388), and he was, for nine years, a member of the Manichaean sect. It was not until he was thirty-two that Augustine finally converted to the Catholic Faith. He was baptized with his son by Saint Ambrose (ca. 340-397) in Milan during the Easter Vigil of 387. There to witness this momentous event was Monica: her eyes filled with tears, no longer of sorrow but, of joy.
Monica and Adeodatus were to die within a year. After losing both his mother and his son, Augustine sold his patrimony and retired with friends to a monastic way of life. The Rule that he wrote for his monastery is one that continues to guide many religious orders. He was ordained a priest in 391 by Valerius whom he later succeeded as Bishop of Hippo in 395.
Augustine is considered a Father of the Church and his numerous works of theology have shaped the Christian tradition of the West. As a bishop, he devoted himself to preaching the truth and wisdom of the Catholic Faith so that other restless hearts might find in Christ the rest that he himself had sought for so long, the “beauty ever ancient and ever new—pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova” that late he loved (cf. Confessions, Book X, Chapter 27).
He died at the age of 76 and was buried in his cathedral in Hippo Regius (present day Annaba, Algeria). After that city fell to the Vandals, his remains were moved to the Church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia, Italy.
Saint Augustine was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). The Church celebrates the memorial of this Doctor of Grace, the patron of theologians, on August 28, the day of his death in 430.