Marcus Grodi: Former Presbyterian who became Catholic – “A Firm Foundation” – The Journey Home
Uploaded on Jul 26, 2015
Uploaded on Jul 26, 2015
Uploaded on Jul 27, 2015
Uploaded on Jul 27, 2015
Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time C & St. Augustine, August 28,2016
Today Sirach counsels, “Conduct your affairs with humility…. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Christ promises us that “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Why is humility an integral part of Christian righteousness? Because it is humility that keep us mindful of our inestimable privilege: we “have approached Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” Only humility disposes us to want what the Lord offers and to be ever receptive to his mercy in our midst. Humility insures that our Gospel priorities are kept intact. “Humility recognizes God as he is…. Humility and trust are what make a person truly human” (Pope Benedict XVI).
“Lord Jesus, you became a servant for my sake to set me free from the tyranny of sin, selfishness, and conceit. Help me to be humble as you are humble and to love freely and graciously all whom you call me to serve.” Amen.
Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 – Humble yourself and you will find favor with God.
My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.
Water quenches a flaming fire,
and alms atone for sins.
The word of the Lord.
Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
R. (cf. 11b) God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
The just rejoice and exult before God;
they are glad and rejoice.
Sing to God, chant praise to his name;
whose name is the LORD.
R. God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
The father of orphans and the defender of widows
is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken;
he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.
R. God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;
you restored the land when it languished;
your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.
R. God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a – You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God.
Brothers and sisters:
You have not approached that which could be touched
and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness
and storm and a trumpet blast
and a voice speaking words such that those who heard
begged that no message be further addressed to them.
No, you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.
The word of the Lord.
Lk 14:1, 7-14 – Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.
Bishop Robert Barron’s Homily: Humility, Queen of virtues click below:
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – To go up higher
Dr. Scott Hahn’s reflection click below:
We come to the wedding banquet of heaven by way of humility and charity. This is the fatherly instruction we hear in today’s First Reading, and the message of today’s Gospel.
Jesus is not talking simply about good table manners. He is revealing the way of the kingdom, in which the one who would be greatest would be the servant of all (see Luke 22:24-27).
This is the way, too, that the Father has shown us down through the ages – filling the hungry, sending the rich away empty, lifting up the lowly, pulling down the proud (see Luke 1:52-53).
We again call to mind the Exodus in today’s Psalm – how in His goodness the Lord led the Israelites from imprisonment to prosperity, rained down bread from heaven, made them His inheritance, becoming a “Father of orphans.”
We now too have gained a share of His inheritance. We are to live humbly, knowing we are are not worthy to receive from His table (see Luke 6:7; 15:21). We are to give alms, remembering we were ransomed from sin by the price of His blood (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Lord promises that if we are humble we will be exalted and find favor with God; that if we are kind to those who can never repay us, we will atone for sins, and find blessing in the resurrection of the righteous.
We anticipate the fulfillment of those promises in every Eucharist, today’s Epistle tells us. In the Mass, we enter the festal gathering of the angels and the firstborn children of God, the liturgy of the heavenly Jerusalem in which Jesus is the high priest, the King who calls us to come up higher (see Proverbs 25:6-7). – Read the source: https://stpaulcenter.com/reflections/to-go-up-higher-scott-hahn-reflects-on-the-22nd-sunday-in-ordinary-time
Reflection 2 – Humility and hospitality
How often have we brought joy and happiness to the poor, the aged and infirm? I am sure most of us have our own share of work for God’s people who in time may have been forgotten by many. They have no way of making things work out for themselves. They are so helpless and quite dependent on the goodness and kindness of those around them. They have a special place in the heart of our Lord. According to today’s gospel, if we hope to be honored by God, these are the people whom we should serve.
One of the greatest principles of Christianity is to be able to love and serve those who are not lovable. They can be quite different from us and some cannot possibly repay us.
It is so human for us to fellowship and be one with those who have power and authority, with those who can possibly do greater things for us. We normally act in anticipation of what the return will be. As the saying goes… ” what is in it for me?”
At times when we realize that a man has no more value to us amidst his troubled and burdened heart, we may easily reach our threshold and lose our patience for him, change our ways and attitude and drop the person from our list of most desired guests and important people. Such a selfish attitude and disposition can lead us away from our Lord and His grace.
It is sad that when this transpires in our life, the action of God’s love within us is not only impeded but replaced by our own arrogance. We become callused as our hearts harden. We become indifferent to other people’s plight. We begin to look for recognition, for repayment and we seek personal glory rather than God’s unending glory. We become focused on self and forget the very people whom God wants us to bring His joy and peace.
Today God is opening our hearts to His plan for us. He is asking us not to push for glory by serving those who are like us or those who can repay us anytime. He is asking us to give Him a chance to honor us as we honor His people and minister to those who are disadvantaged, sick poor, helpless and infirm, those who will not be able to repay us.
Let us not be too preoccupied with the affairs of those who have made it in this world but ask God that we are able to selflessly serve those who are hopeless, broken hearted, lost and poor for God has reserved a special reward for those who shall be able to share His love with them.
As we minister to those who cannot repay us, God Himself assures us that He will repay us at the resurrection of the just. “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14
Let us not push for personal glory but give God a chance to honor us as we minister to His flock – the poor, infirm, aged and the hopeless.
Heavenly Father, it is your mercy and love that all of us desire. Give me the grace to live a life that can share your mercy and love with your people. In your great love, answer me as I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Reflection 3 – The Soil of the Soul
The science class was discussing about whales. The teacher pointed out that this large creature has a very small throat that would make it physically impossible to swallow a human. But one boy objected: “But according to the Bible, Jonah was swallowed by a whale!” The teacher dismissed the comment and insisted that it was simply impossible. The boy reluctantly gave up and said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah”. The teacher teased the boy and asked, “How sure are you that Jonah is in heaven? What if he went to hell?” The little boy replied, “Then you ask him”.
One night a little girl was watching her mother preparing her bed. For the first time, she noticed strands of white hair sticking out of her long shiny black hair. She suddenly asked, “Why are some of your hairs white, Mom?” Her mother replied, “Well, this is what happens when little girls misbehave. Their moms become unhappy, and one by one the hairs turn white.” The little girl thought about this for a while and then happily announced her new discovery: “Now I know why ALL of grandma’s hairs are white!”
The moral is: Don’t ever mess with children. They have their way of expressing the truth with candor and profound wisdom that often leaves us dumbfounded. We get valuable lessons from them. In relation to the Gospel today, if little children are invited to a party, we will be certain that not one of them will mind where they will sit at table. Their only concern is to be with friends, to eat and have fun. Not one of them cares about position, honor or fame.
But among adults, it is the opposite. The focus is on the self. Before going to a party, they would spend great time and money making sure they will look good – nice shoes and dress, hair and makeup, expensive perfume and all trimmings imaginable. And when they finally arrive at the party, their main concern is not the food or the program, but on how much attention they get from others.
It is said that there are two kinds of people who come to the party. The first is the one who enters as inconspicuously as possible, looks around for a familiar face, and finding one, says, “There he is!” The second is the one who enters the hall with fanfare to make sure everybody notices his coming, practically announcing, “Here I am!” To the first group belong the little children and the childlike. To the second group are the selfish and proud adults.
Last Sunday, the parting words of Jesus is a warning: “Some who are first will be last, and some who are last will be first.” It is definitely a lesson on humility. This lesson is further underscored this Sunday. The first reading from the Book of Sirach gives this exhortation: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” In the Gospel, the advice of Jesus to the guests seeking places of honor at table was obviously a practical lesson on humility: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Unfortunately, humility is not an attractive virtue. This word itself comes from the Latin “humus”, which means, “soil”. Who wants soil, anyway? Everybody wants diamond and gold, but not soil – it’s messy and dirty! But where do gold and diamonds come from? We would prefer to be the tall and mighty building, rather than the soil on which we dump our tons of trash. But where do we walk on without soil? Where will those magnificent buildings and structures stand on without soil? Where will the trees and plants grow? Just as soil is essential to our earthly existence, so also humility is to our soul. Yes, humility is not attractive, but it is essentially necessary in our spiritual life. It is impossible to think of any Christian virtue and holiness without it. Though unattractive, humility makes one attractive to God and to others: “you will be loved more than a giver of gifts…you will find favor with God”, the Book of Sirach assures us. It is precisely the humility and obedience of Jesus that exalted him to the heavens, “and bestowed on him the Name above every other name.”
It is necessary therefore, to constantly check ourselves to make sure our ego is not inflated. The doctor tells us to have regular medical check up and watch out for the rising numbers of cholesterol, sugar, salt, blood pressure in our system. They do not go up in an instant, but they result from a long period of unhealthy food and drink intakes and bad habits.
In a similar way, in our spiritual life, the sin of pride does not appear instantly. As little children, we did not have it. But as we grew up, we gradually learned unhealthy habits that accumulated and stuck to our person like cholesterol plaques that constrict the flow of blood in our arteries. Then, our ego steadily began rising, and without noticing it, pride has slowly gripped and hardened our heart, threatening us with spiritual stroke and paralysis.
There are clear symptoms of pride that we can easily recognize. When we expect praise and appreciation for every good thing we do; when we are too shy to come out and volunteer our services and talents because we are afraid of being criticized; when even a small negative comment about our work easily hurts us; when we enjoy talking about the mistakes and sins of others; when we fiercely believe we are always right and refuse to listen to the opinion of others; when we always seek positions of prestige or power; when we are afraid or unwilling to let go of a position or function that makes us feel important and indispensable – these are all but a few examples of pride getting into us.
Undoubtedly, pride has a lot of various and subtle manifestations. Awareness of them can greatly help us overcome its ugly head. On the other hand, humility is not very easy to practice and notice. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “Humility is like an underwear. You have it, but you don’t show it.” Nowadays, we see people walking on the streets with their underwear exposed. We realize how increasingly difficult it is to teach the virtue and value of humility during these times. Nevertheless, let the words of the Prophet Micah serve as a reminder to us: “You have been told, O Man what is good and what the Lord requires of you: only to do right, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God”(Mic 6:8). And Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422)
Reflection 4 – True humility
Why did Jesus challenge his status-conscious dinner party to take the last place rather than the first? Isn’t it only natural to seek what is best and to desire respect and esteem from others? Besides, who really wants to be last! Jesus’ parable of the guests invited to the marriage feast proves our motives for seeking honor and position for ourselves. Self-promotion is most often achieved at the expense of others! Jesus’ parable reinforces the teaching of Proverbs: “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to put lower in the presence of the prince” (Prov 25:6-7).
