The story of St. Augustine as it is usually told involves him living a rather debaucherous life and his mother St. Monica praying for his conversion which eventually happened. Tehnrpoblem is not with how we tell the story up to the conversion, but how we like to imagine the story after.
We like to imagine that after his conversion he was totally transformed. His life post-conversion was as the perfect Christian, the perfect bishop.That version, as pretty as it may be, robs his teaching of its power.
The real bishop St. Augustine was profoundly aware of his own brokenness, not only before but after his conversion. He did not try to hide or deny his sin and constant struggle with temptation. His personal struggles shaped his, and ultimately the Church’s, understanding of sin and how it operates in the human heart. He moved the focus of blame for sin from outside to inside the human person.
The good news is, he also understood our absolute dependence on God’s grace in the struggle against sin. He believed in our ability with God’s help to live, not a sin free, but a good moral life.
On this Feast of St. Augustine, let us pray that he may be an example to all Bishop and church leaders.