Memorial of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church
(I Thessalonians 4:1-8; Matthew 25:1-13)
In the 1920s the University of Chicago pioneered a course of studies in the humanities called the “Great Books.” Since then students in scores of universities have pored over the classics of western civilization like Plato’s Dialogues and the New Testament. Criteria for the list of great books include relevance to the modern era, value in being reread numerous times, and treatment of questions humans continually ask themselves. It should not surprise us to learn St. Augustine’s works will be found on every list of “Great Books.”
After Augustine converted to Christianity and became a priest and later a bishop, he settled in the city of Hippo. There he studied, preached, and wrote prodigiously. His collected works would overflow any bookshelf. He did not seek fame or fortune for his efforts but gave his life as God’s servant to the people he shepherded.
Today’s gospel speaks of the necessity of having lamps burning brightly. It is a matter of being seen. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells his disciples that they are “the light of the world.” Here the virgins hold lamps. In both cases Jesus intends that his disciples perform good deeds in God’s name so that the world might know of His love. Augustine in his extraordinarily gifted way did just that. He humbly contributed to the wisdom of the ages and faithfully guided those under his pastoral care.