What is true humility and why should we make it a characteristic mark of our life and action? True humility is not feeling bad about you, or having a low opinion of yourself, or thinking of yourself as inferior to others. True humility frees us from preoccupation with ourselves, whereas a low self-opinion tends to focus our attention on ourselves. Humility is truth in self-understanding and truth in action. Viewing ourselves truthfully, with sober judgment, means seeing ourselves the way God sees us (Ps 139:1-4). A humble person makes a realistic assessment of himself or herself without illusion or pretense to be something he or she is not. The humble regard themselves neither smaller nor larger than they truly are. True humility frees us to be ourselves and unbinds us from delusions caused by pride, vanity, and flattery. A humble person does not have to wear a mask or put on a false smile to win the favor and approval of others. The honest humble person is not swayed by accidentals, such as fame, talent, success or failure.
Humility is the queen or foundation of all the other virtues because it enables us to see and judge correctly, the way God sees. Humility leads to true self-knowledge, honesty, realism, strength, and dedication to give ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Humility frees us to love and serve others selflessly, for their sake, rather than our own. Paul the Apostles, gives us the greatest example and model of humility is the person of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,… who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:7-8). Scripture tells us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. The Lord Jesus never refuses the plea of a humble seeker who yearns for his love, truth, and help. He is the true Master who washes our feet and supplies our daily bread. Do you want to love as Jesus loves and to be a servant of all like Jesus?
Reflection 5 – He who exalts himself will be humbled
Who wants to be last? Isn’t it only natural to desire respect and esteem from others? Jesus’ parable of the guests invited to the marriage feast probes our motives for seeking honor and position. Self-promotion is most often achieved at the expense of others! Jesus’ parable reinforces the teaching of Proverbs: Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of the prince (Proverbs 25:6-7).
True humility frees us to be our true selves as God sees us
What is true humility and why should we make it a characteristic mark of our life and action? True humility is not feeling bad about yourself, or having a low opinion of yourself, or thinking of yourself as inferior to others. True humility frees us from preoccupation with ourselves, whereas a low self-opinion tends to focus our attention on ourselves. Humility is truth in self-understanding and truth in action. Viewing ourselves truthfully, with sober judgment, means seeing ourselves the way God sees us (Psalm 139:1-4). A humble person makes a realistic assessment of himself or herself without illusion or pretense to be something he or she is not. The humble regard themselves neither smaller nor larger than they truly are.
True humility frees us to be our true selves and to avoid despair and pride. A humble person does not have to wear a mask or put on a facade in order to look good to others, especially to those who are not really familiar with that person. The humble are not swayed by accidentals, such as fame, reputation, success, or failure.
True humility frees us to love and serve selflessly for the good of others
Humility is the queen or foundation of all the other virtues because it enables us to view and judge ourselves correctly, the way God sees us. Humility leads to true self-knowledge, honesty, realism, strength, and dedication to give ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Humility frees us to love and serve others selflessly, for their sake, rather than our own. Paul the Apostles, gives us the greatest example and model of humility in the person of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, …who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8). The Lord Jesus gives grace to those who seek him humbly. Do you want to be a servant as Jesus served?
“Lord Jesus, you became a servant for my sake to set me free from the tyranny of sin, selfishness, and conceit. Help me to be humble as you are humble and to love freely and graciously all whom you call me to serve.” – Read the source: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/aug28.htm
Reflection 6 – Humility’s Reward
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. –Luke 14:11
A small western college was struggling financially. The buildings were shabby, and staff salaries were meager.
A stranger visited the campus one day and asked a man who was washing a wall where he could find the president. “I think you can see him at his house at noon,” was the reply.
The visitor went as directed and met the president, whom he recognized as the same man who was scrubbing a wall earlier in the day, though he was now in different clothes.
Later that same week, a letter came with a gift of $50,000 for the college. The spirit of service on the part of the president had made a positive impression on the visitor. Because the benefactor saw a man who was not too proud to help where needed, even though it involved what some might term a menial task, he was moved to contribute generously to the school.
The lesson is clear. God rewards those who take a lowly place. The Savior Himself set the pattern by becoming man and giving His life for us (Phil. 2:3-11).
Keep in mind Jesus’ words in Luke 14:11. “He who humbles himself will be exalted.” That’s humility’s reward! — Richard De Haan
God often uses lowly ones
His purpose to fulfill,
Because it takes a humble heart
To carry out His will. –DJD
True service is love in working clothes (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 7 – I’ll Pay You Later
You shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just. —Luke 14:14
Suppose a boss were to say to an employee, “We really appreciate what you’re doing around here, but we’ve decided to change the way we pay you. Starting today, we’re going to pay you later—after you retire.” Would the employee jump for joy? Of course not. That’s not the way things work in this world. We like our payment now—or at least every payday.
Did you know that God promises to “pay” us later—much later? And He asks us to be happy about it!
Jesus suggested that our ultimate reward for the good things we do in His name comes after we die. In Luke 14, Jesus said that if we care for the poor, the lame, and the blind, our reward for such kindness will come at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:14). He also said that if we are persecuted, we should “rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed [our] reward is great in heaven” (6:22-23). Surely, the Lord gives us comfort, love, and guidance today, but what wonderful things He has planned for us in the future!
This may not be the way we would have planned it; we don’t enjoy waiting for things. But imagine how glorious it will be when we receive our rewards in Jesus’ presence. What a grand time we’ll have as we enjoy what God has reserved for later. — Dave Branon
Beyond earth’s sorrows, the joys of heaven,
Eternal blessings with Christ my Lord;
Earth’s weeping ended, earth’s trials over,
Sweet rest in Jesus, O blest reward! —Gilmore
What is done for Christ in this life will be rewarded in the life to come (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 8 – Bella, the movie!
In the eyes of the world, Eduardo Verastegui had everything he needed to make him happy: money, fame, women, good looks, professional accomplishments. He had achieved fame as a singer in Latin America and as a soup opera idol in Mexico. So he came to the United States in hopes of broadening his cinematic horizons, by appearing in American movies.
But first he needed to learn English and so he came under the tutelage of a woman who was a committed Catholic. She put challenging questions to him: What is the purpose of your life? How are you using the talents God gave you? If you really love God, why do you live the way you do? Why do you treat God this way? Why do you betray him?
At first, Verastegui recoiled with pride, but soon enough the woman’s words penetrated his hard veneer. He was knocked from his high horse and forced to realize he was using his talents in a pride-filled, egotistical way. He underwent a profound transformation that led him to become co-producer and star of Bella, a movie about compassion and love. In humility, he was able to see God, himself, and those around him in a whole new, life-giving light.
Before his conversion, the life of this actor was a living parable of the toxic effects inflicted by pride on the human heart. Pride is classified as one of the seven “capital” sins because it causes ripple effects in the soul, engendering other sins, other vices. Unfettered pride can lead to hatred and defiance of God, kill the life of the soul, and lead to everything from lying and cheating and lust to the destruction of a rival’s reputation for the sake of self-glorification. It is one of the seven deadly sins, along with envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lust (in that order since fourth century monastic writings).
Blinded by his own pride and ambition, Verastegui discovered he was living an empty lie. His was a superficial life with a gigantic, gaping hole that no amount of self-love and worldly glory could fill. He found neither peace, nor tranquility, nor happiness. His pride backfired against him; his exaggerated sense of self-love led him to hate the man he had become. This pride-filled saga, of course, is a sequel to the story of Adam and Eve, seduced into thinking they could find truth and happiness apart from God, in and of themselves. A corrosive effect of this pride is hatred of God, which leads the sinner to defy the God of love and goodness and blatantly disobey his commandments. The sinner is led “to curse… the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments” (CCC: 2094).
In his own journey, Verastegui discovered pride blinds man to the truth of God. Seduced by the fame and power of the entertainment industry, Verastegui strayed from the Catholic values of his youth. Notions of right and wrong became relative. He became a cafeteria Catholic, accepting Church teachings he liked and rejecting those he didn’t like. He appointed himself the proud judge and arbiter of what was good and bad in his own life.
Such pride hardens the human heart. It prevents the love of God from penetrating the human heart, from softening it and transforming it into the likeness of God himself. It makes the proud man a prisoner of his own distorted sense of self-importance, and blinds him to the damage caused by actions born of pride and arrogance. In the most extreme form of pride, in narcissism, phychologists say the narcissistic individual is unable to empathize with the feelings of others, independent of himself or herself. Compassion dies in the heart of the proud, narcissistic individual. In the humility born of his conversion, Verastegui came to realize the damage, pain and suffering he had caused his family and friends with his egotistical lifestyle. He recognized, also, the pain and suffering he had inflicted on his own person. He acknowledged the great offense he had committed against God.
Through humble prayer and meditation, Verastegui discovered stirrings in the heart that led him to act truthfully, no longer in the darkness of pride but in the light of humility. In so many words, he was able to ask: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (CCC: 2706). His journey led him to found, along with associated, the movie-making company Metanoia, which produced Bella. “Metanoia” means change of heart, conversion, and Verastegui underwent a profound conversion, not only in his personal life, but also in his cinematic career. When he first arrived in Hollywood, he was offered the roles of proud, arrogant figures on the screen: the womanizer, the drug-trafficker, the gangster. These roles did nothing but reinforce negative, stereotypical images of Latinos. Verastegui resolved to never again bring to the screen those images that degrade and destroy the dignity of the human person. He instead resolved to make movies that lift people up, and thus draw moviegoers to the Lord and to increase the horizons of their love. He discovered pride collapses in on the self, while humility propels us out toward the good of others.
For Verastegui, the movie Bella opened up horizons of love toward the most vulnerable, most defenseless of human beings today, the unborn. On a worldly plane, the movie was not a great box office hit; on a spiritual plane, it may have helped to save the lives of unborn children through those who chose life after meeting Verastegui or viewing the movie. Verastegui’s new-found humility, centered in the worship and love of God, helped make all of this possible.
The truth is that humility liberates from a false sense of self-importance based on everything from family pedigree to accomplishments to material possessions. It is pride that breeds a sense of elitism, leading the proud and we-to-do to think themselves superior to the homeless, the poor, the unclean, and the lepers of the modern world. This attitude undercuts the root meaning of the word “humility,” which comes from the Latin word humus, meaning “ground or earth.” So it is that we admire someone for being “down-to-earth.” Humility inspired Verastegui to serve the unborn; it inspires the believer to consort with the lame, the crippled, the blind, the poor, the outcasts of the world, as the Gospel enjoins us to do. Blessed Mother Teresa is a classic example of that truth. She made it her life’s mission to invite the poorest of the poor to the banquet of life and was acclaimed a saint. She was beloved by people across national, religious, ideological and religious boundaries. Why? Because she shunned all vestiges of worldly pride, welcomed the humble and exuded humility in her very being.
