He Played the Long Game

Today the church gets a double feast!

Not only do we honor St. Augustine, but we also honor St. Moses the Ethiopian, a 5th Century monk and martyr.

St. Moses was an Ethiopian slave to an Egyptian official who sent him away on suspicion of theft and murder. Moses gathered together a gang of thieves who roamed the Nile valley wreaking havoc on the travelers they met.

This gang, led by St. Moses, attacked a desert monastery near Alexandria, intending to pillage, but they were so impressed by the soft-spoken and even tempered Abbot, that Moses decided to abandon the life of a thief and join the monastery.

He was later ordained into the priesthood, which was rare for a desert father, and founded his own monastery of seventy-five monks equal to the number of thieves in his former gang.

St. Moses became known for his humility, wisdom, love, and his generous perspective when it came to the life and failings of those he met.

In the year 405 his own monastery came under attack by some roaming Berbers. St. Moses forbade his monks from fighting back. Most of them fled, but St. Moses and seven others stayed to welcome their new Berber guests.

Unfortunately the Berbers did not react to Moses’ hospitality in the same way that Moses had reacted to his former Abbot’s welcome.

All 8 of the monks, including St. Moses, were killed.

The monastery St. Moses founded is still active, and his remains are buried there.

St. Moses is remembered as one who practiced non-violence, and is considered the patron saint of African Americans.

St. Moses,who is often referred to as “St. Moses the Black,” is a reminder for me, and for the whole church, that though non-violence is not always effective at stopping violence in the immediate, it is always remembered in the annals of history because it is such a rare practice. Non-violent movements of today stand upon these shoulders.

Non-violence, Beloved, is playing the long game.

St. Moses, with his life and example, pleads with us even today to continue playing the long game when it comes to violence in this world.

-parts from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations

A Flawed Gift

Today is the feast day of a giant of theology and philosophy, Saint Augustine, Teacher.

Fun Fact: Augustine was voted by his classmates, “Most Likely Non-Disciple to Get Lutheran Churches Named After Him.”

Augustine was born in Algeria in 354 to a Christian mother (Monica) and a pagan father. He was a good student, and in his early years practiced Manichaeism, a dualistic religion of Persian origin that was very “in the now” of his day.

He fathered a child early on in his life, and he named him Adeodatus which means “Gift of God.” History is quiet on the kind of father he was, but it’s important to note that this happened because all of this early material would lay the basis for his most famous work, Confessions.

Eventually Augustine ended up in Rome where he taught rhetoric and was wooed into the Catholic faith. There he was catechized under St. Ambrose and was baptized at the Great Vigil of Easter in 387.

Shortly thereafter Augustine returned to North Africa and lived a monastic life with friends. In 391 while visiting Hippo, he was chosen by the small church there to be their pastor.

All indicators point to his reluctance to take up the role, but eventually he was ordained into the priesthood and consecrated Bishop of Hippo, a role he kept for 35 years. He traveled extensively in the ancient world, and wrote volumes while he did so.

His book The City of God contains his reflections on society and the body politic in the aftermath of Rome’s collapse. In it he also defends Christianity and sets forth a vision of an ideal Christian society.

Spoiler alert: it looks nothing like America.

He established a Rule of Life and an order, Augustinian, was begun in his name. Martin Luther would adopt this Rule and this order.

Augustine died after he came down with an intense fever in the year 430. His remains, well, remain in the Church of San Pietro in Pavia, Italy.

Augustine is the model of the “second chance” life. And, quite honestly if you read Confessions, a third and fourth chance, too.

He is one of the most human of the saints because his foibles and misadventures are documented for all to see. He remains a gift to the church, even with all his flaws, and is a constant reminder that contrition and confession enable us to be born again.

And again.

And again.

-historical tidbits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations