The Confessions of Saint Augustine
Each Monday we will post a new set of chapters from The Confessions of St. Augustine. As the text is not copyrighted, you can either read the chapter sections on our website, or listen to them as a podcast. Either way, the hope is that you will benefit by reading/hearing The Confessions of St. Augustine, and pondering the questions we offer at the end of each section. Here is hoping you enjoy The Friar Book Club’s first selection.
This is really a faith journal from a powerful thinker in Christianity. By reading, hearing and pondering the words he writes, the goal is to help you in your own journey in the faith. By considering the major influences of his life, the hope is you will think about the major influences in your own life. And by so doing, it is hoped the same powerful love of God which changed the heart of St. Augustine, can change your heart too.
There is also the influence of other people in the conversion of St. Augustine. None of us lives in a vacuum. It is hard to imagine an instance where any of us are not influenced by other people in our own lives. Will we learn of the important role of his mother, and the deep contributions of Saint Ambrose in his life.
It is also quite important to spend time thinking about not only what we are reading, but also about our own lives, and the connection between the two. So, at the end of each section there are questions to ponder. To arrive at faith is to commit to reflecting on our lives and seeking to discover the various ways we are both like and unlike the holy saints.
While a new set of chapters and questions appear each week, the pace at which you explore them is not critical. Of course, it would be good to avoid having too much time between sections, but it is not necessary that this is read strictly at a weekly pace.
The dangerous delight of sin. Why do I sin? Even when we decide to sin, it can be the case that I know it is a bad idea even as I sin. These chapters from Saint Augustine provide a reflection on a sin of his youth, namely the stealing of pears.
Adolescence and Spiritual Life. The introduction Book 2 of the Confessions starts with a summary that could be helpful. “He concentrates here on his sixteenth year, a year of idleness, lust, and adolescent mischief. The memory of stealing some pears prompts a deep probing of the motives and aims of sinful acts. “I became to myself a wasteland.” Even those who are only slightly familiar with Saint Augustine might know that he had quite the conversion story.
Saint Augustine begins Chapter 15, with a prayer asking God to help “me come to love thee wholly.” He further comes to the insight that in what we learn or do we should seek to avoid those things that are vain (things that do not lead us to God) from those things, where we could have received the same benefit were we to focus upon things that are less vain.
These chapters describe Augustine’s schooling and the difficulties of adolescence. The foundation for his later faith is built.
The Confessions of Saint Augustine Chapters 6 – 10. Augustine offers a reflection on knowledge and experience beginning with his infancy, which he admits he does not remember. Listen or read these chapters.
As we look to these next chapters, Augustine is pondering the very nature of God. And what he discovers is that there is much about God that to his mind seems to be a paradox. God fills the earth, yet does not contain it. God is in all things, but is not all things. We owe God a debt, but God never loses anything. Even though we cannot pay the debt, God is no less complete.
At the beginning of Augustine’s Confessions is a reference to Pelagius, who shares a belief that is probably common to many even though it is heresy. Namely, Pelagius believed that we were able to achieve our salvation by our own efforts, that we were not wounded by Adam’s sin. On some level it can be seen as a popular image of God holding a scale, our good works on one side of the scale and our evil deeds on the other. Then, whichever weighs more gets us into even. Namely, we earn our salvation because of what we do.
For the purpose of clarity, it seemed helpful to provide some definitions and explanations for some of the things mentioned in this introduction. Note that understanding these ideas is not essential to understand Augustine’s confessions.
If you would like to download The Confessions of Saint Augustine in pdf form, you can do so by clicking this link.