“Two works of mercy set a person free: forgive and you will be forgiven, and give and you shall receive.”
Saint Augustine was born in 354 in what is now Algiers in North Africa. He was born to Monica, who was named a saint in her own right, and Patricius, an ill-tempored pagan. Although, Augustine was an excellent student, he was led down a sinful path even choosing to follow heresies. His teaching career led him to Italy. In Milan, he often listened to the sermons of St. Ambrose, the local bishop. Through them, Augustine decided to forgo his life of sin and join the Catholic faith. He was ordained a priest in 391.
Augustine returned home to begin his quiet and prayerful life. At age 42, he was named the bishop of Hippo. As a bishop, Augustine worked tirelessly for his people. He fought false religious teachings, protected the people from corrupt officials, and cared for the sick, the poor, and those in prison. The act of mercy Augustine is most known for is instruction. He was named “Preacher of Mercy”. In his book Confessions, Augustine writes about his conversion to Christian faith—thanking God for His mercy.
Many of Augustine’s sermons, letters, and books focus on mercy. He emphasized that mercy is a common good, a good belonging to man, which when lacking deprives man of his own good that is the relationship with God. He stressed that those who perform corporal works of mercy for others must feel some sorrow of heart. They must offer sympathetic kindness with their offerings. Augustine focused on the message that those who say they live in Christ must act as he acted. He is the way; follow His path.
All of Augustine’s writings reflect the ever-deepening love he felt for God. He wisely observed: “You have made us, O God, for yourself, and our hearts shall find no rest until they rest in you.”