In the book The Cure d’Ars Today, Fr. George William Rutler writes: “The aphorism says that a man wrapped in himself makes a small package; by addendum, a man unwrapped makes the largest of all packages. A soul undone by humility, contemptuous of egoism’s grasp, becomes the world’s embrace.”
God too falls in love with a genuinely humble man. When his English tutor succeeded in piercing through his armour of pride, Verastegui felt warmth in his heart he had never felt before. He cried for days, like an abandoned child in the corner of a room. He was enveloped by the love and mercy of God and the words from the Book of Sirach proved true in his life: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are and you will find favor with God.”
Verastegui says he now has the heart of a missionary, though he is by profession an actor and producer. The words of St. Thomas Aquinas ring true in his life: “Humility disposes one to free access to spiritual and divine blessings.” His goal is to make movies that will help people to know the Lord Jesus Christ and inspire them to greater heights of love. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, puts it this way: “Perfect humility consists in constantly making oneself small for the sake of love, to elevate others.”
In the end, humility leads the heart to rejoice in God, in all of his creatures, in all of creation. Without humility, we cannot know God, who stripped himself of all glory, humbled himself to the extreme that we might be exalted to life with him forever. (Source: Fr. Alvaro Delgado, “Homilies for Sunday Liturgies and Feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol. CX, No. 9. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, June/July 2010, pp. 53-56; Suggested readings from the Catechism: 2514-2527).
Reflection 9 – Our humble service
I remember, as a child, visiting my Grandmother at her home in West Aliquippa, PA. After eating something of whatever she was making, baking, or frying, I ran to the second floor so I could complete my homework.
As I was doing the work, my grandmother called for me to come down and take out the garbage. I said, “I can’t because I doing my work.”
My grandmother, more sternly than before said, “Just do this task, and by the time you are done taking out garbage, an angel will have come, and completed your homework…all of it.”
Immediately, I thought: “Good deal!” And I ran down the steps to pack and throw out the garbage. After I finished, I went to collect my angelic homework.
Nothing was done. My homework was at the place I left it, and to this day, I’m still looking and waiting for that angel.
Imagine that empty feeling of waiting for something you may never get—that empty feeling is shared by the gospel story of the wedding guests who took lower places at the table because they were expecting to be called to the front.
These guests must have assumed that their place in the society of the day would surely guarantee them a seat upfront.
It never happened. They were not asked to move to places of honor. The lower places are where they stayed.
A dose of humility would have helped these guests tremendously.
But what exactly is humility?
A quick Google search on humility will yield approximately 6,980,000 results. Humility has been seen as: “…not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” (C.S.Lewis)
Others remind us that: “Pride makes us artificial, and humility makes us real.”(Thomas Merton)
However, a common theme in the definitions, is that:
“humility equals realism” (James Kinn, 22C, p. 285.)
In other words, humility involves measuring myself by reality; it involves relating myself realistically to God and others.”(Kinn, p. 285)
The humble person knows his/her gifts and talents, and is thankful to God for them.
Humility does not imply denying our gifts, or not sharing our talents with others. God made us. We, in turn, are thankful to God for those gifts, and show our thankfulness by using our talents in service to one another.
Our gifts are given to us not because of anything we have done, or may do. Our gifts are given by a God who expects us to “humbly” use those gifts in service of his people. The Greco-Roman culture of the day had little understanding of the generosity and kindness of God. In the Greco-Roman ethic, gifts and kindnesses were to be returned to the giver of those gifts. If you received a gift, you, in turn, were obligated to return the favor of a gift.
Jesus teaches the exact opposite. Gifts should be given out of love, with no need of repayment. God gives us gifts with no expectation of repayment. Our gifts and talents are meant to be freely shared with others. After all, it is impossible to “out do” the generosity of God.
In essence, what constitutes a working understanding of humility? The humble person is both reflexive and prayerful. Humble people reflect on the gifts they have been freely given by God. In turn, their humility is translated into action by embracing, loving, and using their gifts—not solely for self, but for others.
It is the humble person who loves equally the “master and the servant” as both are equal in the sight of God. “The people most deaf to Jesus’ words are the self-sufficient, the religious professionals, the spiritually-skilled Pharisees, scribes, and priests.
“Those who hear most readily are the sinners, the social outcasts, those aware of their humanness, and their need for God. These are the humble of the earth.”(Foley, Footprints, p. 579,1994)
It is precisely these people that the humble serve, for “they are one with them.”
Humility is not a virtue readily addressed, or written about in our times. We are focused more on who we are, and what we have achieved, as opposed to serving the other with our gifts. So how do we practice humility?
Ben Brantley, the Broadway critic, opened his Aug. 6 New York Times review of “Hamilton,” (the story of our founding fathers) with this one line:
“Yes, it (“Hamilton”) really is that good.”
And why is it that good? The show fuses together a new form of the near-dead Broadway musical with hip-hop. It brings a new freshness to the art form of the musical.
Humility, too, “fuses” together the gifts God has given us with those on the margin of life that need our help.
Our humble service will, most likely, never be seen in the glare of a Broadway musical. However, our service will be seen in the eyes and hearts of those we help.
But, our humble service “…is that good.” – Read the source: http://www.hprweb.com/2016/08/homilies-for-august-2016/
Reflection 10 – On Jesus’ Humility
“Christ Himself Took the Lowest Place”
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters!
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14) we encounter Jesus dining in the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees. Noting that the guests take the first places at table, he tells a parable set at a wedding feast. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor at table. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited, and the host who invited you and him may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man!’ … Rather, when you are invited, take the last place” (Luke 14:8-10).
The Lord does not intend to give a lesson on etiquette nor on the hierarchy among different authorities. He is insisting on a decisive point having to do with humility: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
The deeper meaning of this parable makes us also think about man’s position in relation to God. The “last place” can, in fact, represent the condition of humanity degraded by sin, the condition from which the Incarnation of the only begotten Son alone can free it. For this reason Christ himself “took the lowest place in the world — the Cross — and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid” (“Deus Caritas Est,” 35).
At the end of the parable Jesus suggests to the leader of the Pharisees that he not invite his friends, family or rich neighbors to his table but the poorest people and the marginalized, who are unable to pay him back (cf. Luke 14:13-14), so that the gift be gratuitous. In the end the greatest recompense will be given by God, “who governs the world. … We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength” (“Deus Caritas Est,” 35).
Once again, therefore, we gaze upon Christ as model of humility and gratuity: from him we learn patience in temptations, meekness when we are offended, obedience to God in suffering, waiting for him who invited us to say to us: “Friend, come up higher!” (cf. Luke 14:10); the true good, in fact, is to be near him.
St. Louis IX, King of France — whose memorial was observed last Wednesday — put into practice what is written in the Book of Sirach: “The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself, and you will find grace before the Lord” (3:18). In his spiritual testament to his son he wrote: “If the Lord gives you some prosperity, not only must you humbly thank him, but take good care and do not become worse because of vainglory or something else, take care not to enter into conflict with God or offend him with his own gifts” (“Acta Sanctorum Augusti” 5 , 546).
Dear friends, today we recall the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the greatest among the prophets of Christ, who knew how to deny himself to make room for the Savior, and who suffered and died for the truth. Let us ask him and the Virgin Mary to guide us along the way of humility to become worthy of the divine recompense.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. Ii English he said:]
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors here today, especially the group of students from the Pontifical North American College. I pray that all of you, whether you are here on holiday or on pilgrimage or pursuing studies in Rome, will be able to draw closer to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving. May God bestow abundant blessings upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.
Reflection 11 – Self- esteem
There are two characters into today’s gospel story: the host and the guests. Both come under criticism, the host because he invited only the Beautiful People and the guests because they jockeyed for favored places.
Actually, in one sense, neither can really be blamed. They were both doing what is part of human nature, what is natural to all of us. They were pumping up their self-esteem. When you come right down to it, self-esteem is based on the drive to exist and to be significant. Look at me: I count! I’m somebody! I am. These are basic human drives and needs. So in this regard, the host and the guests were “doing what comes naturally.”
In this story, then, Jesus does not tell us to ignore our self-esteem. Rather, he asks us to consider what criteria we use to make ourselves feel important, significant. The criteria for both the host and guests were all wrong. They were based on competition and external status–fragile measurements, I might add.
Jesus says that genuine self-esteem is based within. Let me share with you the five major categories which social scientists have found are used by most people to measure self-esteem. They are significance to others, competence in terms of performance, power to influence people, body image, and possessions. Most people have developed their self-esteem around one or more of these five criteria. Let’s take a look at each one of them.
Significance to others. As we grow from childhood and adolescence, we really do not have “self”-esteem but “other”-esteem; that is, what others think about us ultimately leads us to think the same thing about ourselves. Moving into adulthood, we still need to be in relationship with others. But now the question is, to whom have I given control over my sense of self-esteem?
Here’s where the trouble lies. If our self-esteem is based on what someone else thinks about us, what happens if that person is no longer in our lives? Fearful of being measured badly by others, we will always work to please them in a kind of ongoing co-dependency; our true self never emerges, that is, who we are and what we stand for. So basing our self-esteem solely on what others think is very risky business–and, ultimately, a false criterion. For in this way one can never learn to be one’s own person.
Competency. If my self-esteem is based on what I do–and do well–then my self-esteem will always be fragile. Why? Because when work and ability falter–and sooner or later they will–self-esteem falters as well, especially in our capitalistic culture which values people for what they can do, not for who they are. We see this with the elderly, who, because they are useless for production and reproduction, are not respected. Nor are those who are retired.
Priests, CEOs, managers, and the like are often praised for their competency, but never praised simply for who they are. And there comes a time when being praised for competency is just not enough. Suspicions arise in all of us that when I lose my competency I will lose respect, I will lose value, and I will lose the esteem of other people. I will even lose my identity.
A retired man, the founding genius of the company, went back after several years to visit the plant. The young receptionist did not have a clue who he was. When he mentioned that he had worked there for many years, she asked, “Oh? And who did you used to be?”
Power over other people. This works for a while as a source of self-esteem. But often, people begin to grow, they need to get out from under your power. And then what happens? Who are you without the power to influence others?
Body image. In our time of slick commercialism, when inner virtue and character are considered negligible and external imagery is everything, there exists a whole industry of spin doctors to create illusions. And so, body image becomes crucial for a sense of self-esteem. Pick up any women’s magazine and you’ll note right away that obsessions with weight, skin, hair, and clothes are a national pastime and have spawned a multi-billion-dollar market.
