Table of Contents
Confessions of Saint Augustine: The desire to be someone
Chapter 11. He Refers to the Tears, and the Memorable Dream Concerning Her Son, Granted by God to His Mother.
19. And You sent Your hand from above, and drew my soul out of that profound darkness, when my mother, Your faithful one, wept to you on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children. For she saw that I was dead by that faith and spirit which she had from You, and You heard her, O Lord. You heard her, and despised not her tears, when, pouring down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed; yea, You heard her. For whence was that dream with which You consoled her, so that she permitted me to live with her, and to have my meals at the same table in the house, which she had begun to avoid, hating and detesting the blasphemies of my error? For she saw herself standing on a certain wooden rule, and a bright youth advancing towards her, joyous and smiling upon her, while she was grieving and bowed down with sorrow. But he having inquired of her the cause of her sorrow and daily weeping (he wishing to teach, as is their wont, and not to be taught), and she answering that it was my perdition she was lamenting, he bade her rest contented, and told her to behold and see that where she was, there was I also. And when she looked she saw me standing near her on the same rule. From where was this, unless that Your ears were inclined towards her heart? O You Good Omnipotent, who so cares for every one of us as if You cared for him only, and so for all as if they were but one!
20. From where was this, also, that when she had narrated this vision to me, and I tried to put this construction on it, That she rather should not despair of being some day what I was, she immediately, without hesitation, replied, No; for it was not told me that ‘where he is, there shall you be,’ but ‘where you are, there shall he be’? I confess to You, O Lord, that, to the best of my remembrance (and I have oft spoken of this), Your answer through my watchful mother — that she was not disquieted by the speciousness of my false interpretation, and saw in a moment what was to be seen, and which I myself had not in truth perceived before she spoke — even then moved me more than the dream itself, by which the happiness to that pious woman, to be realized so long after, was, for the alleviation of her present anxiety, so long before predicted. For nearly nine years passed in which I wallowed in the slime of that deep pit and the darkness of falsehood, striving often to rise, but being all the more heavily dashed down. But yet that chaste, pious, and sober widow (such as You love), now more buoyed up with hope, though no whit less zealous in her weeping and mourning, desisted not, at all the hours of her supplications, to bewail my case unto You. And her prayers entered into Your presence, and yet You still allowed me to be involved and re-involved in that darkness.
Chapter 12. The Excellent Answer of the Bishop When Referred to by His Mother as to the Conversion of Her Son.
21. And meanwhile You granted her another answer, which I recall; for much I pass over, hastening on to those things which the more strongly impel me to confess unto You, and much I do not remember. You granted her then another answer, by a priest of Yours, a certain bishop, reared in Your Church and well versed in Your books. He, when this woman had entreated that he would vouchsafe to have some talk with me, refute my errors, unteach me evil things, and teach me good (for this he was in the habit of doing when he found people fitted to receive it), refused, very prudently, as I afterwards came to see. For he answered that I was still unteachable, being inflated with the novelty of that heresy, and that I had already perplexed various inexperienced persons with vexatious questions, as she had informed him. But leave him alone for a time, says he, only pray God for him; he will of himself, by reading, discover what that error is, and how great its impiety. He disclosed to her at the same time how he himself, when a little one, had, by his misguided mother, been given over to the Manichæans, and had not only read, but even written out almost all their books, and had come to see (without argument or proof from any one) how much that sect was to be shunned, and had shunned it. Which when he had said, and she would not be satisfied, but repeated more earnestly her entreaties, shedding copious tears, that he would see and discourse with me, he, a little vexed at her importunity, exclaimed, Go your way, and God bless you, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish. Which answer (as she often mentioned in her conversations with me) she accepted as though it were a voice from heaven.
The Father’s Love and a mother’s love
Saint Augustine and I have something in common: saintly and holy mothers. There was the real challenge for the mother of Saint Augustine to watch him search for love, as they say, “in all the wrong places.” But Saint Augustine’s mother, Monica, never stopped loving her son. In fact, the love of Saint Monica for her son probably enabled her to endure those many days when her son seemed so far away from the love of God.
But the Confessions of Saint Augustine is also about God’s love for Augustine. It was the love of God that led Saint Augustine to love God. God’s love was the draw which moved Saint Augustine to deeper and deeper realization of his errors, which in turn helped him to see the profound love of God in his life.
For the deep love of his mother helped Augustine to know there was not only deep love from God, but that this love of God lead to a deep and powerful providence that guided so powerfully the life of Augustine.
Thoughts to Ponder
Which persons in your life have been models of God’s love for you?
How have you experienced the providence of God in your life, knowing that God has led you to where you are?
Where do you see God leading you in the future?