Term Paper: Confessions of St

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ST. AUGUSTINE

THE CONFESSIONS of ST. AUGUSTINE

In 397 a.D., St. Augustine, born as Aurelius Augustinus in 354 a.D., began to write what was to become his most famous theological work, namely, his Confessions, "a treatise which expressed his thanks to God for saving him from a life of hedonism and sin and written through the use of intimate autobiographical reminiscences." In this work, St. Augustine reveals his own inner demons related to his lifelong struggles with himself, his sexual appetite, his lack of self-will and his overbearing pride. In essence, St. Augustine's Confessions was composed in order to praise God "for his redemption from sin and to rejoice "in the grace of God Almighty who had allowed such a terrible sinner to be saved from the damnations of Hell" (Hutchins, vii).

Overall, St. Augustine's Confessions are divided into thirteen separate books. Book One relates St. Augustine's own beliefs on "the greatness and unsearchableness of God" and of God's mercies related to his infancy and boyhood and his "own sins of idleness;" Book Two relates his "objects of his confessions" and his views on "the evils of ill society which betrayed him into theft;" Book Three relates St. Augustine's experiences at Carthage when he was nineteen years old and reveals "the sources of his disorders;" Book Four relates his life from the age of nineteen to twenty-seven when as a Manichaean, he lived "amidst vanity and sin;" Book Five relates his experiences at the age of twenty-nine when a certain Faustus "made an instrument of deliverance by showing the ignorance of the Manichees" (Hutchins, ix).

Book Six recalls "the arrival of Monica (his natural mother) at Milan and St. Augustine's "gradual abandonment of error... his inveterate sins and dread of judgment;" Book Seven recalls his thirty-first year in which he was "gradually extricated from his errors" and came to realize that the "cause of sin lies in free will;" Book Eight describes his longings to "devote himself entirely to God" while still haunted by "his old habits;" Book Nine relates his determination "to devote his life to God and abandon his profession of rhetoric" and his plans to retire to the country "to prepare himself to receive the grace of baptism" (Hutchins, ix).

It is with Book Nine that St. Augustine completely divulges that he is now a Christian and has turned to a life of piety and grace as compared to his earlier life in which he practiced outright hedonism amid much sinning. The tale of St. Augustine's conversion to Christianity is rather long and drawn out, but in order to demonstrate exactly how this amazing transformation came about, we must focus on the aspects of his life from about the age of sixteen in 370 a.D. To forty-six in 396 a.D.

After attending the prestigious school at Madaura (now in modern-day Algeria), where he studied Latin and Roman grammar and literature, Augustine, after being prompted by his father to study law, "spent a year of idleness while his father sought the necessary funds" to send his son to Carthage. At this time, an unknown citizen of Tagaste (Augustine's birthplace) offered to pay for his education and in 370 a.D., Augustine found himself at the school in Carthage, where he would major in Latin rhetoric.

Unfortunately, not long after arriving at this highly-influential school, operated by members of the Roman Catholic clergy, Augustine "began living with a woman with whom he remained for the next ten years" and who quickly bore him a son named Adeodatus. However, Augustine managed to remain somewhat quiet about this very illicit relationship and soon took up studying the works of the Roman historian Cicero which "made him fall in love with philosophy." Augustine also came under the influence of the Manicheans, a religious sect that stressed "the evil nature of the flesh which had far-reaching influence on Augustine's future life." It was through the teachings of the Manicheans that Augustine "later formulated his concept of the basic sinfulness of humankind and the weaknesses of the flesh" (Hutchins, v).

In 373 a.D. after completing his studies at Carthage, Augustine decide to go against his father's wishes to practice law "and chose to follow letters as a career." Upon returning home to Tagaste, Augustine managed to secure a position teaching Latin grammar at Tagaste, where he "established himself as a rhetorician." About a year later, Augustine returned to Carthage and in 377 a.D., "he entered a poetry contest and won the prize with a dramatic poem" (Hutchins, v).

However, his mother Monica, a very strict Roman Catholic, was not pleased with her son's approval of the teachings of the Manicheans. One day, after arriving at the home of his mother, Augustine "was refused entrance... because he had espoused Manichaeism." Not surprisingly, Monica became very upset and began praying in earnest for her lost son. As Augustine remembered it, his mother "continued to pray and was told by a bishop "It cannot be that the son of these tears should be lost" (Hutchins, vi).

In 383 a.D., Augustine made one of the most important decisions of his life, for after realizing that his skills as a teacher and rhetorician might serve his financial needs, he traveled to the city of Rome, but things did not work out as he had planned and about a year later, he found himself once again at Tagaste, where he "accepted the municipal chair of rhetoric at Milan." But most importantly, while still in Rome, Augustine decided to "abandon the teachings of Manicheism" and upon returning to Milan, he "came under the influence of St. Ambrose and began in earnest to read the ancient works of the Neo-Platonists. It was St. Ambrose, the patrician bishop of Milan, who initially drew Augustine into a deep study of the Holy Scriptures. As John W. Petersen relates, "Ambrose's allegorical interpretation of the Holy Bible provided Augustine with a new understanding and appreciation of the scriptures" (522).

This period of time proved to be one of great personal development for Augustine and as he wrote in his Confessions, his meeting with Ambrose "culminated in the decision in 386 a.D. To convert to Christianity." Not long after making this eventful decision which was to affect the rest of his life, Augustine "retired to the estate of a friend at Cassiciacum to prepare for entering the Catholic Church." However, despite the influence of the teachings of St. Ambrose and his mother's never-ending pleadings to become a Christian, Augustine found himself in a personal quagmire. As he relates in his Confessions, "I was frantic, overcome by violent anger with myself for not accepting the will of God and entering into His covenant" (Petersen, 523).

According to legend, one day Augustine was standing in his mother's garden when he heard a mysterious voice, much like that of a child, telling him to take the Holy Scriptures and read the very first passage upon which his eyes fell. This turned out to be Romans, 13:13-14 which read "not in revelling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ and spend no more thought on nature and nature's appetites" (Petersen, 524).

Thus, after reading this passage, Augustine "underwent a dramatic conversion, a profound, life-transforming experience" which virtually eliminated all of his desires for illicit sex, drinking and hedonistic living; in essence, Augustine experienced "a complete surrender to God" (Hutchins, vi).

The death of Augustine's mother Monica greatly affected him to the point of an almost complete mental breakdown, due to in part to realizing that it was his mother's pleading and prayers that had made it possible for him to become a Christian. However, while in Rome, Augustine persevered and "continued to work on his philosophical dialogues while furthering his knowledge of Christian doctrine and religious practice." In 388 a.D., now completely converted to Christianity, Augustine sold all of his personal belongings and gave all of the money received to the poor. He then decided to create his own monastery in which he would devote his life to prayer and the study of the Holy Scriptures.

In Book Nine of his Confessions, Augustine provides a very clear example of how much he was changed and transformed after becoming a Christian. In Part 14, Augustine praises God by declaring that "Blessed is he who loves thee... For thy sake; for he alone loses none dear to him... And who is this but our God, the God that created heaven and earth and filled them because he created them...None loses thee but he who leaves thee, and he who leaves thee, where does he go, or where can he flee but from thee? Thy law is the truth and thou art Truth" (Hutchins, 134). Obviously, Augustine has completely abandoned his own inner demons and hostilities and has given himself body and soul to God. Also, Augustine came to understand that everything he had learned as a hedonist and sinner in his… [END OF PREVIEW]

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