Alipius, Friend of Augustine

Dan Graves, MSL

Alipius, Friend of Augustine

Who we pal around with can shape our eternal destiny. Alipius found it so. From North Africa, he was a close friend of a teacher named Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries.

Augustine and Alipius sinned together and Alipius followed Augustine when he joined the Manichean religion. Alipius' father did not care for Augustine's influence over his son and told his son to stay away from Augustine. Alipius moved to Rome and became a magistrate there.

After a while, Augustine followed his friend to Rome. Augustine, already a notable teacher of rhetoric in Carthage, tried his hand at teaching in Rome, but his students cheated him of his fees. Offered a teaching position in Milan, Augustine accepted. Alipius resigned his own position and the two friends headed north together. Their friendship continued.

Milan's Bishop Ambrose was a skilled orator. Augustine went to hear him and was impressed not only by his power with words but by his message. Augustine was convinced Christianity was true and began to pray for the strength to overcome his temptation to sexual sins. He read the Bible.

Pontitian, an African Christian, came to visit Augustine and Alipius. He described the life of St. Anthony of the desert, who had left everything upon hearing a command of Christ and whose life had powerfully influenced many others. After Pontitian left, Augustine, ashamed of his former weakness, said to Alipius:

"What are we doing to let the unlearned seize Heaven by force, while we, even with all our knowledge, remain behind, cowardly and heartless, wallowing in our sins? Because they have done better than us and gone before us, are we ashamed to follow them? Is it not more shameful not even to follow them now?"

He rushed into the garden and wept under a tree. Alipius followed. Feeling shame Augustine asked the Lord how much longer he must live in turmoil of spirit. That is when he heard a childlike voice chanting "Take up and read, take up and read." He went back to where Alipius was sitting and opened up the New Testament at random. There he read Paul's words "Let us walk properly, as in the day; not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Romans 13:13, 14.)The words seemed written for him. At that moment he was converted.

When he told this to Alipius, his friend read the same passage and some words which followed: "Receive one who is weak in the faith." He decided those words applied to himself. Thanks to his friendship with the man who had formerly led him into falsehood, Alipius also became a Christian on the spot. After several months studying the Scripture in seclusion, the two were baptized together. Like St. Augustine of Hippo, Alipius also became a bishop--of Tagaste, in North Africa, the city of Augustine's birth. The two labored side by side for Christ in North Africa for many years.

Pope Gregory XIII added Alipius name to the Roman list of martyrs in 1584. Until recently, Alipius' feast was on this day, August 15. Now he is remembered three days later.

Bibliography:

  1. "St. Alypius." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
  2. Augustine. Confessions. Many versions.
  3. Various internet articles.

Last updated July, 2007

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