“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; and the reward for that faith is to see what you believe.” August 28, Memorial of St. Augustine, 354-430 AD
This is one of my shortest posts. I include a little about Augustine because I admire his brilliance and identify with him—not his mind which I admire, but the sinful lifestyle that he (and I both) ultimately turned away from. Augustine is one of several saints that I have adopted as patrons.
There is plenty written about Augustine and several influential books written by the saint himself, and I don’t feel the need to supplement or summarize what has already been written about him and his philosophy or his faith and life. Instead, this is more of a personal reflection. For those seeking detailed and accurate historical accounts of his life, it would be best to consult other sources. Studying Catholic resources on Augustine as well as reading his “Confessions” would be spiritually and philosophically rewarding. Other reading suggestions follow the conclusion of this post.
Augustine’s first profession was teacher of grammar (the favorite subject of mine to teach if I’m not teaching theology) and then he became a writer and philosopher with many admirers even while he was leading a decadent lifestyle. At one time, approximately half of residents in the city where he lived during his partying days were pagans. Although his mother, Monica was Christian, Augustine and his father were not so quick to embrace the faith. Saint Monica is often held up to us an example of persistence in prayer.
Throughout Augustine’s search for truth, he seemed driven to reconcile virtue with other philosophies that he admired, especially Manichæism—a task he would find impossible. Various faith systems or philosophies that he admired, permitted the unrestrained and unfettered lifestyle that he enjoyed; but at the same time, he felt that a virtuous lifestyle is more honorable and ultimately more desirable. He would eventually lose interest in Manichaeism and other systems of faith or thought because they didn’t provide the answers he sought.
I believe that Augustine’s search for virtue led him to turn away from his sinful, free living because his lifestyle wasn’t truly liberating, and it also at times must have required him to deny truths which many of us know intrinsically, even if we have not been taught, or if we had previously rejected teaching on holiness and God. Therefore, intrinsic knowledge of virtues that God puts in our hearts for our benefit, cannot tolerate or reconcile with the lies that we must adopt in order to excuse ourselves so that we might convince ourselves, at least for a time, that we are good and virtuous.
The following excerpt gives a glimpse of Augustimne’s conversion:
Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible [sic] ashamed of himself. “What are we doing?” he cried to his friend Alipius. “Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!”Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, “How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?” Just then he heard a child singing, “Take up and read!” Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. It was just what Augustine needed, for in it, St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.He was baptized, became a priest, a bishop, a famous Catholic writer, Founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived (Catholic Online).
A great defender of the faith, and a Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine asserted that faith and reason go hand in hand. His life, thought and writings are worth study and reflection. Augustine’s journey from sin to deep faith is another testament to God’s mercy and redemption.
If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. St. Augustine
City of God
On Christian Doctrine
Comments are welcome: