St Augustine of Hippo

The patron and namesake of the Private Tertiary Institution is Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), a Catholic bishop born in present day Algeria and educated in Northern Africa. After completing his studies he began teaching rhetoric in Rome and Milan, yet he restlessly and relentlessly continued to search for wisdom, truth, and beauty. The Manicheans and then the Neo-Platonist philosophers provided some answers, but it was not until he came to a conviction as to the truths of the Christian faith that he was able to begin his real ascent to ‘Wisdom ever ancient, ever new’.

Upon his return to North Africa Augustine began a career which was to encompass preaching and pastoral leadership, monastic foundations, and the writing of numerous works of doctrinal and speculative theology. His writings arose from the pastoral context in which he worked as bishop of a diverse and often unruly ‘flock’, and as the leader in a wider church often divided over questions of Christian belief and practice. He brought faith and reason to bear on such topics as divine grace and human freedom, the church and its sacraments, the Trinity and the image of God in the soul, and the relationship of the ‘City of God’ (the sacred) to the ‘city of human history’ (the secular). Augustine has also been called the ‘prince of the mystics’ for his deep understanding of the mystical element in the Christian church and for combining the intellect’s dynamism for truth with the will’s insatiable desire for love (Egan, Soundings in the Christian Mystical Tradition, 30). In his attempts to articulate how Christians understand and live their relationship to God, no one has ever surpassed Augustine, ‘who defined the issues on which Western Christian history has turned for the past sixteen hundred years’ (Schmidt, God Seekers, 47).

According to St Augustine, the two dimensions, faith and reason, should not be separated nor opposed, but rather go forward together. As he himself wrote after his conversion, faith and reason are ‘the two forces that lead us to knowledge’ (Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43). To this end the two famous Augustinian formulas (Sermons 43; 9) express this coherent synthesis between faith and reason: Crede ut intelligas (‘believe that you may understand’) – faith opens the way to step through the door of truth – but also, and inseparably, intellige ut credas (‘understand that you may believe’) – in order to find God and believe one must scrutinise truth. This second formula has been chosen as the Private Tertiary Institution's motto, which reminds us about the need for a holistic approach to studies whereinthe pursuit of knowledge may lead to a true wisdom. In selecting St Augustine as the patron of the first Catholic institution of higher education in South Africa, the founders of the Private Tertiary Institution have sought to provide a model – someone who in his life combined the intellectual, the institutional, and the mystical elements which are foundational for all Christian leadership and inquiry.