Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Late have I loved you...

Yesterday we celebrated the memorial of St. Monica and today we remember and venerate her son; St. Augustine of Hippo. Despite many people's view of saints Augustine, like so many others, wasn't born holy, although his mother, by all accounts, was a very devout woman and a good example of what a Christian wife and mother should be. He received a Christian education as a small child but as he grew older he drifted away from the Church and, whilst studying in Carthage, fell into a downward spiral; he associated with what we might describe as "the wrong crowd", had numerous affairs (including one which lasted 13 years and through which he had a son) and became heavily involved with the Manichaean religion. Despite his abrupt loss of morals his mother did what all mums do, worried greatly and prayed constantly for her son's conversion. And, despite many years of darkness, her prayers did bear fruit and he was eventually received back into the Church. After having so long embraced a life of excess he went and sold all of his possessions, giving the proceeds to the poor and lived simply. He was later ordained a priest and became Bishop of Hippo. St. Augustine is best known for his written works, which if you haven't read you really must. They give us a great insight into the heart and mind of a man who has given himself over totally to God and discovered him in a deeply intimate way, they give us a tantalising glimpse of what it is to have such a personal glimpse of God and make us hunger for the same. At Mass this morning Fr. Richard read a short passage from Augustine's Confessions (it is part of a longer piece which was included in this today's Office of Readings) which I think beautifully highlights this so I have pasted it below.

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

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