Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Devotion for today: Why not now?

Today is the feast of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church. We learned in yesterday’s account of St. Monica that her son, Augustine, traveled a rocky and twisted path to his conversion. St. Augustine was brilliant, athletic, popular, secular and a seeker of truth. After years of indulging his senses, he finally came to his senses and made the decision to follow Christ. Here we read the struggle which occurred before he finally turned his will over to God. This selection is from his autobiography, Confessions, which is one of the greatest books ever written.

St. Augustine tells us: I probed the hidden depths of my soul and wrung its pitiful secrets from it, and when I mustered them all before the eyes of my heart, a great storm broke within me. Somehow I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes. For I felt that I was still the captive of my sins, and in misery I kept crying, “How long shall I go on saying, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?”

I was asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard the singing of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain, “Take it up and read, take it and read.” At this point I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before.

I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall. So I hurried back to the place where I had put down the book containing Paul’s epistles. I seized it and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites. (Romans 13:13-14)

I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled. I marked the place with my finger and closed the book. You converted me to yourself, so that I no longer placed any hope in this world but stood firmly upon the rule of faith.

Prayer of St. Augustine: Lord, our God, You who create us, when our passions are wretched from love of this world, from the life that was our death, when we adopt the life that makes ‘a living soul’, then Your word will be verified in us, according to the Apostle: “Pattern not your life on this world.” And that which you immediately added will follow, “But take on a new form, based on a new mental pattern.” This is not done according to our kind, as if we were conforming to some neighbor’s example or some higher human authority, as if You said, “Let man come to be, according to his kind.” No, You said, “Let us make man according to Our own will and likeness,” that we may experience Your own will at work. Thus does man become new by knowing the God to whose pattern he was made.

St. Augustine, patron saint of printers, brewers, those with sore eyes and theologians, pray for us. (Interesting saint, isn’t he?)

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