… No Sinner without a Future
There is no doubt, St. Augustine of Hippo is one of the most well known Doctors of the Church. His writings have inspired Christians from all ages. Why is this so? Why do so many Christians and non-Christians gravitate to his writings?
St. Augustine was no doubt a genius. However, like other Doctors of the Church: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, and more, in his sermons and other popular writings he purposely drops to the language of the people. He was able to take complex philosophical and theological subjects and paint a simple picture for all to understand.
Interestingly, I don’t believe this is the sole reason nor perhaps the primary reason why people for over 1500 years have continued to hold St. Augustine so dear in their hearts.
We all love the story of the “underdog”. We all love to root for the one who really shouldn’t be in the game but somehow made it and is playing to win the championship. St. Augustine, by all accounts, shouldn’t have been in the game (the path toward sainthood) but somehow (the Grace of God and answered prayers of his faithful mother St. Monica) made it and won the championship (Eternal Glory). Though we all have fallen into sin, St. Augustine sets an example of how God can use our past to forge a saintly future. This universal situation gives us a joyful hope, through the grace of God, in becoming a saint. As St. Augustine said, “There’s no saint without a past… No sinner without a future.”
Of all St. Augustine’s works, none has been more universally read and admired than The Confessions. In the book, St. Augustine recalls the moment of his conversion:
29. I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; take up and read.” Immediately my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and to read the first chapter I should light upon. For I had heard of Antony, that, accidentally coming in whilst the gospel was being read, he received the admonition as if what was read were addressed to him, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.”9 And by such oracle was he forthwith converted unto Thee. So quickly I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I put down the volume of the apostles, when I rose thence. I grasped, opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell,—“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended,—by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart,—all the gloom of doubt vanished away.
30. Closing the book, then, and putting either my finger between, or some other mark, I now with a tranquil countenance made it known to Alypius. And he thus disclosed to me what was wrought in him, which I knew not. He asked to look at what I had read. I showed him; and he looked even further than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This it was, verily, “Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye;” which he applied to himself, and discovered to me. By this admonition was he strengthened; and by a good resolution and purpose, very much in accord with his character (wherein, for the better, he was always far different from me), without any restless delay he joined me. Thence we go in to my mother. We make it known to her,—she rejoiceth. We relate how it came to pass,—she leapeth for joy, and triumpheth, and blesseth Thee, who art “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think;2 for she perceived Thee to have given her more for me than she used to ask by her pitiful and most doleful groanings. For Thou didst so convert me unto Thyself, that I sought neither a wife, nor any other of this world’s hopes,—standing in that rule of faith in which Thou, so many years before, had showed me unto her in a vision. And thou didst turn her grief into a gladness,4 much more plentiful than she had desired, and much dearer and chaster than she used to crave, by having grandchildren of my body.
May St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica pray for all of us as we strive as the underdog to win the Championship of Eternal Glory! Amen.