Products abound that will “cure” whatever is wrong with our appearance. Bulimia and anorexia thrive as the dark side of this culture of body image. To have the right currently acceptable image, to be “in,” people will suppress what is more noble in the human spirit. The kids, raised on media imagery and not inner character, are the prime victims of this market madness. God forbid you have the wrong “look” on the first day of school! You’ll be dubbed as a nerd forever.
Possessions. These are some people’s criteria for self-esteem. The more possessions, the louder the applause or greater the envy, and the bigger the boost to self-esteem. I recently saw this headline on the front page of the New York Times: “Millionaire’s Mega-Mansion Shocks Even the Hamptons.” The article that followed told us this:
Ira Rennert’s dream house in the Hamptons will have 29 bedrooms, 39 bathrooms, a 164-seat theater and a restaurant-sized kitchen with five refrigerators, 6 sinks, and a 1,500 gallon grease trap. Its outbuildings will include a sports pavilion with 2 tennis courts, 2 bowling alleys, and a basketball court; a garage sufficient for 200 cars, and a power plant with 4 huge water tanks, a 2.5-million BTU furnace, and a maze of underground tunnels.
The 63-acre, 5-building spread at the rim of the Atlantic Ocean will dwarf the White House, San Simeon, and Bill Gates’s mega-mansion. All told, the structures will occupy 110,000 square feet, 72,000 in the house, making Fair Field, as it is known, the largest home in America. (The average home is about 1600 to 2000 square feet).
Mr. Rennert’s grandiose plans have produced protest and speculation among the Masters of the Universe who summer here, where private tennis courts are commonplace, squadrons of gardeners tend manicured lawns, and the neighborhood market sells lobster salad for $40 a pound.
Because this house is not our topic, we won’t even mention that the cost, the labor, the raw materials, the maintenance, the resources, and the enormous amounts of energy used to build this mega-house complex for a handful of people would keep almost all the third world countries in South America functioning well above the poverty line for an entire year.
Nor will we mention that such gross conspicuous consumption of the planet’s resources is part of the reason why third and fourth world countries look with deep suspicion on Western plans for population control, urging them to have fewer children so they won’t use up the world’s resources. They, the majority poor, suspect that such policies exist only so that the minority rich can have even more resources to use on themselves. I’d wager that the poor of the world would be more convinced to voluntarily have fewer children if those in industrialized nations would, for example, voluntarily have fewer cars. And there’s not much chance of that happening, is there?
Anyway, back to our point: people who base their self-esteem on their possessions live by the rule that the less sense of inner worth one has, the more one must display grandiose outer worth. But let the market crash, and people who identified themselves with their possessions also crash. They jump off buildings.
These five criteria for determining self-esteem–significance to others, competency, power, body image, and possessions–are all so fragile, so false, so empty. In the end, all these criteria will do is betray us; they will let us down. That is the point behind the gospel story. The host invited only the Beautiful People, and the Beautiful People jockeyed for status and betrayed an inverted sense of self-value.
And so the gospel teaches that self-esteem, self-worth, is centered elsewhere. It is centered in being a child of God, being beloved by God, therefore, in doing the Godlike things of our nature such as telling the truth, keeping your word, giving to those who cannot repay, and taking the lowest seat. Self-esteem is what we used to call character. It is an inner anchoring in truth, a sense of the “deep within,” an awareness of our core identity as beings made in the image and likeness of God.
There is a reward for those who strive for an inner character that reflects God’s image; there are words for those who learn that using external criteria as a basis for self-esteem will ultimately betray them: “My friend, come up higher.” (Source: Fr. William J. Bausch, The Word in and out of Season. Connecticut: Twenty-Third Publications, 2001, pp. 249-252).
Reflection 12 – Table Talk and Etiquette in Luke’s World
TORONTO, AUG. 24, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Jesus’ most important teaching moments in Luke’s Gospel take place at meals, parties, and celebrations, and we learn that each meal has a far greater significance than simply eating and drinking with others.
Today’s table talk takes place in the context of the journey up to Jerusalem begun at 9:51. Nothing can be more serious for Luke than a dining table. Both the Eucharist and the revelations of the Risen Christ occur there (24:28-32). It was while eating together that Christ gave his disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit and their commission (Acts 1:8), and it was by table fellowship that Jews and Gentiles were able to be the Church (Acts 10:9-16; 11:1-18).
Table fellowship laden with meaning
Today’s banquet scene found only in Luke (14:1; 7-14), provides the opportunity for Jesus’ teachings on humility and presents a setting to display Luke’s interest in Jesus’ attitude toward the rich and the poor. For Judaism, for Jesus and for the early church, table fellowship was laden with very important religious, social and economic meanings.
Chapter 14:1 sets the stage for Verses 7-11. Jesus is at dinner in the home of a Pharisee and, while there, observes the social behavior of both guests and their host. Jesus’ attention to and observation of everyday activity provided him not only insights into the true character of his listeners. but also opportunities to reveal the way life is in the Kingdom of God. The frequent and familiar are not to be overlooked in defining life in God’s presence.
God exalts, not humans
What is the central point of today’s Gospel story? Our human egos are quite clever, and upon hearing that taking a low seat may not only avoid embarrassment but lead to elevation to the head table, may convert the instruction about humility into a new strategy for self-exaltation. Taking the low seat because one is humble is one thing; taking the low seat as a way to move up is another! This entire message can also be ridiculous if there is a mad dash for the lowest place, with ears cocked toward the host, waiting for the call to ascend.
Those who lift themselves up over others will be brought down; those who regard themselves as among the “lowly” — as human as anyone else — will be raised up. Raising up and exaltation belong to God; recognition of one’s lowliness is the proper stance for human beings. The act of humbling oneself is not something for its own sake, but for the sake either of God or of Christ.
Today’s first reading from the book of Sirach (3:17-18, 20, 28-29) speaks about authentic humility that gives a true estimate of self (7-19). Through it a man performs duty, avoids what is beyond his understanding and strength (20-22). Pride, however, begets false greatness, misjudgment, stubbornness, sorrow, affliction and perdition (3:23-27).
The only real security
The rich, the powerful, and the ‘just’ find it very difficult to be humbly open to God; they are full of confidence in their own treasures and securities. The only real security is the one based on friendship with God and service of God: to be a servant of human beings and of God after the example of Jesus of Nazareth. Exalting oneself is a form of self-reliance as opposed to reliance on God. This makes clear why being rich, prosperous, satisfied almost naturally imply being arrogant, proud, godless.
The second lesson of today’s Gospel goes against the accepted, normal practice of inviting only those who can be expected to return the favor in one form or another. Jesus reverses this norm: Do not invite to share a meal with you those who will some day reciprocate and even outdo you; instead, invite those who are never invited out — the poor, those who live on the fringes of society, and those from whom no favors can be expected.
Etiquette “chez” Luke
Being a host carries with it many pleasant and positive connotations: friendliness, generosity, graciousness and concern for the comfort of others. However Jesus also observes (Luke 14:12-14) that hosting can be distorted and terribly misused when the host does his/her work with strings attached! A host who expects a return on his or her behavior will not offer service or food to those who cannot repay, and so guest lists consist only of persons who are able to return the favor.
Jesus calls for “kingdom behavior”: inviting those with neither property nor place in society. God is our ultimate host, and we, as hosts are really behaving as guests, making no claims, setting no conditions, expecting no return. Luke’s fourfold list of the poor, the maimed, the lame and blind (13) is no surprise to the reader. We knew about these people since Mary sang about them in her Magnificat at the beginning of this Gospel (Luke 1:46-55) and Jesus addressed them in his inaugural sermon in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:16-30).
Jesus impropriety and lax mercy
As with so many things he did, Jesus’ befriending such types of people and eating with them angered his opponents. They murmured against him: “He has gone in to be a guest of a man who is a sinner,” or “Look at him who eats with tax-collectors and prostitutes!” But where others saw only sinners, people on the fringe, public pariahs to be hated and isolated, Jesus saw something else. He saw human beings, perhaps people trapped in their own failure, desperately trying to be something better, awkwardly trying to make amends for a life of injustice. Jesus of Nazareth would exclaim: “Today salvation has come to this house, since this man also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
To seek and save the lost, to exalt the poor and the lowly, to humble the rich, godless, haughty and arrogant, this was Jesus’ ministry. His opponents took offense at all this impropriety and lax mercy. All of those who Jesus recommends to be on our invitation lists are those who will receive the places of honor in the banquet of the kingdom: the poor, those who are maimed, lame, blind, gentiles, those who cannot repay us, who because of their status had not been allowed entrance into the center of the old Temple. But the walls of the new temple were to exclude no one.
Assemblies of the Old and New Covenants
In today’s second reading from Hebrews (12:18-19, 22-24a), the two covenants, of Moses and of Christ, are compared. This remarkably beautiful passage contrasts two great assemblies of people: that of the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai for the sealing of the old covenant and the promulgation of the Mosaic law, and that of the followers of Jesus gathered at Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly of the new covenant. This latter scene, marked by the presence of countless angels and of Jesus with his redeeming blood, is reminiscent of the celestial liturgies of the Book of Revelation.
The Mosaic covenant is shown to have originated in fear of God and threats of divine punishment (12:18-21). The covenant in Christ gives us direct access to God (22), makes us members of the Christian community, God’s children, a sanctified people (23), who have Jesus as mediator to speak for us (12:24). Not to heed the voice of the risen Christ is a graver sin than the rejection of the word of Moses (12:25-26). Though Christians fall away, God’s kingdom in Christ will remain and his justice will punish those guilty of deserting it (12:28-29).
Cardinal Newman’s weapons of saints
It is good to reflect on the words of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman in one of his memorable sermons on today’s Gospel entitled: “The Weapons of Saints.” http://www.newmanreader.org/works/parochial/volume6/sermon22.html
He writes: “There is a mysterious connexion between real advancement and self-abasement. If you minister to the humble and despised, if you feed the hungry, tend the sick, succour the distressed; if you bear with the froward, submit to insult, endure ingratitude, render good for evil, you are, as by a divine charm, getting power over the world and rising among the creatures. God has established this law. Thus He does His wonderful works. His instruments are poor and despised; the world hardly knows their names, or not at all. They are busied about what the world thinks petty actions, and no one minds them. They are apparently set on no great works; nothing is seen to come of what they do: they seem to fail. Nay, even as regards religious objects which they themselves profess to desire, there is no natural and visible connexion between their doings and sufferings and these desirable ends; but there is an unseen connexion in the kingdom of God. They rise by falling. Plainly so, for no condescension can be so great as that of our Lord Himself. Now the more they abase themselves the more like they are to Him; and the more like they are to Him, the greater must be their power with Him.”
