St. Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, was the great doctor of the Latin church. He was born in North Africa in 354, the son of a pagan father and a devoutly religious mother. He was brought up as a Christian and at the age of sixteen went to Carthage to complete his education in law. In 375 he became interested in philosophy and abandoned his Christian heritage. A skilled orator, Augustine was offered a professorship in Rome, where he founded his own school of rhetoric.
There he came under the influence of the philosophy of Plato and the teachings of St. Ambrose. After a long inner struggle he renounced his earlier philosophical beliefs and embraced the Christian faith. He then returned to Africa where he formed a religious community. In 391 he was ordained a priest (against his wishes) as the Vandals began an invasion of Hippo.
For thirty-four years he lived in this monastic community. He wrote a vast number of books and became known for his eloquence, logic, and spiritual passion. These three combined to make Augustine one of the most significant thinkers in the history of the Christian Church. Perhaps no one except St. Paul has been so widely read for so long. His theological insights shaped not only the age he lived in, but all the subsequent centuries of Christianity. It is difficult to find a theologian—from any age—who has not been influenced by the teachings of St. Augustine.