Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Confessions of St. Augustine

I have a few confessions of my own to make. Though I’ve made a point of reading a number of spiritual classics over the years, I only just this year read The Confessions of Saint Augustine. Of course I’d come across excerpts and quotes from this well-known tome, but even when my favorite brother in Christ loaned me the book, I put off reading it. I already knew that Monica, Augustine’s poor mother, had begged and pleaded with God for years to bring about her wayward son’s conversion. I knew Augustine had spent his youth leading a very sinful life, and frankly, I assumed that in this work he described in detail his many indiscretions. I gathered from the title that the book must be from the perspective of Augustine once he had converted and was, therefore, able to see the sinfulness of his ways.
I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Augustine’s account of his sinful past was written from the point of view of a man who had given his mind, body, and soul over to the Lord. Instead of being a disturbingly detailed record of his debauchery, the work is primarily a look at the love, mercy, forgiveness, and glory of God. I found it all the more edifying that it was after Augustine had converted to Catholicism and allowed himself to be consumed by Christ’s love so much so that others considered him to be a model of holiness that he felt it necessary to write this autobiographical reflection on his previous transgressions and God’s perpetual compassion.
Throughout the book, Augustine quotes Scripture passages and addresses God directly in his prose. He describes the disillusionment he had been in and propagated to others as a professional orator, lust-filled youth, and follower of the Manichees. He acknowledges that the years he spent believing lies, living according to the desires of the flesh and human glory, and leading others astray were indeed a waste of the gifts God had given him. Augustine goes on to praise God for His infinite mercy and willingness to forgive him and any who will turn to Him.
Confessions is divided into thirteen books. I found the first ten books to be the most interesting and spiritually enriching. The last three become a very in-depth philosophical exploration of the abstract concept of time and God, Who isn’t bound by time, but Who has created living things who are bound by time. Though I’ve read other philosophical works and arguments on similar subjects, I found this part of the book to be rather confusing and convoluted. It seemed more indicative of the arguments popularly brought up in Augustine’s time for and against religion and the qualities of God espoused by the Roman Catholic Church.
I highly recommend reading The Confessions of St. Augustine.  You can purchase this book here.
I wrote this review of The Confessions Of St. Augustine for the Tiber River Blogger Review program.
Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases. I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.
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