Mother Teresa’s etiquette
As we remember Blessed Teresa of Calcutta on her 100th birthday (Aug. 26), and the 13th anniversary of her death on Sept. 5, let her words ring in our ears and in our communities this week. She understood well the table talk and etiquette of Luke and of Jesus.
“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
“If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
“If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
“If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
“What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
“If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
“The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
“Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
“In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” (Source: Fr. Thomas Rosica, Salt and Light Catholic Media).
Reflection 13 – St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.)
The most prolific and influential of the Latin Fathers, Augustine spent the first half of his life studying and teaching rhetoric in Tagaste, North Africa. He kept a concubine, and adhered to the religion of the Manicheans. His mother’s prayers and the preaching of Saint Ambrose influenced his conversion. But, as Augustine tells it in his Confessions, his entry into the Church was primarily the work of God, who pursued him throughout his life. “See who I was in myself and by myself. I have destroyed myself, but he who made me remade me.” After his conversion, Augustine was elected bishop of Hippo. The “Doctor of Grace,” Augustine died in 430 A.D.
A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience.
There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love.
Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism.
In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).
Augustine is still acclaimed and condemned in our day. He is a prophet for today, trumpeting the need to scrap escapisms and stand face-to-face with personal responsibility and dignity.
“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. Things held me far from you—things which, if they were not in you, were not at all. You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness. You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors and I drew in breath—and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace” (St. Augustine, Confessions).
Patron Saint of: Printers
Related St. Anthony Messenger article(s)
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1121
SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint.
|Augustine of Hippo|
|Bishop of Hippo Regius|
Saint Augustine from a 19th-century engraving
|Birth name||Aurelius Augustinus|
|Born||13 November 354
Thagaste, Numidia (modern-day Souk Ahras, Algeria)
|Died||28 August 430 (aged 75)
Hippo Regius, Numidia(modern-day Annaba, Algeria)
|Buried||San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro,Pavia, Italy|
|Denomination||Western Christianity (pre-Schism; claimed by both theCatholic and Eastern Orthodoxsides)|
|Feast day||28 August (Western)
15 June (Eastern)
4 November (Assyrian)
|Venerated in||All Christian denominationswhich venerate saints|
|Title as Saint||Bishop, philosopher, theologian, Doctor of the Church (Doctor of Grace)|
|Attributes||Child; dove; pen; shell, pierced heart, holding book with a small church, bishop’s staff, miter|
|Patronage||Brewers; printers; theologians;
Bridgeport, Connecticut;Cagayan de Oro, Philippines;San Agustin, Isabela
|Shrines||San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro,Pavia, Italy|
|Part of a series on|
|Augustine of Hippo|
|Influences and followers|
Augustine of Hippo (/ɔːˈɡʌstᵻn/ or /ˈɔːɡəstɪn/; Latin: Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis;[note 1] 13 November 354 – 28 August 430), also known as Saint Augustine, Saint Austin, Blessed Augustine, and the Doctor of Grace (Latin:Doctor gratiae), was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development ofWestern Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius (modern-day Annaba, Algeria), located in Numidia (Roman province of Africa). He is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are The City of God and Confessions.
According to his contemporary, Jerome, Augustine “established anew the ancient Faith.”[note 2] In his early years, he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterward by the neo-Platonism of Plotinus. After his baptism and conversion to Christianity in 387, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and perspectives. Believing that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, he helped formulate the doctrine of original sin and made seminal contributions to the development of just war theory.
When the Western Roman Empire began to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Church as a spiritualCity of God, distinct from the material Earthly City. His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. The segment of the Church that adhered to the concept of the Trinity as defined by the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople closely identified with Augustine’s City of God.
In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint, a preeminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinians. His memorial is celebrated on 28 August, the day of his death. He is the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, the alleviation of sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses. Many Protestants, especiallyCalvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of the Protestant Reformation due to his teachings onsalvation and divine grace.
In the East, some of his teachings are disputed and have in the 20th century in particular come under attack by such theologians as John Romanides. But other theologians and figures of the Eastern Orthodox Church have shown significant appropriation of his writings, chiefly Georges Florovsky. The most controversial doctrine surrounding his name is the filioque, which has been rejected by the Orthodox Church. Other disputed teachings include his views on original sin, the doctrine of grace, and predestination. Nevertheless, though considered to be mistaken on some points, he is still considered a saint, and has even had influence on some Eastern Church Fathers, most notably Saint Gregory Palamas. In the Orthodox Church his feast day is celebrated on 28 August, and he carries the title ofBlessed.
Augustine was born in the year 354 AD in the municipium of Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa.His mother, Monica or Monnica, was a devout Christian; his father Patricius was a Pagan who converted to Christianity on his deathbed. Scholars generally agree that Augustine and his family were Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa, but that they were heavily Romanized, speaking only Latin at home as a matter of pride and dignity. In his writings, Augustine leaves some information as to the consciousness of his African heritage. For example, he refers to Apuleius as “the most notorious of us Africans,” to Ponticianus as “a country man of ours, insofar as being African,” and to Faustus of Mileve as “an African Gentleman.”
Augustine’s family name, Aurelius, suggests that his father’s ancestors were freedmen of the gens Aurelia given full Roman citizenship by the Edict of Caracalla in 212. Augustine’s family had been Roman, from a legal standpoint, for at least a century when he was born. It is assumed that his mother, Monica, was of Berber origin, on the basis of her name, but as his family were honestiores, an upper class of citizens known as honorable men, Augustine’s first language is likely to have been Latin.
At the age of 11, Augustine was sent to school at Madaurus (now M’Daourouch), a small Numidian city about 19 miles (31 km) south of Thagaste. There he became familiar with Latin literature, as well as pagan beliefs and practices. His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden. He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions. He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry, but because “it was not permitted.” His very nature, he says, was flawed. ‘It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.” From this incident he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin, and in need of the grace of Christ.
At the age of 17, through the generosity of his fellow citizen Romanianus, Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. It was while he was a student in Carthage that he read Cicero‘s dialogue Hortensius (now lost), which he described as leaving a lasting impression and sparking his interest in philosophy. Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the church to follow the Manichaean religion, much to his mother’s despair. As a youth Augustine lived a hedonisticlifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits. The need to gain their acceptance forced inexperienced boys like Augustine to seek or make up stories about sexual experiences. It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”
At about the age of 19, Augustine began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. Though his mother wanted him to marry a person of his class, the woman remained his lover for over fifteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus, who was viewed as extremely intelligent by his contemporaries. In 385, Augustine ended his relationship with his lover in order to prepare himself to marry a ten-year-old heiress. (He had to wait for two years because the legal age of marriage was twelve. By the time he was able to marry her, however, he instead decided to become a celibate priest.)
Augustine was from the beginning a brilliant student, with an eager intellectual curiosity, but he never mastered Greek —he tells us that his first Greek teacher was a brutal man who constantly beat his students, and Augustine rebelled and refused to study. By the time he realized that he needed to know Greek, it was too late; and although he acquired a smattering of the language, he was never eloquent with it. However, his mastery of Latin was another matter. He became an expert both in the eloquent use of the language and in the use of clever arguments to make his points.
Augustine taught grammar at Thagaste during 373 and 374. The following year he moved to Carthage to conduct a school of rhetoric and would remain there for the next nine years. Disturbed by unruly students in Carthage, he moved to establish a school in Rome, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practised, in 383. However, Augustine was disappointed with the apathetic reception. It was the custom for students to pay their fees to the professor on the last day of the term, and many students attended faithfully all term, and then did not pay. Manichaean friends introduced him to the prefect of the City of Rome, Symmachus, who had been asked by the imperial court at Milan to provide a rhetoric professor.
Augustine won the job and headed north to take his position in late 384. Thirty years old, he had won the most visible academic position in the Latin world at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers. Although Augustine showed some fervour for Manichaeism, he was never an initiate or “elect”, but an “auditor”, the lowest level in the sect’s hierarchy.
While still at Carthage a disappointing meeting with the Manichaean Bishop, Faustus of Mileve, a key exponent of Manichaean theology, started Augustine’s scepticism of Manichaeanism. In Rome, he reportedly turned away from Manichaeanism, embracing the scepticism of the New Academy movement. Because of his education, Augustine had great rhetorical prowess and was very knowledgeable of the philosophies behind many faiths. At Milan, his mother’s religiosity, Augustine’s own studies in Neoplatonism, and his friend Simplicianus all urged him towards Christianity. Initially Augustine was not strongly influenced by Christianity and its ideologies, but after coming in contact with Ambrose of Milan, Augustine reevaluated himself and was forever changed.
Like Augustine, Ambrose was a master of rhetoric, but older and more experienced. Augustine was very much influenced by Ambrose, even more than by his own mother and others he admired. Augustine arrived in Milan and was immediately taken under the wing by Ambrose. Within his Confessions, Augustine states, “That man of God received me as a father would, and welcomed my coming as a good bishop should.” Soon, their relationship grew, as Augustine wrote, “And I began to love him, of course, not at the first as a teacher of the truth, for I had entirely despaired of finding that in thy Church—but as a friendly man.” Augustine visited Ambrose in order to see if Ambrose was one of the greatest speakers and rhetoricians in the world. More interested in his speaking skills than the topic of speech, Augustine quickly discovered that Ambrose was a spectacular orator. Eventually, Augustine says that through the unconscious, he was led into the faith of Christianity.
Augustine’s mother had followed him to Milan and arranged a marriage for which he abandoned his concubine. Although Augustine accepted this marriage, Augustine was deeply hurt by the loss of his lover. He said, “My mistress being torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, my heart, which clave to her, was racked, and wounded, and bleeding.” Augustine confessed that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust, so he procured another concubine since he had to wait two years until his fiancée came of age. However, his wound was not healed, even began to fester.
There is evidence that Augustine may have considered this former relationship to be equivalent to marriage. In his Confessions, he admitted that the experience eventually produced a decreased sensitivity to pain. Augustine eventually broke off his engagement to his eleven-year-old fiancée, but never renewed his relationship with either of his concubines. Alypius of Thagaste steered Augustine away from marriage, saying that they could not live a life together in the love of wisdom if he married. Augustine looked back years later on the life at Cassiciacum, a villa outside of Milan where he gathered with his followers, and described it as Christianae vitae otium – the Christian life of leisure.
