St. Augustine's Confessions: Through the Eyes of Faith
In what has been termed the world's first autobiography, Augustine
presents a picture of himself through the regenerate eyes of faith. His
description of his pre-Christian life and post-conversion perspective
is a study in contrasts of the man whose writings have done more to
preserve and propagate the Christian faith than anyone outside the
Confessions begins as Augustine describes his childhood in Tagaste (in
North Africa). He tells of his love for the Latin poets, such as
Virgil, and his distaste for the Greek language. He is born into a
catholic Christian home, but it is his mother whose faith provides for
Augustine a spiritual point of reference. He is not fond of biblical
literature, largely due to the inferior translations of the Bible
available to his generation. He is more interested in rhetoric, so he
goes to Carthage to study.
Upon completion of his studies, Augustine returns to his hometown to
teach. Later, he leaves for Italy and he teaches for a brief period in
Rome. Frustrated by students who lag in paying their tuition, he
relocates to Milan where he meets Ambrose, the bishop of that city.
Augustine has not yet become a Christian, but he admires Ambrose and
often goes to hear him preach.
From his youth, Augustine has been
plagued by the sin of lust. By the time he goes to Milan, he has a son,
but Augustine has never married the boy's mother.
One day, after encountering a drunken beggar on the street who seemed
to possess a greater degree of happiness than he enjoyed, Augustine
hears a child singing a song at play that instructs him to "take and
read." Perceiving this song to be a clear word from God, Augustine
opens his Bible and reads from St. Paul's letter to the Roman
Christians. The words seemed to pierce through to his soul. He resolved
to become a Christian at that moment. Later, when his mother comes to
Milan to visit, he is elated to share the news with her that he has
accepted the faith. His mother, Monica, had prayed for her son for many
years. Not long after Augustine's conversion, his mother dies.
Augustine later becomes the bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Some of
his other important works include The City of God and On Christian