By Margo C. Pope
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine celebrated the feast of its patron saint, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, as part of its continuing 450th anniversary observance.
The city of St. Augustine and the parish were founded on the same day, Sept. 8, 1565. Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés named the settlement for Augustine on whose feast day, Aug. 28, he sighted land on Florida’s southern coastline.
Menéndez’s chaplain, Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales, offered a Mass of Thanksgiving that followed at the present-day Mission Nombre de Dios. That began St. Augustine Parish, known today as The Cathedral Parish.
At Friday’s Evening Vespers in the Cathedral Basilica, Bishop Felipe J. Estévez said he was “honored” to celebrate in the company of a relic of Augustine himself – here for the first time in the 450 years of the namesake parish and city.
Bishop Estévez said Augustine was a writer before his conversion to Catholicism and he had a “remarkable” command of Latin. As Bishop of Hippo, long after his conversion, he preached 8,000 times. The fact that almost 500 of his sermons from the fourth century are preserved allows for his words to be well-known today, according to Bishop Estévez.
“As a bishop, Augustine was constantly aware he was accountable to God,” he said.
“Furthermore, he even felt accountable for the sins and the failures of his flock.”
Calling Augustine a great homilist and teacher, Bishop Estévez said, “Augustine had to confront and rebuke constantly. He was a combatant with the sword of the word of God against errors, heretics and vices.” He encouraged his flock to keep the unity and holiness of the Catholic Church, and to understand that the supremacy of grace is the total gift of salvation.
Bishop Estévez said Augustine’s words against paganism are fitting to recall today with the wave of secularism and the constant threats to religious freedom in the United States.
He said the city is blessed to be named for Augustine…”a saint who was a bishop excelling in the ministry of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding his people so that Christ be all in all.”