In the summer of 386, at the age of 31, after having heard and been inspired and moved by the story of Ponticianus’s and his friends’ first reading of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert, Augustine converted to Christianity. As Augustine later told it, his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to “take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible and read the first thing he saw. Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – the so-called “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 through 15 – wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers, and the believers’ resulting behaviour. The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13, verses 13 and 14, to wit:
Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.
He later wrote an account of his conversion – his very transformation, as Paul described – in his Confessions (Latin: Confessiones), which has since become a classic of Christian theology and a key text in the history of autobiography. This work is an outpouring of thanksgiving and penitence. Although it is written as an account of his life, the Confessions also talks about the nature of time, causality, free will, and other important philosophical topics. The following is taken from that work:
Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou was with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispell my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.
Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan. A year later, in 388, Augustine completed his apology On the Holiness of the Catholic Church. That year, also, Adeodatus and Augustine returned home to Africa. Augustine’s mother Monica died at Ostia, Italy, as they prepared to embark for Africa. Upon their arrival, they began a life of aristocratic leisure at Augustine’s family’s property. Soon after, Adeodatus, too, died. Augustine then sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house, which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends.
Much of Augustine’s conversion is dramatized in Johann Adolph Hasse‘s oratorio La conversione di Sant’ Agostino. In the libretto for the oratorio by Duchess Maria Antonia of Bavaria, Augustine’s mother Monica is presented as a prominent character that is worried that Augustine might not convert to Christianity. The Duchess took a five-part drama by Franciscus Neumayr and condensed it for the purposes of the oratorio. As Dr. Andrea Palent says:
Maria Antonia Walpurgis revised the five-part Jesuit drama into a two-part oratorio liberty in which she limits the subject to the conversion of Augustine and his submission to the will of God. To this was added the figure of the mother, Monica, so as to let the transformation appear by experience rather than the dramatic artifice of deus ex machina.
Throughout the oratorio Augustine shows his willingness to turn to God, but the burden of the act of conversion weighs heavily on him. This is displayed by Hasse through extended recitative passages.
In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba), in Algeria. He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion, to which he had formerly adhered.
In 395 he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo, and became full Bishop shortly thereafter, hence the name “Augustine of Hippo”; and he gave his property to the church of Thagaste. He remained in that position until his death in 430. He wrote his autobiographical Confessions in 397-398. His work The City of God was written to console his fellow Christians shortly after theVisigoths had sacked Rome in 410.
Augustine worked tirelessly in trying to convince the people of Hippo to convert to Christianity. Though he had left his monastery, he continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a regula for his monastery that led to his designation as the “patron saint of regular clergy.”
Much of Augustine’s later life was recorded by his friend Possidius, bishop of Calama (present-day Guelma, Algeria), in hisSancti Augustini Vita. Possidius admired Augustine as a man of powerful intellect and a stirring orator who took every opportunity to defend Christianity against its detractors. Possidius also described Augustine’s personal traits in detail, drawing a portrait of a man who ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his see.
Shortly before Augustine’s death the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that had converted to Arianism, invaded Roman Africa. The Vandals besieged Hippo in the spring of 430, when Augustine entered his final illness. According to Possidius, one of the few miracles attributed to Augustine, the healing of an ill man, took place during the siege.:43 According to Possidius, Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. He died on 28 August 430.:57Shortly after his death, the Vandals lifted the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long thereafter and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine’s cathedral and library, which they left untouched.
Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim, and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1298 by Pope Boniface VIII. His feast day is 28 August, the day on which he died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.
According to Bede‘s True Martyrology, Augustine’s body was later translated or moved to Cagliari, Sardinia, by the Catholic bishops expelled from North Africa byHuneric. Around 720, his remains were transported again by Peter, bishop of Pavia and uncle of the Lombard king Liutprand, to the church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia, in order to save them from frequent coastal raids by Muslims. In January 1327, Pope John XXII issued the papal bull Veneranda Santorum Patrum, in which he appointed the Augustinians guardians of the tomb of Augustine (called Arca), which was remade in 1362 and elaborately carved with bas-reliefs of scenes from Augustine’s life.
In October 1695, some workmen in the Church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia discovered a marble box containing some human bones (including part of a skull). A dispute arose between the Augustinian hermits (Order of Saint Augustine) and the regular canons (Canons Regular of Saint Augustine) as to whether these were the bones of Augustine. The hermits did not believe so; the canons affirmed that they were. Eventually Pope Benedict XIII (1724–1730) directed the Bishop of Pavia,Monsignor Pertusati, to make a determination. The bishop declared that, in his opinion, the bones were those of Saint Augustine.
The Augustinians were expelled from Pavia in 1700, taking refuge in Milan with the relics of Augustine, and the disassembled Arca, which were removed to the cathedral there. San Pietro fell into disrepair, but was finally rebuilt in the 1870s, under the urging of Agostino Gaetano Riboldi, and reconsecrated in 1896 when the relics of Augustine and the shrine were once again reinstalled.
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Augustine was one of the first Christian ancient Latin authors with a very clear vision of theological anthropology. He saw the human being as a perfect unity of two substances: soul and body. In his late treatise On Care to Be Had for the Dead, section 5 (420 AD) he exhorted to respect the body on the grounds that it belonged to the very nature of the humanperson. Augustine’s favourite figure to describe body-soul unity is marriage: caro tua, coniunx tua — your body is your wife. Initially, the two elements were in perfect harmony. After the fall of humanity they are now experiencing dramatic combat between one another. They are two categorically different things. The body is a three-dimensional object composed of the four elements, whereas the soul has no spatial dimensions. Soul is a kind of substance, participating in reason, fit for ruling the body. Augustine was not preoccupied, as Plato and Descartes were, with going too much into details in efforts to explain the metaphysics of the soul-body union. It sufficed for him to admit that they are metaphysically distinct: to be a human is to be a composite of soul and body, and the soul is superior to the body. The latter statement is grounded in his hierarchical classification of things into those that merely exist, those that exist and live, and those that exist, live, and have intelligence or reason.
Like other Church Fathers such as Athenagoras, Augustine “vigorously condemned the practice of induced abortion“, and although he disapproved of an abortion during any stage of pregnancy, he made a distinction between early abortions and later ones. Nevertheless, he accepted the distinction between “formed” and “unformed” fetuses mentioned in theSeptuagint translation of Exodus 21:22-23, a text that, he observed, did not classify as murder the abortion of an “unformed” fetus, since it could not be said with certainty that it had already received a soul (see, e.g., De Origine Animae4.4).
Augustine led many clergy under his authority at Hippo to free their slaves “as an act of piety.” He boldly wrote a letter urging the emperor to set up a new law against slave traders and was very much concerned about the sale of children. Christian emperors of his time for 25 years had permitted sale of children, not because they approved of the practice, but as a way of preventing infanticide when parents were unable to care for a child. Augustine noted that the tenant farmers in particular were driven to hire out or to sell their children as a means of survival. In his famous book, The City of God, he presents the development of slavery as a product of sin and as contrary to God’s divine plan. He wrote that God “did not intend that this rational creature, who was made in his image, should have dominion over anything but the irrational creation – not man over man, but man over the beasts.” Thus he wrote that righteous men in primitive times were made shepherds of cattle, not kings over men. “The condition of slavery is the result of sin,” he declared. However, he did on at least one occasion support slavery. In The City of God, Augustine wrote he felt slavery was not a punishment. He wrote: “Slavery is not penal in character and planned by that law which commands the preservation of the natural order and forbids disturbance.”
Augustine’s contemporaries often believed astrology to be an exact and genuine science. Its practitioners were regarded as true men of learning and calledmathemathici. Astrology played a prominent part in Manichaean doctrine, and Augustine himself was attracted by their books in his youth, being particularly fascinated by those who claimed to foretell the future. Later, as a bishop, he used to warn that one should avoid astrologers who combine science and horoscopes. (Augustine’s term “mathematici”, meaning “astrologers”, is sometimes mistranslated as “mathematicians”.) According to Augustine, they were not genuine students of Hipparchus orEratosthenes but “common swindlers”.:63
In City of God, Augustine rejected both the immortality of the human race proposed by pagans, and contemporary ideas of ages (such as those of certain Greeks and Egyptians) that differed from the Church’s sacred writings. In The Literal Interpretation of Genesis, Augustine took the view that everything in the universe was created simultaneously by God, and not in seven calendar days like a literal interpretation of Genesis would require. He argued that the six-day structure of creation presented in the Book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way – it would bear a spiritual, rather than physical, meaning, which is no less literal. One reason for this interpretation is the passage in Sirach 18:1, creavit omnia simul (“He created all things at once”), which Augustine took as proof that the days of Genesis 1 had to be taken non-literally. Augustine also does not envision original sin as causing structural changes in the universe, and even suggests that the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall. Apart from his specific views, Augustine recognizes that the interpretation of the creation story is difficult, and remarks that we should be willing to change our mind about it as new information comes up.
Augustine developed his doctrine of the Church principally in reaction to the Donatist sect. He taught that there is one Church, but that within this Church there are two realities, namely, the visible aspect (the institutional hierarchy, the Catholic sacraments, and the laity) and the invisible (the souls of those in the Church, who are either dead, sinful members or elect predestined for Heaven). The former is the institutional body established by Christ on earth which proclaims salvation and administers the sacraments, while the latter is the invisible body of the elect, made up of genuine believers from all ages, and who are known only to God. The Church, which is visible and societal, will be made up of “wheat” and “tares”, that is, good and wicked people (as per Mat. 13:30), until the end of time. This concept countered the Donatist claim that only those in a state of grace were the “true” or “pure” church on earth, and that priests and bishops who were not in a state of grace had no authority or ability to confect the sacraments.:28 Augustine’s ecclesiology was more fully developed in City of God. There he conceives of the church as a heavenly city or kingdom, ruled by love, which will ultimately triumph over all earthly empires which are self-indulgent and ruled by pride. Augustine followed Cyprian in teaching that the bishops and priests of the Church are thesuccessors of the Apostles, and that their authority in the Church is God-given.
Augustine originally believed in premillennialism, namely that Christ would establish a literal 1,000-year kingdom prior to the generalresurrection, but later rejected the belief, viewing it as carnal. He was the first theologian to expound a systematic doctrine ofamillennialism, although some theologians and Christian historians believe his position was closer to that of modern postmillennialists. The mediaeval Catholic church built its system of eschatology on Augustinian amillennialism, where Christ rules the earth spiritually through his triumphant church. At the Reformation, theologians such as John Calvin accepted amillennialism. Augustine taught that the eternal fate of the soul is determined at death, and that purgatorial fires of the intermediate state purify only those that died in communion with the Church. His teaching provided fuel for later theology.
