Saint Augustine is one of the most famous and influential theologians and writers of Western Christianity. He was a strong supporter of the poor and a defender of orthodox Christianity. His autobiographical work Confessions is a classic of western literature, and provides inspiration to anyone who strives to live a virtuous life. Augustine’s writings describe our dependency on God for the grace to live a holy life, and express our human longing for God. He states, “You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you” (Confessions, Book 1). The restlessness in the human heart that longs for God is represented by Saint Augustine’s symbol, a flaming heart, pierced by arrows. The flaming heart symbolizes Saint Augustine’s love of God and humanity, while it is alive and restless with a desire to know God’s divine love. The arrows piercing the heart represent God’s love piercing our hearts. Such an image reminds us that because we are made in the image of God we must be in relationship with God. We share the common call on our lives to be continually formed into God’s perfect image of love – the same call that pierced Saint Augustine’s heart causing him to seek God in all things.
Augustine returned to North Africa and was ordained a priest; in 396 was chosen as Bishop of the city of Hippo. He was a very successful pastor and an even greater theologian, playing a major role in overcoming the heresies of Donatism (an excessively harsh understanding of Christianity) and Pelagianism (the false belief that humans can save themselves without the help of God’s grace). He helped develop the Church’s teachings on grace, original sin, and the Holy Trinity. He is a Doctor of the Church. His autobiography, the Confessions is beloved by many, and his life is an inspiration to all who seek the merciful forgiveness of God.