Today is the feat of St. Augustine, a hero upon whose shoulder the entire intellectual tradition of Western Christendom rests. May the Doctor of Grace watch over all of us, especially our leaders who are working during the elections of the City of Man.
“Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.” -St. Augustine’s prayer to the Holy Spirit.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked none other than Augustine on Meet the Press this Sunday for her dissident views on abortion and the moment life begins. As deceptive as politicians can be, I’ve always held Speaker Pelosi in high regard, despite my disagreements, but she did the unforgivable act of speaking about that which she has little knowledge of. Using Augustine to defend her position as a pro-choice Catholic, Madame Pelosi brought my favorite of the Fathers and the very founder of Western Theology to the forefront of controversy.
Did Augustine actually say that life doesn’t begin until three months? Well, yes. However, St. Augustine was discussing the legality of whether one can be charged for homicide in an abortion, to which he believed that the answer was “no” because he held, as many did in the Classical and Medieval stages, that a soul did not enter into the body right at conception but later in the hominization of the mind. Groups such as Catholic for a Free Choice often use this little statement from the twenty-eight chapter of Augustine’s Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love to justify their dissident position and further conclude that if we are not sure when life begins we should err to the higher value of a woman privacy. However, let us remember that Augustine is often the most misunderstood and misinterpreted philosopher, especially when abused by those who read him for proof-texting instead of reading him in his entirety.
In the same chapter of the Enchiridion we read Augustine’s statement that aborted children shall be resurrected in the an unblemished form (28:85) and not merely tossed out like unformed seeds. Further on (28:86) we find this statement, for which I use JF Shaw’s translation with emphasis added by myself:
To deny that the young who are cut out limb by limb from the womb, lest if they were left there dead the mother should die too, have never been alive, seems too audacious. Now, from the time that a man begins to live, from that time it is possible for him to die. And if he die, wheresoever death may overtake him, I cannot discover on what principle he can be denied an interest in the resurrection of the dead.
Are aborted children denied the resurrection? If so, then the crime of abortion is truly more disturbing when committed by one who believes in the resurrection, for now they are denying life and salvation. However, it does not appear to be the teaching of the Church that such happens (even if a RadTrad would rather it did). Likewise, the Didache, an early Catechism/Liturgical manual from the early second century, states in two different places the severity of the sin of abortion and does clearly equivocate it with murder. Likewise, St. John Chrysostom speaks in his sermons on the horrors of abortion, also calling it murder, especially when committed by adulterers.
While Madame Pelosi has made it clear that she believes in reducing the number of abortions, a noble and great purpose especially for a liberal democrat, I do wish she would heed her own Church’s warning. It may be said that we just don’t know when life begins, but we must decide to err on the side of life in these and many other incidents.
St. Augustine, on the eve of your feast day, pray for us!
On Saturday Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople opened the Year of St Paul with these fine words at the Cathedral of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome.
“The radical conversion and apostolic kerygma of Saul of Tarsus literally shook history in its entirety and shaped the very identity of Christianity. This great man profoundly influenced such classical Church Fathers as St. John Chrysostom in the East and St. Augustine of Hippo in the West.”
By his pen and by his preaching the Apostle Paul had shapped the world he lived in and gave the Church her first sight of the joining of faith and reason. This year is one of great reflection for a convert like myself who recalls many intimate readings as a Protestant and the perplexing words of guidance as an agnostic. Not to mention the Apostle’s words when I was tempted by paganism occasionally. I pray that this Pauline year is a blessing for the Church, East and West, and that this humble blogger will post a bit more this year now that he has his computer back.
Good day everyone! As many of you know, I have not been blogging due to my studies at Thomas More College requiring me to do a junior project, for which I chose the Philosophy of Augustine. As of Wednesday I had presented and passed it and will know the grade in about a week.
Thanks to all ten of you who keep checking the blog, and I do promise to return to it soon enough. For now, I am celebrating and giving thanks to Almighty God for giving St. Augustine to Humanity!
The title of this post is how Pope Benedict XVI described St. Augustine in his general audience today. The Holy Father himself has been a tireless searcher after wisdom, and he has often used St. Augustine as a tool to chase after Truth. “All the threads of Latin Christian literature lead to Hippo,” The Pope proclaimed!
With that fine announcement, I suppose it’s time to announce to you, my constant reader, that I shall be pursuing the great saint as my Junior Project at Thomas More College! Keep me in your prayers, and I warn ye that it may be a while before I blog again!
The Scientific breakthrough of the year has proved something that men like St. Augustine and TS Eliot had been affirming for centuries. According to SMH, reporting on Science’s monthly report on the Genome Project, “Memory of past events and imagination about the future are intimately linked. The part of the brain called the hippocampus plays a role in both.”
I may seem sarcastic when I say that science continues to prove what many philosophers and theologians have believed for ages, while also correcting many errors that they like to fall into. The “forgotten liberal art” is making leaps and bounds to affirm the other liberal arts in ways unimaginable in the foregoing materialist empirical age. Good show you great women and men who slave over your microscope!
“Augustine defines the essence of the Christian religion, he saw the Christian faith, not in continuity with earlier religions, but rather in continuity with philosophy as a victory of reason over superstition.”
-Pope Benedict XVI
The thought and passion of St. Augustine has continued to impact the world in unimaginable ways, and will continue to define Western political and philosophical thought. As we celebrate his feast today, I have to confess a great passion for St. Augustine as a man who also misspent his youth and found his sojourn to the City of God wrought with all kinds of entanglements and frustrations. It may be said that the philosopher out of Africa is the model of adult converts, such as myself, for he had found through reason a faith that has literally changed the world. In the modern madness I like to think how grand it would be to have an Augustine in our time, but then remember that men such as he only wrote when all was collapsing. Cheers to the man himself, may his thought save our society once more!
Today we celebrate a woman who has quite possibly shaped Western Philosophy just by being a good mother. St. Monica, whose feast we celebrate today, was a woman whose constant prayers and tears brought St. Augustine into the Church and we are still the better for it. The world is not nearly thankful enough for St. Monica, nor for the many mothers in general. The picture is from Ostia, Italy and commemorates the spot where St. Monica died and includes the inscription from Confessions.
“And You sent Your hand from above,and drew my soul out of that profound darkness, when my mother, Your faithful one, wept to you on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children. For she saw that I was dead by that faith and spirit which she had from You, and Thou heardest her, O Lord. Thou heardest her, and despised not her tears, when, pouring down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed; yea, Thou heardest her.” –Confessions of St. Augustine, book III.