Sinner, never despair. Saint, never despair of the sinner. His mercy is AWESOME!!!! Is 55:8. Just ask Augustine.
I am in my third course towards my Masters in Unitive (Spiritual) Theology through the Avila Institute. Beyond the general phylum of Theology, the discipline bifurcates into Speculative and Unitive. Speculative covers the WWJD? type of questions, the “what-ifs” of theology. Unitive covers the more intimate, mystical aspects of theology of the soul aspiring and coming into union with the Divine. Unitive has the reputation of being, by far, the more interesting of the couple, if you’re into that kind of thing. I am. Studying the great souls of the Catholic tradition and their writings, the written word abides, rocks. Nobody ever said it would be easy, though.
“Confessions” written by St Augustine in the very late 4th century (397-400 AD) is a classic of Catholic spiritual writing. It is a slog, though. Depending on the translation you choose, Thees and Thous abound! My most tedious and time consuming reading assignment, so far. Augustine was a professional in and teacher of rhetoric, a big deal in the ancient world. So, to say he was long-winded would be kind. His complex sentence structure and detailed recounting tax the reader, they do. Not all truth is contained in easy reads. The majority of texts from the ancient world still in existence remain untranslated. Deo gratias for audio books, particularly in one’s “mature” years, when the powers of concentration, thought, comprehension and eyesight wane, especially for amateur catechists and hagiographers, like me. 🙂
Augustine recounts his life and the progression of thinking and grace therein. I won’t boor you with the narrative. There are plenty of resources for that. However, his maturation in sexual matters is especially poignant and terribly, terribly, tragically relevant, I believe, for younger people, burning in the freshness and vitality of life with desire, AND camera phones, the work of the devil, if there ever was any!!! I thank God every day there was no such thing in the eighties, and for photo processing, and photo technicians who would/do call the cops, sure deterrents. Not so today. Not so. Mara, listen to daddy!!!! Dear God, please!!!! Custodia occulorum!!!!
“Oh! how many are lost by indulging their sight! – St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Mk 9:47-48, Lk 11:34-36
Also a student of JPII’s theology of the body, which is beautiful, I have struggled in how to translate this non-sound bite wisdom into 21st century sound bites. Here is my best attempt. It makes sense. It is logical, and beautiful, if we would have ears to hear, hearts to listen. The poison of sin fights violently against us and this thinking. On the internet, everything is forever, eternal virtual life or living hell, depending on content of our choosing.
- We did not create ourselves.
- We were created.
- We owe our Creator the debt of our being.
- Part of the debt of our being is proper use of creation, including our bodies.
- The proper use of our bodies is love for one other who truly loves us in return. A union which is faithful, fruitful, and free, i.e. marriage.
- The Natural Law in philosophy indicates that by nature, by inspection, by reason, our love must be devoted to our complement, i.e. male & female.
- To ignore the Natural Law is to ignore God and Him communicating through His creation. It is sin, and an offense against God Who created us, to Whom we owe our debt of gratitude. To Whom we must account for our use of His gift of life, and will.
- The lover always wills the good of the beloved. This can never be manifested in the abuse of self or use/abuse of others. This is the definition of love. Use is the exact opposite, the negative, of love. We use things. We love people. We must never turn people into things, even with their ignorant, willful permission. We are all children of God; everyone, everyone. Especially when that is most difficult to see in each of us.
Rapidly we prepare this year for Ash Wednesday, and to be told once more, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return. Repent, and believe in the Gospel!”
“Christian, remember your dignity, and the price which was paid to purchase your salvation!” -cf Pope St Leo the Great, Sermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3:PL 54,192C.
“Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember Who is your head and of Whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” -CCC 1691, St. Leo the Great, Sermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3:PL 54,192C.
Some of my favorites, though…
“…but I was intent on material things, but there found I no resting-place, nor did they so receive me, that I could say, “It is enough,” “it is well”:…”1
“…through my own swelling was I separated from Thee; yea, my pride-swollen face closed up mine eyes…by inward goads didst Thou rouse me, that I should be ill at ease, until Thou wert manifested to my inward sight. Thus, by the secret hand of Thy medicining was my swelling abated, and the troubled and bedimmed eyesight of my mind, by the smarting annointings of healthful sorrows, was from day to day healed.”2
“…as if I heard this Thy voice from on high: “I am the food of grown men and women…”,3
“I call upon you, my God, my mercy, Who made me, and did not forget me, although I forgot you. I call you into my soul, which you prepare to accept You by the longing that You breathe into it. Do not desert me now when I call upon You, for before I called upon You, You went ahead and helped me, and repeatedly You urged me on by many different words, so that from afar I would hear You, and be converted, and call upon You as you called to me.”
—St. Augustine, Confessions
“You judge me, O Lord, for, although no one ‘knows the things of a man but the spirit of man which is in him,’ there is something further in man which not even that spirit of man which is in him knows. But you, Lord, who made him, know all things that are in him. Although I despise myself before your sight, and account myself but dust and ashes, yet I know something of you which I do not know about myself. In truth, ‘we see now through a glass in a dark manner,’ and not yet ‘face to face.’ … Let me confess, then, what I know about myself. Let me confess also what I do not know about myself, since that too which I know about myself I know because you enlighten me. As to that which I am ignorant of concerning myself, I remain ignorant of it until my ‘darkness shall be made as the noonday in your sight.’”
Love, His joy and mercy,
1 Augustine, Saint (2014-09-20). Confessions (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 1732-1733). . Kindle Edition.
2 Augustine, Saint (2014-09-20). Confessions (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 1739, 1742-1744). . Kindle Edition.
3 Augustine, Saint (2014-09-20). Confessions (Illustrated) (Kindle Location 1788). . Kindle Edition.