ST. AUGUSTINE fought fiercely enemies within the Church, like the dangerous heretics, Arius and Donatus. Danger came also from without; he led a spirited defense of Christianity against those who attacked the Church claiming that Her presence caused the downfall of Rome.
Reflecting for several years on the highly dangerous baseless criticism, he wrote “The City of God” (De Civitate Dei). There he directly pointed to the immoral and decadent lifestyle of the Romans who forgot the traditional Roman virtues: 1) reverence for the old 2) respect for life, including the unborn, 3) sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, 4) justice for all and 5) fortitude: virtues Christians practiced faithfully.
Conversely St. Augustine indicated the vices leading to Rome’s decay: 1) too much time and resources for games and other forms of amusement, including deadly gladiatorial games; 2) neglect of hard work; 3) lack of honesty; 4) loss of faithfulness; 5) over dependence on taxes and tributes from the conquered provinces and nations; 6) divorce, abortion and infanticide; and finally 7) reliance on government to feed and amuse the citizens. Hence the government slogan, “Bread and circus” (Panem et circenses!) leading to a weak, lazy, and immoral citizenry.
His own diocese of Hippo in northern Africa suffered when a weak population failed to defend themselves from the invading and destructive Vandals.
In his efforts to defend his city, St. Augustine fell victim to the barbarians.
St. Augustine’s death did not extinguish the spirit of the great thinker and Church leader. Today, thousands of men and women, young and old derive inspiration from his words, “Late have I known Thee, Beauty ever ancient, ever new...our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.”