St. Augustine was born in Tagaste, North Africa in the year 354 A.D. His mother, St. Monica, was a recovering alcoholic and a devout Christian; his father, Patricius, was a pagan. In his youth, Augustine got involved in a rough and immoral crowd, and before long, he was caught up in sexual sins. When he was seventeen, he took a mistress, with whom he lived for the next fourteen years. They had one child, a son named Adeodatus (“Given by God”).
Besides his struggles with sexual sin, Augustine was also caught up in the heresy called Manicheanism, which teaches that there are two equal divine principles – one which is the source of all good, and the other which is the source of all evil. This heresy also served as an excuse for his weakness toward sexual sin.
In the meantime, his mother, Monica, kept praying for his conversion, and after many years, her prayers and tears paid off. Augustine and Adeodatus were baptized by St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, in 387 A.D.; he was 33 years old at the time.
After returning to North Africa, Augustine lived as a monk for a few years, and then was ordained to the priesthood by the bishop of Hippo, a small town on the Mediterranean coast. In 396, he became the bishop of Hippo, and served there for the rest of his life. He was the leader of all the Catholic bishops in North Africa (there were around 500 at that time), and one of the most prolific writers in the history of the Church. He is a “Doctor of the Church,” one of the greatest teachers in the history of the Church, and is known as the “Doctor of Grace” because of the importance of his writings in that area.
St. Augustine of Hippo is one of the principal patrons of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy because of the great example that he gives of repentance from sexual sins and a total transformation of life through the grace of Christ Jesus. Following the example of St. Augustine, we know that the Lord Jesus wants to totally transform us by his grace as well, and to enable us to be Saints, perfected in His Divine Love and Mercy.