Epistemological concerns shaped Augustine’s intellectual development. His early dialogues [Contra academicos (386) and De Magistro(389)], both written shortly after his conversion to Christianity, reflect his engagement with sceptical arguments and show the development of his doctrine of inner illumination. The doctrine of illumination claims that God plays an active and regular part in human perception (as opposed to God designing the human mind to be reliable consistently, as in, for example, Descartes’ idea of clear and distinct perceptions) and understanding by illuminating the mind so that human beings can recognize intelligible realities that God presents. According to Augustine, illumination is obtainable to all rational minds, and is different from other forms of sense perception. It is meant to be an explanation of the conditions required for the mind to have a connection with intelligible entities. Augustine also posed the problem of other minds throughout different works, most famously perhaps in On the Trinity (VIII.6.9), and developed what has come to be a standard solution: the argument from analogy to other minds. In contrast to Plato and other earlier philosophers, Augustine recognized the centrality of testimony to human knowledge and argued that what others tell us can provide knowledge even if we don’t have independent reasons to believe their testimonial reports.
Augustine asserted that Christians should be pacifists as a personal, philosophical stance. However, peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin. Defence of one’s self or others could be a necessity, especially when authorized by a legitimate authority. While not breaking down the conditions necessary for war to be just, Augustine coined the phrase in his work The City of God. In essence, the pursuit of peace must include the option of fighting for its long-term preservation. Such a war could not be pre-emptive, but defensive, to restore peace. Thomas Aquinas, centuries later, used the authority of Augustine’s arguments in an attempt to define the conditions under which a war could be just.
Although Augustine did not develop an independent Mariology, his statements on Mary surpass in number and depth those of other early writers. Even before theCouncil of Ephesus, he defended the ever Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, who, because of her virginity, is full of grace. Likewise, he affirmed that the Virgin Mary “conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever.”
Augustine took the view that, if a literal interpretation contradicts science and our God-given reason, the Biblical text should be interpreted metaphorically. While each passage of Scripture has a literal sense, this “literal sense” does not always mean that the Scriptures are mere history; at times they are rather an extendedmetaphor.
Augustine taught that Original sin of Adam and Eve was either an act of foolishness (insipientia) followed by pride and disobedience to God or that pride came first.[note 3] The first couple disobeyed God, who had told them not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17). The tree was a symbol of the order of creation. Self-centeredness made Adam and Eve eat of it, thus failing to acknowledge and respect the world as it was created by God, with its hierarchy of beings and values.[note 4] They would not have fallen into pride and lack of wisdom, if Satan hadn’t sown into their senses “the root of evil” (radix Mali). Their nature was wounded by concupiscence or libido, which affected human intelligence and will, as well as affections and desires, including sexual desire.[note 5] In terms of metaphysics, concupiscence is not a being but bad quality, the privation of good or a wound.
Augustine’s understanding of the consequences of the original sin and of necessity of the redeeming grace was developed in the struggle against Pelagius and his Pelagian disciples, Caelestius and Julian of Eclanum, who had been inspired by Rufinus of Syria, a disciple of Theodore of Mopsuestia. They refused to agree that libido wounded human will and mind, insisting that the human nature was given the power to act, to speak, and to think when God created it. Human nature cannot lose its moral capacity for doing good, but a person is free to act or not to act in a righteous way. Pelagius gave an example of eyes: they have capacity for seeing, but a person can make either good or bad use of it.:355–356 Like Jovinian, Pelagians insisted that human affections and desires were not touched by the fall either. Immorality, e.g. fornication, is exclusively a matter of will, i.e. a person does not use natural desires in a proper way. In opposition to that, Augustine pointed out the apparent disobedience of the flesh to the spirit, and explained it as one of the results of original sin, punishment of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God.
Augustine had served as a “Hearer” for the Manichaeans for about nine years, who taught that the original sin was carnal knowledge. But his struggle to understand the cause of evil in the world started before that, at the age of nineteen. By malum (evil) he understood most of all concupiscence, which he interpreted as a vice dominating person and causing in men and women moral disorder. A. Trapè insists that Augustine’s personal experience cannot be credited for his doctrine about concupiscence. His marriage experience, though Christian marriage celebration was missing, was exemplary, very normal and by no means specifically sad.As J. Brachtendorf showed, Augustine used Ciceronian Stoic concept of passions, to interpret Paul’s doctrine of universal sin and redemption.
The view that not only human soul but also senses were influenced by the fall of Adam and Eve was prevalent in Augustine’s time among the Fathers of the Church. It is clear that the reason for Augustine’s distancing from the affairs of the flesh was different from that of Plotinus, a neo-Platonist[note 6] who taught that only through disdain for fleshly desire could one reach the ultimate state of mankind. Augustine taught the redemption, i.e. transformation and purification, of the body in the resurrection.
Some authors perceive Augustine’s doctrine as directed against human sexuality and attribute his insistence on continence and devotion to God as coming from Augustine’s need to reject his own highly sensual nature as described in the Confessions. But in view of his writings it is apparently a misunderstanding.:312[note 7] Augustine taught that human sexuality has been wounded, together with the whole of human nature, and requires redemption of Christ. That healing is a process realized in conjugal acts. The virtue of continence is achieved thanks to the grace of the sacrament of Christian marriage, which becomes therefore a remedium concupiscentiae – remedy of concupiscence. The redemption of human sexuality will be, however, fully accomplished only in the resurrection of the body.
The sin of Adam is inherited by all human beings. Already in his pre-Pelagian writings, Augustine taught that Original Sin is transmitted to his descendants by concupiscence, which he regarded as the passion of both, soul and body,[note 8] making humanity a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd) and much enfeebling, though not destroying, the freedom of the will.:1200–1204
Augustine’s formulation of the doctrine of original sin was confirmed at numerous councils, i.e. Carthage (418), Ephesus (431),Orange (529), Trent (1546) and by popes, i.e. Pope Innocent I (401–417) and Pope Zosimus (417–418). Anselm of Canterburyestablished in his Cur Deus Homo the definition that was followed by the great 13th century Schoolmen, namely that Original Sin is the “privation of the righteousness which every man ought to possess”, thus separating it from concupiscence, with which some of Augustine’s disciples had defined it:371 as later did Luther and Calvin.:1200–1204 In 1567, Pope Pius Vcondemned the identification of Original Sin with concupiscence.:1200–1204
Augustine taught that some people are predestined by God to salvation by an eternal, sovereign decree which is not based on man’s merit or will. The saving grace which God bestows is irresistible and unfailingly results in conversion. God also grants those whom he saves with the gift of perseverance so that none of those whom God has chosen may conceivably fall away.:44
In On Rebuke and Grace (De correptione et gratia), Augustine wrote: “And what is written, that He wills all men to be saved, while yet all men are not saved, may be understood in many ways, some of which I have mentioned in other writings of mine; but here I will say one thing: He wills all men to be saved, is so said that all the predestinated may be understood by it, because every kind of men is among them.”
Included in Augustine’s theodicy is the claim that God created humans and angels as rational beings possessing free will. Free will was not intended for sin, meaning it is not equally predisposed to both good and evil. A will defiled by sin is not considered as “free” as it once was because it is bound by material things, which could be lost or be difficult to part with, resulting in unhappiness. Sin impairs free will, while grace restores it. Only a will that was once free can be subjected to sin’s corruption.
The Catholic Church considers Augustine’s teaching to be consistent with free will. He often said that anyone can be saved if they wish. While God knows who will and won’t be saved, with no possibility for the latter to be saved in their lives, this knowledge represents God’s perfect knowledge of how humans will freely choose their destinies.
Also in reaction against the Donatists, Augustine developed a distinction between the “regularity” and “validity” of the sacraments. Regular sacraments are performed by clergy of the Catholic Church, while sacraments performed by schismatics are considered irregular. Nevertheless, the validity of the sacraments do not depend upon the holiness of the priests who perform them (ex opere operato); therefore, irregular sacraments are still accepted as valid provided they are done in the name of Christ and in the manner prescribed by the Church. On this point Augustine departs from the earlier teaching of Cyprian, who taught that converts from schismatic movements must be re-baptised. Augustine taught that sacraments administered outside the Catholic Church, though true sacraments, avail nothing. However, he also stated that baptism, while it does not confer any grace when done outside the Church, does confer grace as soon as one is received into the Catholic Church.
Augustine upheld the early Christian understanding of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, saying that Christ’s statement, “This is my body” referred to the bread he carried in his hands, and that Christians must have faith that the bread and wine are in fact the body and blood of Christ, despite what they see with their eyes.
Against the Pelagians, Augustine strongly stressed the importance of infant baptism. About the question whether baptism is an absolute necessity for salvation, however, Augustine appears to have refined his beliefs during his lifetime, causing some confusion among later theologians about his position. He said in one of his sermons that only the baptized are saved. This belief was shared by many early Christians. However, a passage from hisCity of God, concerning the Apocalypse, may indicate that Augustine did believe in an exception for children born to Christian parents.
Against certain Christian movements, some of which rejected the use of Hebrew Scripture, Augustine countered that God had chosen the Jews as a special people, and he considered the scattering of Jewish people by the Roman Empire to be a fulfillment of prophecy. He rejected homicidal attitudes, quoting part of the same prophecy, namely “Slay them not, lest they should at last forget Thy law” (Psalm 59:11). Augustine, who believed Jewish people would be converted to Christianity at “the end of time,” argued that God had allowed them to survive their dispersion as a warning to Christians; as such, he argued, they should be permitted to dwell in Christian lands. The sentiment sometimes attributed to Augustine that Christians should let the Jews “survive but not thrive” (it is repeated by authorJames Carroll in his book Constantine’s Sword, for example) is apocryphal and is not found in any of his writings.
For Augustine, the evil of sexual immorality was not in the sexual act itself, but rather in the emotions that typically accompany it. In On Christian Doctrine Augustine contrasts love, which is enjoyment on account of God, and lust, which is not on account of God. For Augustine, proper love exercises a denial of selfish pleasure and the subjugation of corporeal desire to God. He wrote that the pious virgins raped during the sack of Rome were innocent because they did not intend to sin.
He believed that the serpent approached Eve because she was less rational and lacked self-control, while Adam’s choice to eat was viewed as an act of kindness so that Eve would not be left alone. Augustine believed sin entered the world because man (the spirit) did not exercise control over woman (the flesh). Augustine does, however, praise women and their role in society and in the Church. In his Tractates on the Gospel of John, Augustine, commenting on the Samaritan woman from John 4:1–42, uses the woman as a figure of the church.
