Saints Alypius and Possidius were two of Saint Augustine’s dearest
and closest friends, sharing his life, ideals, and goals. Alypius was a
student of Augustine’s, who later witnessed and joined in Augustine’s
conversion to Christianity.
Alypius was born in the middle of the fourth century in Thagaste, a small
town in the Roman province of Africa Proconsularis. He was a member of the
aristocracy, and his parents were leading citizens in Thagaste. In conformity
with his parents’ desire he studied law, which he later practiced
as an assessor in Milan.
Alypius first met Augustine while at school in Carthage. In the Confessions
Augustine mentions that there was mutual admiration between them: “He
studied under me again at Carthage and held me in high esteem, because I
seemed to him good and learned, while I for my part was fond of him on account
of his great nobility of character, which was unmistakable even before he
reached mature years.” Elsewhere in the Confessions Augustine
refers to him as “the brother of my soul.”
While at school in Carthage, Alypius heard of Augustine’s rhetorical
skills, but did not attend his classes because of a disagreement between
his own father and Augustine. Eventually, however, Alypius did become Augustine’s
pupil, and was deeply influenced by his sincerity and honesty.
As Alypius’ friendship with Augustine began to deepen, so did his
interest in Manicheism. Alypius, who lived in pure and complete continence,
admired in particular the Manichees’ strict decrees on chastity.
In 384, Alypius followed Augustine to Milan. Here Augustine had opened
a school of rhetoric and the two soon fell prey to the skeptical Academicians.
It was in this city also that the two friends listened to the powerful preaching
of Saint Ambrose, bishop of Milan, and found guidance in their spiritual
search. In one of the most famous scenes of the Confessions, Augustine tells
of his soul’s torment before his conversion; all the while his friend
Alypius was by his side. They were both converted to Christianity and later
that year of 386 returned to the hills of Milan at Cassiciacum where they
prepared for baptism by Ambrose at the Easter Vigil, 25 April 387.
Following their reception into the Church, the two friends returned to
Africa where Alypius helped Augustine establish the first monastery in North
Africa, at their hometown of Thagaste. When Augustine was later made priest
at Hippo, Alypius moved there with him, and became a member of the first
monastic community Augustine founded there. In 394/ 395 Alypius became bishop
of Thagaste. His death took place around the year 430.
The Augustinian Family celebrates the memory of Saint Alypius on 16 May.