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Confessions Book Club: That Rest I Long for

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The Confessions of St. Augustine (Week 2 of 15)

I was all ready to admit that, though I’ve always wanted to read this great spiritual classic, that I was mostly disappointed by this first section.

I had already written half a post about how dull and wrong I found Augustine’s observations about babies (and I am very much in the thick of things with an infant right now), about how underwhelming I found his overall approach, and how uninspired I was.

And then I flipped through the section and this paragraph jumped out at me:

Who will enable me to find rest in you? Who will grant me that you come to my heart and intoxicate it, so that I forget my evils and embrace my one and only good, yourself? What are you to me? Have mercy so that I may find words. What am I to you that you command me to love you, and that, if I fail to love you, you are angry with me and threaten me with vast miseries? If I do not love you, is that but a little misery? What a wretch I am! In your mercies, Lord God, tell me what you are to me. ‘Say to my soul, I am your salvation’ (Ps. 34:3). Speak to me so that I may hear. See the ears of my heart are before you, Lord. Open them and ‘say to my soul, I am your salvation.’ After that utterance I will run and lay hold on you. Do not hide your face from me (cf. Ps. 26:9). Lest I die, let me die so that I may see it.

Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 5

It was a total “Yeah, and he’s a Doctor of the Church for a reason, isn’t he?” moment for me.

Rest isn’t something I’m getting a lot of these days. Life with an infant isn’t restful; life when the kids are fresh out of school for the summer also isn’t restful. But lately, my soul hasn’t been restful either. I have a certain discomfort about me, a kind of mental exhaustion combined with something else.

And it struck me, as I read this, what that something else is.

I’m overdue for confession.

For over three years, I’ve failed at my goal to go to confession monthly. I have no problem telling others about the many benefits of such a practice, of even sharing my own wonderful experiences with confession. And yet, somehow, I never seem to manage to get there…

There are plenty of “reasons,” quite a few excuses, and no shortage of retorts. The main reason I keep trying to go monthly, though, is what I’m experiencing now: a lack of inner rest.

My life won’t be restful on the outside for quite a few more years. (Or maybe it will. I’m operating on a hunch, however, that with four kids 10 and under and a full plate of work, I’m going to keep hoppin’ for a while.)

That makes it even more important for that inner calm and peace, that rest that Augustine alludes to. Who will enable me to find rest in God? God himself…but only if I let him.

Reading Assignment:

Books Two and Three

Discussion Questions:

1. Did you relate with Augustine’s chronicle of his infancy? What about this section struck you and made you do a double-take?

2. How do you seek rest? Where do you find it? What can you do this week to insert heavenly rest into your soul?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

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  • LizEst

    Reminds me of Isaiah 41:31 which says, in part, “…They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint” as well as Matthew 11: 28, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest”, Mark 6:31: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”, Psalm 62:2a “My soul rests in God alone” (which Augustine paraphrased in “Confessions Book 1, i (1)), and, of course, Psalm 23 where He refreshes the soul. The whole thrust of this theme is that it is in the Lord where our true rest lies. Even in the midst of a busy and hectic life, God will refresh us, give us rest and renew our soul…if we come to Him. Aha! Another secret of the saints! It is never in ourselves that we find true rest. Thanks for bringing that out…and God bless you and give your rest!

  • Cheryl

    Augustine’s reflections on childhood sinfulness reminded me of my own childhood. Raised as a protestent, who didn’t understand original sin. I did as I was told in most situations, and I recall thinking that I was a ‘good person’ . Sin did not really apply to me. If a little bit of sin happened to sneak through, the general confession said during our sunday service would take care of it because Jesus died for me. Now, as an adult convert to the catholic church, I realize that I am on a journey towards God. Like peeling an onion, one layer at a time, each daily examination of conscience makes me realize how much sin permeates my life and each confession moves me a tiny step closer.
    Rest is found in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

  • Midget01

    I am older and perhaps with age comes understanding; but I realize that peace is not in quietness. Yet, it also is not necessarily always in being still either. Peace to me is a state in which I know God to be there with me. At times peace might occur in the loud noises and actions of the world around me. I believe Thomas Merton seem to touch on this kind of Peace; along with Catherine de Hueck Doherty. Most of us are not monks who can head to the mountain tops and be alone and be at peace with Him and ourselves. Yet, we can do God’s work and remain among His people and live each day in harmony with those around us. Peace to me is not silent. Peace speaks God’s words loud and clear and in the midst of sharing IT then we find Peace which is Joy of knowing that we are in connection with God. So just because we have children who take us in many different directions does not mean that we can’t find peace in responding to their needs and living our lives as a contemplative in the midst of this Godly chaos. Mind Heart and Soul can come together in the middle of such things if we discover we are doing God’s will and not ours. I believe St. Francis de Sales would tell us to be who we are with God. That we don’t have to become someone else to be Holy or to get closer to Him. This was how I found God and peace during the years I was working on future saints. But I was able to teach children in a classroom who would learn while standing on their heads. Other teachers saw it as Chaos; while I saw it as a blessing. It’s all in our perception and how God works through us.

