Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 419
Augustine, presbyter at Hippo (North Africa) recalls his presbyterial ordination and asks his bishop for a short leave to study the Scriptures to be better prepared for the job. Augustine, Letter 21, North Africa, AD 391.
Letter 21
1. Ante omnia peto, ut cogitet religiosa prudentia tua nihil esse in hac uita et maxime hoc tempore facilius et laetius et hominibus acceptabilius episcopi aut presbyteri aut diaconi officio, si perfunctorie atque adulatorie res agatur, sed nihil apud Deum miserius et tristius et damnabilius; item nihil esse in hac uita et maxime hoc tempore difficilius, laboriosius, periculosius episcopi aut presbyteri aut diaconi officio, sed apud Deum nihil beatius, si eo modo militetur, quo noster imperator iubet. [...]
Augustine later recalls how he wept during his presbyterial ordination (par. 2.). He asks his bishop, Valerius for free time to study the Scriptures to be better prepared for the requirements of the office:
4. Sed dicit fortasse sanctitas tua: uellem scire, quid desit instructioni tuae. Tam multa autem sunt, ut facilius possim enumerare, quae habeam, quam quae habere desidero. Auderem enim dicere scire me et plena fide retinere, quid pertineat ad salutem nostram. Sed hoc ipsum quo modo ministrem ad salutem aliorum non quaerens, quod mihi utile est, sed quod multis, ut salui fiant [1 Cor 10,33]? Et sunt fortasse aliqua, immo non est dubitandum esse in sanctis libris conscripta consilia, quibus cognitis et adprehensis possit homo Dei rebus ecclesiasticis ordinatioribus ministrare aut certe inter manus iniquorum uel uiuere conscientia saniore uel mori, ut illa uita non amittatur, cui uni christiana corda humilia et mansueta suspirant. Quo modo autem hoc fieri potest, nisi, quem ad modum ipse Dominus dicit, petendo quaerendo pulsando, id est orando legendo plangendo? Ad quod negotium mihi paruum tempus uelut usque ad Pascha impetrare uolui per fratres a tua sincerissima et uenerabili caritate et nunc per has preces uolo.
(ed. Goldbacher 1895: 49-50.52 )
Letter 21
 1. Before all I beg you that with your devout wisdom you bear in mind that in this life, and especially at this time, nothing is easier, more pleasant, and more acceptable for men than the office of bishop, presbyter, or deacon, if the task is carried out perfunctorily or in a self-serving manner, but that before God nothing is more miserable, more sad, and more worthy of condemnation. Likewise, nothing in this life, and especially at this time, is more difficult, more laborious, and more dangerous than the office of a bishop, presbyter, or deacon. But before God nothing is more blessed if one soldiers as our emperor commands! [...]
Augustine later recalls how he wept during his presbyterial ordination (par. 2.). He asks his bishop, Valerius for free time to study the Scriptures to be better prepared for the requirements of the office:
4. But Your Holiness may say, 'I would like to know what is lacking in your instruction.' There are so many things lacking that I could more easily list what I have than what I desire to know. For I would dare to say that I know and hold with complete faith what pertains to our salvation. But how am I to exercise this ministry for the salvation of others, not seeking what is beneficial for me, but for many, that they may be saved [1 Cor 10:33]? There are perhaps some counsels recorded in the holy books—in fact there is no doubt about this—and by the knowledge and grasp of these a man of God can minister to the more ordinary affairs of the Church or at least live with a sounder conscience among the bands of the wicked or die so that he does not lose that one life for which humble and gentle Christian hearts sigh. But how is this possible except as the Lord himself said: By seeking, by asking, and by knocking? That is, by praying, by reading, and by weeping. For this task I wanted to obtain through the brothers from your most sincere and venerable love a short time for myself, say, up to Easter, and I now ask this through this request.
(trans. R. Teske, slightly altered)

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Hippo Regius

About the source:

Author: Augustine of Hippo
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Hippo Regius (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The letters of Augustine of Hippo cover a wide range of topics: Holy Scripture, dogma and liturgy, philosophy, religious practice and everyday life. They range from full-scale theological treatises to small notes asking someone for a favour. The preserved corpus includes 308 letters, 252 written by Augustine, 49 that others sent to him and seven exchanged between third parties. 29 letters have been discovered only in the 20th century and edited in 1981 by Johannes Divjak; they are distinguished by the asterisk (*) after their number.
The preserved letters of Augustine extend over the period from his stay at Cassiciacum in 386 to his death in Hippo in 430.
A. Goldbacher ed., S. Augustini Hipponiensis Episcopi Epistulae, Pars 1, Ep. 1-30, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 34/1,  Prague-Vienna-Leipzig 1895.
Saint Augustine, Letters 1-99, trans. R. Teske, New York 2001.


Education - Saecular school
Education - Insufficient education
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Act of ordination
Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
Theoretical considerations - On priesthood
    Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER419,