St. Augustine of Hippo, Church Father, Doctor Gratiae
August 28, 2017
For Athena Philosophos, friend and ally.On this feast day of St. Augustine I would like to say something about patrimony and why it is important. For traditionalists, we take that which was done before us, build upon it, and hand it down to the next generation. We respect our ancestors for the work they have done to the best of their ability, and we lovingingly give our work to our children as an inheritance. The fact that St. Augustine was one of the founders of Catholic thought and that thought handed down to us is in no small part why we call him a “Church Father.”
For Catholics who are traditionalists, we have an interesting patrimony that includes not only the benefices of Mother Church, but pagans as well. Likewise, modern pagans who are traditionalists have Catholicism as part of their patrimony whether they realize it (or are willing to admit it) or not. It is important for both groups to realize this so we may set aside differences as we are able in order to preserve and enhance Western civlization and culture.
St. Augustine, before converting to Catholicism, was a pagan. First, a Manichaean, Augustine lived the life of a wild bachelor (one famous quote of his is: “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet”); as he grew older Augustine turned to Neo-Platonism which in no small part helped eventually lead him to conversion. Once converted, Augustine soon became a Bishop and one of the founding theologians of Catholicism. His thought immediately influenced Catholic teaching, infusing it with Neo-Platonism as doctrine would allow. St. Augustine was single handedly responsible for the conversion of many pagans because of his background and his ability to think in terms of the philosophies of the time. In a sense, Augustine was a main bridge builder between paganism and Christianity, a pontifex. In fact, according to St. Augustine, to be a good and true Christian one must acknowledge the truth that appears in pagan literature because that is to recognize the truth of the Lord.
~ St. Augustine of Hippo – On Christian Doctrine
Now this is especially important because it shows the patrimony of Western Civilization – and especially philosophy – came from the pagans and was passed down to Catholicism. The pagans that came before us were literally our ancestors and are deserving of respect. And, so, the Church does in fact respect them. Plato was known in some quarters as “Saint Plato” because of his contributions to reason and philosophy. Hermes Trismegistus was thought of as a peer of Moses and his philosophy a pre-figurement of Christianity. Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Cicero, et altier, were all pagans yet their philosophy was taught not only in Catholic universities, but in seminaries as well.
In the various branches of Apostolic Churches (i.,e., Roman Catholic and Orthodox) the holy days and liturgies were informed by paganism. The Church did not “steal” those traditions as some would claim. The pagans who converted brought them with them and adorned the Church with the best traditions they had. That is why the Pope is referred to as Pontifex Maximus after the high priest of Rome, and this is also why the vestments and liturgies in the Latin Rite contain elements of pagan worship. Our ancestors brought them with and put them to the service of God. Some Protestant sects often complain about the Catholic Church being “paganized”. Of course it is. It is our patrimony turned to the service of Christ, and we embrace it. Why would we deny the work of our ancestors and throw it away like a so-called “Progressive”? That would be foolhardy.
So, too, however, would it be good for modern pagans to embrace the patrimony they have received in Catholicism. Remember, just as the ancestors of the Catholics are pagans, so now the ancestors of modern pagans are Catholics. For both groups, these ancestors are our family, handing forward in sincerity and in love both their religions and their traditions. They should be thought of with respect and their teaching given a proper deference and some benefit of the doubt that they were onto something that is at least worthy of examination. All of our forefathers contributed greatly to what we call western civilization, and should be treated appropriately.
So my traditional Catholic brothers and sisters, and my traditionalist pagan ones as well, let us remember our shared and continued patrimony and live by these words of St. Augustine in this time when tradition, Western culture, and Western civilization are at risk. Let St. Augustine remain as a bridge between us that we may fight for tradition together.
Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.
St. Augustine, ora pro nobis.