  • Mary Ellen

    I was taken aback at first by Saint Augustine’s descriptions of infancy and young childhood. But after a second and third reading I thought I began to get a little bit of insight into what he was trying to convey. I began to see that in infancy an infant wants it’s needs met even unknowingly. If it’s needs are not met it will cry and make a fuss. I can see even in my own adult life that at times when things occur my first thought is how will this affect me. I began to think that this self-centeredness is because of our sinful nature. And this is our inclinations that as an adult we need to try to discipline.
    I was also very moved by his description of his education. Both the physical discipline that he endured when not devoting his time properly to his studies. It did amaze me that this thinking lasted right up into the 20th century. I also was struck by him saying that his teachers were more concerned about his grammatical errors then about any errors in his character.
    I also made note of book one chapter 5,the passage that you spoke of about all “oh that I might rest in you”. But it was the part where he says, “The mansion of my soul is too narrow to receive You; let it be enlarged by You. It is all in ruins; be pleased to repair it. It has within it such things as will offend your gaze; I confess and know it, but who shall cleanse it? To whom besides You shall I cry out …” Those words touched me deeply for it is true, we need God to make us whole and wholly His. Happiness and peace can happen in the storms of this life if we remember to stay by the Lord’s side. I am thinking of how He slept in the boat in the midst of the storm.

  • KathyH

    I just joined the book club so I have not yet completed the readings to date. But the paragraph that Sarah posted above has touched my heart. I struggle with knowing the love of the Lord in my heart. I know intellectually that God loves me but my heart yearns to hear that confirmation from Him. I too say ‘…Speak to me so that I may hear. See the ears of my heart are before you, Lord. Open them and ‘say to my soul, I am your salvation.’ I look forward to reading this book to find out if God indeed opened St Augustine’s ears & heard those words. I suspect He did. God Bless.

  • Jeff Cann

    I thought his description of his schooling and forced learning were timeless. I can relate to his almost painful awareness of the inter-connectedness of his spirit and emotions. He’s remarkably blunt and honest with his thoughts and yet self-reflective and deprecating without being falsely humble.

    Although my B&N classic has a long introduction (which I greatly appreciate), the book jumps right into a man’s deep thoughts. Once I started to get to know him better through book 1, it did not feel so much like TMI. I think this book is going to require a careful read and time to let it soak in.

    On the topic of confession – as I convert I was fortunate enough to have Brother Larry in my RCIA group. When we got around to this topic in RCIA, he sat down and looked at me and said, “Jeff, I love going to confession!” I asked him why and he said that he feels like he floats out of the confessional with relief and joy. Br. Larry was a man filled with the Holy Spirit whose joy spilled out despite a wife who left him with 6 young kids and a farm in Kansas. His positive attitude toward this sacrament is a permanent gift to me (it’s been 15 years).

    For about 3 years, I tried to go monthly and ended up going 4-5 times a year. Then a few years ago, I committed to monthly and ironically found that it was not frequent enough so now I go usually every-other-week. Honestly, I should go weekly… 🙂 What helped to create a habit was to put a recurring appointment in my electronic calendar so that I always have a reminder to go every other Thursday morning.

    I seek rest in prayer.

    Good questions Sarah! Thank you!


    I just finished reading book 1 and really enjoyed it. St. Augustine’s chronicle of infancy was insightful. I had never really thought about my infancy and all God had provided so that I could become an adult. It made me think about all the ways God provides for us when we don’t even realize it.

    Rest seems hard to come by in the busy world in which we live. I find rest by limiting the time I watch TV and listen to the radio. I listen to the sights and sounds around me while driving and read instead of watch TV. I find with the constant noise of the media all around me it can me difficult to find rest.

    I also agree with some of the other comments that I need to make confession a priority. Confession is the sacrament given to us to help our soul find rest.

    This week I will be mindful of the ways I spend my time doing things that bring desolation instead of consolation.

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