Awaiting the Relics of St. Augustine

Events Planned for 1,650th Anniversary of His Birth

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ROME, OCT. 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The relics of St. Augustine will be in Rome from Nov. 7-15, for the 1,650th anniversary celebrations of his birth.

The relics of the bishop of Hippo will be in the basilica dedicated to him in the Campo Marzio, and also in the Vatican.

Augustine was born on Nov. 13, 354, in what is now Algeria. He is considered one of the greatest thinkers of all times. After a doctrinally and morally dissolute youth, he converted while living in Milan and in 387 was baptized by the bishop, St. Ambrose.

Having returned to his homeland, he was elected bishop of Hippo. Over the 34 years in which he exercised his ministry, he was a model to his faithful, to whom he imparted a solid formation with his sermons and numerous writings, contributing to a more profound understanding of the Christian faith in response to the doctrinal errors of his time.

Augustine is numbered among the most influential Fathers of the West. His writings, such as his “Confessions,” remain timely. He died in 430.

John Paul II spoke of the timeliness of St. Augustine’s writings three years ago, describing him as a unique teacher for modern man who seeks God tentatively.

“Augustine’s experience is similar to that of many contemporaries,” he said on Sept. 7, 2001, when receiving the participants in the general chapter of the Augustinian order.

Rome will observe the anniversary of the birth of this Doctor of the Church with celebrations, congresses and exhibitions from Nov. 7-15, the Italian newspaper Avvenire confirmed.

It is anticipated that for one night during that week, the urn containing St. Augustine’s relics will be in John Paul II’s private chapel, as a sign of devotion and of the importance that the Holy Father accords to the thought of the saint of Tagaste, whom he has often quoted in the texts of his magisterium.

A restless man, “Doctor of Grace” and Father of the interior life, St. Augustine has thoroughly influenced Western culture. A rereading of his works shows how timely he is. This conviction has led the Italian Augustinian Province and St. Augustine’s order to organize a week of celebrations under the motto “St. Augustine Among Us.”

His remains will arrive in Rome from Pavia on Nov. 7, and will be received in St. Augustine’s Basilica, where the prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, will preside at vespers.

Each day will end with a Mass, that will be presided over, among others, by the prefects of the Vatican congregations for bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, and for Catholic education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski; the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano; and the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo.

A congress on St. Augustine will be held in the city of Ostia, which recently chose him as its patron.

Among the music initiatives planned, on Nov. 8 Monsignor Marco Frisina, maestro and composer, and director of the Liturgical Office of the Diocese of Rome, will conduct the concert “Augustine Meets Monica.”

On Nov. 11, the saint’s relics will be taken to the patristic institute Augustinianum, where the Aula Magna will be dedicated to the institute’s founder, Agostino Trape. Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, will preside at vespers.

On the night that the relics are received in the Pope’s private chapel, a torchlight youth procession will leave from the Church of St. Agnes in Piazza Navona and arrive in St. Augustine’s Basilica.

The Italian Federation of Augustinian monasteries will hold a prayer vigil on Nov. 13. The following day the relics will be taken to Ostia, where Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will preside over the Mass in the Church of St. Aurea. A concluding ceremony with the relics will take place Nov. 15.

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