Now, sainthood seems hard to achieve and what is even harder, is to believe that sometimes our saints were quite ‘normal’ . They were human, they lived among us, they enjoyed and suffered like we do.
But aping the saints is the very reason, that we have saints. If we read about them closely, we can learn from example how they had a great relationship with God, and that they can intercede for us to obtain the same. And no kidding, St. Augustine of Hippo does the same! Just like transparency in architecture is attractive, such as a glass pavilion is more appealing than a brick building, in the same way, the transparency in St. Augustine’s character is his appeal! He lies bare in front of us, figuratively. He was more of a sinner than a saint, many of us would testify. But sin is what makes us human, and Confessions (absolutely worth a browse! ) by St. Augustine is his sinful diary that makes us wonder what even got him to the ladder of sainthood!
Last Lent (a good time to read it!), I began reading Confessions, after borrowing it from a friend and though it took me almost half a year to fully understand and apply most of the statements, St. Augustine makes, I am glad I finally got through. It is one book that made me more of a mature adult and if I could summarize it in 5 lessons for you, I’ll do it right now!
Lesson One : Let Go! Leave the past behind! You can’t move on if you don’t!
What St. Augustine says:
Quoting Ph 3 :13, “We (him and mother St. Monica) had forgotten what we had left behind and intent on what lay before us.” Also, “You forgive my past sins, drew a veil over them, and in this way, you have given me happiness in Yourself, changing my life by faith and Your sacrament”. Only St. Augustine’s wisdom here. So beautiful, so right. The past is indeed painful for many of us, and it takes time to forget, but God always send his angels in certain people to help us do so.
Lesson Two : Appreciating the senses is appreciating God’s creation.
What St. Augustine says:
“God gave us the gift of senses (213)”. He also says somewhere that the problem with mankind is that we admire our surroundings but forget ourselves- we are God’s creation too; and that we could not admire our surroundings, if it were not for our senses. Again, enough said by St. Augustine. In the moments that we can slow down from our busy young lives, let us not just take pleasure in being one with nature and all that jazz, but more importantly understand that it all starts with us. We, our families, parents and all the people we interact with, are God’s creations- and let us start by taking time to respect that, even the design in which we were all created so that we are able to enjoy each other! Of course, at this age, we realize that sensuality is indeed sacred.
Lesson Three : Search only for the truth! Don’t deceive yourself!
What St. Augustine says:
“Men love the truth, when it bathes them in its light; they hate it, while it proves them wrong”. Oh, how true. The truth is bitter, and sometimes most painful, just like our past. But like some of us 90s kids may remember from Rafiki’s saying in Disney’s Lion King , “ Yes, the past can hurt. But you can choose to either run from it or learn from it”. What am I saying? Yeah, we always have to face the truth- and that includes being truthful to ourselves, being realistic when we have to. To sum it up, St. Augustine also says somewhere that He (Jesus) is the Truth that does not change, He is the true Mediator.
Lesson 4 : Always keep track of your priorities. Re-prioritize, re-prioritize, re-prioritize.
Okay, well, the obsessive planner in me came up with this one. I’ve had some awesome times with God, and then there were some not so awesome ones. During the latter, I’ve felt that things were being ‘snatched’ from me- but that’s when I realized that I was falling in love with the creation more than the Creator Himself. And that I needed to shift my focus back to Him. Because maybe He is sufficient for me, right? Yeah, it is a tad hard to understand, but if God’s plans were easy to comprehend, where’s the fun in that?
Let’s see what St. Augustine says has to say here :
“Our souls thirst like a land parched with drought, it can’t quench its own thirst.” (We are always thirsty for God). “ Dry land(bad times) appears when men are eager to learn and reason prevails”. Also, remember Paul had said to the Philippians, “Let God contribute to your needs: not asking for needs to be met, but for having the need of Him”.
Lesson 5 : Spreading good influences is the way to go!
Yes this is a tough one. And it may also be the most important one on the list.
Hence St. Augustine has much to say about this :
“Ask yourself- ‘Could mine be the hand strong enough to seize the minds of men? Could any words of mine have power to achieve so great a task?’” (262).
“We are all vessels made from the same clay, some for noble and others for ignoble use”(321).
He also quoted Ephesians 2:10, “You are our God and we are your design pledged to good actions”.
Need I add to this? All these statements of his literally have a recurring theme of being used by God for His divine work in our lives and the lives of others. And if St. Augustine taught me anything, it is that since we belong to God, so do our actions, and so our actions must always represent what we stand for, in Him!
Okay, so I have left you with a couple St. Augustine principles, that I feel, are quite applicable in our young, quickly developing lives. It took me a while to get here and apply some of these, and it may take you a while too, but I hope you at least make an effort to take them into stride. Keep smiling!