Monday, September 16, 2013

the house of my soul: learning from St. Augustine

For the Freshman class in which I am a discussion leader, we're reading Augustine's Confessions, an autobiographical account of his life written as a prayer and told with unflinching honesty. Given that Augustine died in the year 430 C.E. his wisdom is surprisingly poignant. Here are some gems worth reading:

"You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you." (Book I: 1,1)

"The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord?" (Book I:6)

"Everything I need for health and salvation flows from my God." (Book I: 6, 7)

"Allow me to say something, my God, about the intelligence which was your gift to me, and the crazy employments in which I frittered it away." (Book I: 17, 27)

"I will try now to give a coherent account of my disintegrated self, for when I turned away from you, the one God, and pursued a multitude of things, I went to pieces." (Book II: 1,1)

"But I was quite reckless; I rushed on headlong in such blindness that when I heard other youths of my own age bragging about their immoralities I was ashamed to be less depraved than they." (Book II:3, 7)

"Human beings live on earth for a brief span only, and they lack the discernment to bring the conditions of earlier ages, of which they have no experience, into the same frame of reference with those they know well." (Book III: 7, 13)

When we take time to read classic works such as this one, we begin to develop the discernment to do just that. May it be so!

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