Volume 58, Issue 2, December 2018
Saint Augustine as a Reforming Voice for the Catholic Church in Roman Africa
The Testimony of his Letter 29 to Alypius
This paper is about the contribution of Saint Augustine to the reform of the Catholic Church in North Africa, through his ministry of preaching. When he was still a priest at Hippo, Augustine waged a forceful and successful war against some pagan practices which had gradually crept into the Church. The common practice of celebrating the dead in the Roman world was being applied to the Saints of the Church and Christians were celebrating their memory by getting drunk. The prohibition of such practices by the authority of the Church met with the resistance of the faithful, so Augustine decided to act precisely through the power of the Word he proclaimed to his flock. In his Letter 29 addressed to Alypius the Bishop of Thagaste, he narrates how he convinced the faithful to stop the celebration of the feast called Laetitia on the feast day of Saint Leontius. After sketching the background of the devotion to the Saints in North Africa, our study examines the line of Augustine’s argumentation that led to the success of this preaching, and hence shows how he contributed to the reform of the Church of his day.