Pentecost 16/Trinity 15/Ordinary Time 21 – Wednesday
Feast day in memorial of St. Monica of Hippo, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo
Eve of the feast day in memorial of St. Augustine of Hippo, bishop, teacher and Doctor of the Church
Excerpted from St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions (1961: Penguin Books, London), Book IX, sections 8-11.
There are many things which I do not set down in this book, since I am pressed for time. My God, I pray you to accept my confessions and also the gratitude I bear you for all the many things which I pass over in silence. But I will not omit a word that my mind can bring to birth concerning your servant, my mother. In the flesh she brought me to birth in this world: in her heart she brought me to birth in your eternal light. It is not of her gifts that I shall speak, but of the gifts you gave to her. For she was neither her own maker nor her own teacher. It was you who made her, and neither her father nor her mother knew what kind of woman their daughter would grow up to be. It was by Christ’s teaching, by the guidance of your only Son, that she as brought up to honour and obey you in one of those good Christian families which form the body of your Church. …
In the end she won her husband for you as a convert in the very last days of his life on earth. After his conversion she no longer had to grieve over those faults which had tried her patience before he was a Christian. She was also the servant of your servants. Those of them who knew her praised you, honoured you, and loved you in her, for they could feel your presence in her heart and her holy conversation gave rich proof of it. She had been faithful to one husband, had made due returns to those who gave her birth. Her own flesh and blood had had first claim on her piety, and she had a name for acts of charity. (1 Tim 5:4, 10) She had brought up her children and had been in travail afresh (Gal 4:19) each time she saw them go astray from you. Finally, O Lord, since by your gift you allow us to speak as your servants, she took good care of all of us when we had received the grace of your baptism and were living as companions before she fell asleep in you. She too good care of us, as though she had been the mother of us all, and served each one as though she had been his daughter. …
Not long before the day on which she was to leave this life – you knew which day it was to be, O Lord, though we did not – my mother and I were alone, leaning from a window which overlooked the garden in the courtyard of the house where we were staying at Ostia. We were waiting there after our long and tiring journey, away from the crowd, to refresh ourselves before our sea-voyage. I believe that what I am going to tell happened through the secret working of your providence. For we were talking alone together and our conversation was serene and joyful. We had forgotten what we had left behind and were intent on what lay before us. (Phil 3:13) In the presence of Truth, which is yourself, we were wondering what the eternal life of the saints would be like, that life which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart conceived. (1 Cor 2:9). …
Yet you know, O Lord, that as we talked that day, the world, for all its pleasures, seemed a paltry place compared with the life that we spoke of. And then my mother said, ‘My son, for my part I find no further pleasure in this life. What I am still to do or why I am here in the world, I do not know, for I have no more to hope for on this earth. There was one reason, and one alone, why I wished to remain a little longer in this life, and that was to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. God has granted my wish and more besides, for I now see you as his servant, spurning such happiness as the world can give. What is left for me to do in this world?’
I scarcely remember what answer I gave her. It was about five days after this, or not much more, that she took to bed with a fever. One day during her illness she had a fainting fit and lost consciousness for a short time. We hurried to her bedside, but she soon regained consciousness and looked up at my brother and me as we stood beside her. Then watching us closely as we stood there speechless with grief, she said ‘You will bury your mother here.’ I said nothing, trying hard to hold back my tears, but my brother said something to the effect that he wished for her sake that she would die in her own country, not abroad. When she heard this, she looked at him anxiously and her eyes reproached him for his worldly thoughts. She turned to me and said, ‘See how he talks!’ and then, speaking to both of us, she went on, ‘It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you! All I ask of you is that, wherever you may be, you should remember me at the altar of the Lord.’ … And so on the ninth day of her illness, when she was fifty-six and I was thirty-three, her pious and devoted soul was set free from the body.
And given that tomorrow is St. Augustine’s feast day and that the issue of chastity has been on my mind this week, this quote from Confessions has popped into mind a few times (to say the very least).
As a youth I had been woefully at fault, particularly in early adolescence. I had prayed to you for chastity and said ‘Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.’ (da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo.) For I was afraid that you would answer my prayer at one and cure me too soon of the disease of lust, which I wanted satisfied, not quelled. – Confessions, Book 8, section 7.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God; have mercy on me a sinner.
Now, back to watching “So You Think You Can Dance”. Because I sure as hell know that I can’t dance for $h1+.
+ Pax et bonum,