Chapters 11-13. The first question raised in these chapters is the question of Augustine’s not being baptized even though he was quite sick as a child. We learn that his mother’s rationale concerned keeping him from the sin he could commit by his actions. Augustine would learn later in his life about the beauty of God’s mercy.
Maybe like many, Augustine can look upon his childhood with much more liking than his adolescence. And due to the faith of his mother, and the fact his father did not stand in the way, the seeds of faith were planted in young Augustine. He knew of eternal life. Perhaps like many, the fullness of Augustine’s faith would not be realized until much later, but the importance of these actions of instilling faith in Augustine by his mother cannot be overlooked.
Even the best and the brightest can struggle in school. Often it is because they are bored. At other times it is because they are uninterested in the material. What student has never asked the question, “When will I ever use this?” In chapters 11-13 we see that as a boy Augustine had the same struggle. A struggle that was often met with the discipline of the day: beatings.
Yet when the rest of the life of Saint Augustine is considered, even that which he did not think was very important probably served some use to him in life. Perhaps if Augustine had been a student in the education system today he might have been put into the gifted and talented program. Sadly, as a teacher, I have had very bright students whom I did not serve as well as I could have. Sometimes it is the case of too many students and not enough time.
For Augustine, school was a challenge. Why was it that he liked Latin, with its rules and grammar, and not Greek which seemed so much more to his liking? There are times in life when we are a mystery, even to ourselves. Only God knows us completely.
As we shall see in the next chapters, perhaps it is the struggles of adolescence more than school itself that posed the problems for Augustine. At any age it can be hard to grow up into adulthood, and that time in between poses especially difficult challenges.
Questions to Ponder
Have you ever pondered your own baptism? What is it that comes to mind when you think about it?
If you were baptized as an infant, are there instances you discuss (or have discussed) your baptism with your parents?
As you consider your own childhood, and you see the ways in which faith was instilled in you even though you may have gone through a period in your life where you did not believe?
What are the best memories of your childhood?
Background on the necessity of baptism in Augustine
The position of Augustine as it pertains to baptism concerning children was harsher than what the Church holds today. Here is a short explanation. “In response to Pelagius (d. 425), who taught that the heresy that baptism is not necessary for salvation (called Pelagianism), St. Augustine (d. 430) contended that unbaptized children who die are condemned to hell. They do not suffer all its pains because they are not guilty of personal sin, but because baptism is necessary for salvation, they will not enter heaven.”