According to Raming, the authority of the Decretum Gratiani, a collection of Roman Catholic canon law which prohibits women from leading, teaching, or being a witness, rests largely on the views of the early church fathers—one of the most influential being Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. The laws and traditions founded upon Augustine’s views of sexuality and women continue to exercise considerable influence over church doctrinal positions regarding the role of women in the church.
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Augustine is considered an influential figure in the history of education. A work early in Augustine’s writings is De Magistro (On the Teacher), which contains insights about education. However, his ideas changed as he found better directions or better ways of expressing his ideas. In the last years of his life Saint Augustine wrote his Retractationes, reviewing his writings and improving specific texts. Henry Chadwick believes an accurate translation of “retractationes” may be “reconsiderations”. Reconsiderations can be seen as an overarching theme of the way Saint Augustine learned. Augustine’s understanding of the search for understanding/meaning/truth as a restless journey leaves room for doubt, development and change.
Augustine was a strong advocate of critical thinking skills. Because written works were still rather limited during this time, spoken communication of knowledge was very important. His emphasis on the importance of community as a means of learning distinguishes his pedagogy from some others. Augustine believed that dialogue/dialectic/discussion is the best means for learning, and this method should serve as a model for learning encounters between teachers and students. Saint Augustine’s dialogue writings model the need for lively interactive dialogue among learners.
He recommended adapting educational practices to fit the students’ educational backgrounds:
If a student has been well educated in a wide variety of subjects, the teacher must be careful not to repeat what they have already learned, but to challenge the student with material which they do not yet know thoroughly. With the student who has had no education, the teacher must be patient, willing to repeat things until the student understands, and sympathetic. Perhaps the most difficult student, however, is the one with an inferior education who believes he understands something when he does not. Augustine stressed the importance of showing this type of student the difference between “having words and having understanding,” and of helping the student to remain humble with his acquisition of knowledge.
Under the influence of Bede, Alcuin and Rabanus Maurus, De catechizandis rudibus came to exercise an important role in the education of clergy at the monastic schools, especially from the eighth century onwards.
Augustine believed that students should be given an opportunity to apply learned theories to practical experience. Yet another of Augustine’s major contributions to education is his study on the styles of teaching. He claimed there are two basic styles a teacher uses when speaking to the students. The mixed style includes complex and sometimes showy language to help students see the beautiful artistry of the subject they are studying. The grand style is not quite as elegant as the mixed style, but is exciting and heartfelt, with the purpose of igniting the same passion in the students’ hearts. Augustine balanced his teaching philosophy with the traditional Bible-based practice of strict discipline.
Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors in terms of surviving works, and the list of his works consists of more than one hundred separate titles. They include apologetic works against the heresies of the Arians, Donatists, Manichaeans andPelagians; texts on Christian doctrine, notably De Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine); exegetical works such as commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms and Paul’s Letter to the Romans; many sermons and letters; and the Retractationes, a review of his earlier works which he wrote near the end of his life. Apart from those, Augustine is probably best known for hisConfessions, which is a personal account of his earlier life, and for De civitate Dei (The City of God, consisting of 22 books), which he wrote to restore the confidence of his fellow Christians, which was badly shaken by the sack of Rome by the Visigothsin 410. His On the Trinity, in which he developed what has become known as the ‘psychological analogy’ of the Trinity, is also among his masterpieces, and arguably one of the greatest theological works of all time. He also wrote On Free Choice of the Will (De libero arbitrio), addressing why God gives humans free will that can be used for evil.
In both his philosophical and theological reasoning, Augustine was greatly influenced by Stoicism, Platonism and Neoplatonism, particularly by the work of Plotinus, author of the Enneads, probably through the mediation of Porphyry and Victorinus (as Pierre Hadot has argued). Although he later abandoned Neoplatonism, some ideas are still visible in his early writings. His early and influential writing on the human will, a central topic in ethics, would become a focus for later philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. He was also influenced by the works of Virgil (known for his teaching on language), and Cicero (known for his teaching on argument).
Philosopher Bertrand Russell was impressed by Augustine’s meditation on the nature of time in the Confessions, comparing it favourably to Kant‘s version of the view that time is subjective. Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine’s belief that God exists outside of time in the “eternal present”; that time only exists within the created universe because only in space is time discernible through motion and change. His meditations on the nature of time are closely linked to his consideration of the human ability of memory. Frances Yates in her 1966 study The Art of Memory argues that a brief passage of the Confessions, 10.8.12, in which Augustine writes of walking up a flight of stairs and entering the vast fields of memoryclearly indicates that the ancient Romans were aware of how to use explicit spatial and architectural metaphors as a mnemonictechnique for organizing large amounts of information.
Augustine’s philosophical method, especially demonstrated in his Confessions, had continuing influence on Continental philosophy throughout the 20th century. His descriptive approach to intentionality, memory, and language as these phenomena are experienced within consciousness and time anticipated and inspired the insights of modern phenomenology andhermeneutics. Edmund Husserl writes: “The analysis of time-consciousness is an age-old crux of descriptive psychology and theory of knowledge. The first thinker to be deeply sensitive to the immense difficulties to be found here was Augustine, who laboured almost to despair over this problem.” Martin Heidegger refers to Augustine’s descriptive philosophy at several junctures in his influential work Being and Time.[note 9] Hannah Arendt began her philosophical writing with a dissertation on Augustine’s concept of love, Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin (1929): “The young Arendt attempted to show that the philosophical basis for vita socialis in Augustine can be understood as residing in neighbourly love, grounded in his understanding of the common origin of humanity.” Jean Bethke Elshtain in Augustine and the Limits of Politics finds similarity between Augustine and Arendt in their concepts of evil[clarify]: “Augustine did not see evil as glamorously demonic but rather as absence of good, something which paradoxically is really nothing. Arendt … envisioned even the extreme evil which produced the Holocaust as merely banal [in Eichmann in Jerusalem].” Augustine’s philosophical legacy continues to influence contemporary critical theory through the contributions and inheritors of these 20th-century figures. Seen from a historical perspective, there are three main perspectives on the political thought of Augustine: first, political Augustinianism; second, Augustinian political theology; and third, Augustinian political theory.
Thomas Aquinas was influenced heavily by Augustine. On the topic of original sin, Aquinas proposed a more optimistic view of man than that of Augustine in that his conception leaves to the reason, will, and passions of fallen man their natural powers even after the Fall.:1200–1204 Augustine’s doctrine of efficacious grace found eloquent expression in the works of Bernard of Clairvaux; also Reformation theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin would look back to him as their inspiration. While in his pre-Pelagian writings Augustine taught that Adam’s guilt as transmitted to his descendants much enfeebles, though does not destroy, the freedom of their will, Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin affirmed that Original Sin completely destroyed liberty (see total depravity).:1200–1204
According to Leo Ruickbie, Augustine’s arguments against magic, differentiating it from miracle, were crucial in the early Church’s fight against paganism and became a central thesis in the later denunciation of witches and witchcraft. According to Professor Deepak Lal, Augustine’s vision of the heavenly city has influenced the secular projects and traditions of the Enlightenment, Marxism, Freudianism and eco-fundamentalism. Post-Marxist philosophers Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt rely heavily on Augustine’s thought, particularly The City of God, in their book of political philosophy Empire.
Augustine has influenced many modern-day theologians and authors such as John Piper. Hannah Arendt, an influential 20th-century political theorist, wrote her doctoral dissertation in philosophy on Augustine, and continued to rely on his thought throughout her career. Ludwig Wittgenstein extensively quotes Augustine inPhilosophical Investigations for his approach to language, both admiringly, and as a sparring partner to develop his own ideas, including an extensive opening passage from the Confessions. Contemporary linguists have argued that Augustine has significantly influenced the thought of Ferdinand de Saussure, who did not ‘invent’ the modern discipline of semiotics, but rather built upon Aristotelian and Neoplatonist knowledge from the Middle Ages, via an Augustinian connection: “as for the constitution of Saussurian semiotic theory, the importance of the Augustinian thought contribution (correlated to the Stoic one) has also been recognized. Saussure did not do anything but reform an ancient theory in Europe, according to the modern conceptual exigencies.”
In his autobiographical book Milestones, Pope Benedict XVI claims Augustine as one of the deepest influences in his thought.
Augustine was played by Dary Berkani in the 1972 television movie Augustine of Hippo. He was played by Franco Nero in the 2010 mini-series Augustine: The Decline of the Roman Empire and the 2012 feature film Restless Heart: The Confessions of Saint Augustine. The modern-day name links to the Agostinelli family.
Jostein Gaarder‘s philosophical novel Vita Brevis is presented as a translation of a manuscript written by Augustine’s concubine after he became the Bishop of Hippo. Augustine also appears in the novel The Dalkey Archive by Flann O’Brien (the pen name of Irish author Brian O’Nolan). He is summoned to an underwater cavern by an absurd scientist called De Selby; together they discuss life in Heaven and the characters of other saints. Walter M. Miller, Jr.‘s novel A Canticle for Leibowitz cites Augustine as possibly positing the first version of a theory of evolution. He appears prominently in Patricia McGerr‘s novel, My Brothers, Remember Monica: A Novel of the Mother of Augustine.
Bob Dylan recorded a song entitled “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” on his album John Wesley Harding. Pop artist Sting pays an homage of sorts to Augustine’s struggles with lust with the song “Saint Augustine in Hell” which appears on the singer’s 1993 album Ten Summoner’s Tales. Christian rock band Disciple named their fourth track on their 2010 release Horseshoes and Handgrenades after Augustine, called “The Ballad of St. Augustine”. The song “St. Augustine” appears onGirlyman‘s album, Supernova. American rock band Moe named and referenced Augustine of Hippo in their song entitled “St. Augustine”.
The conversion of Saint Augustine is dramatized in the oratorio La conversione di Sant’Agostino (1750) composed by Johann Adolph Hasse. The libretto for this oratorio, written by Duchess Maria Antonia of Bavaria, draws upon the influence of Metastasio (the finished libretto having been edited by him) and is based off an earlier five-act play Idea perfectae conversionis dive Augustinus written by the Jesuit priest Franz Neumayr.
The whole of North Africa was a glory of Christendom with St. Augustine, himself a Berber, its chief ornament.
At Carthage Augustine had become a Manichaean and when on his return home he propounded certain heretical propositions she drove him away from her table, but a strange vision urged her to recall him. It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.”
Here death overtook Monica and the finest pages of his “Confessions” were penned as the result of the emotion Augustine then experienced.