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Augustine on Praising and Loving Others

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The Confessions of St. Augustine (Week 4 of 15)

Augustine on Praising and Loving Others

We get some more of Augustine’s youth and the sense that he was quite the man. I was a bit surprised to find that I think the Before God Augustine sounded a bit familiar to me: he sounded like the kind of guy who didn’t want to be told anything because he knew it all already, thankyouverymuch.

And yet, in recounting this so candidly, we see the deep humility that must have grown in him.

In this week’s reading, I was particularly struck by two passages.

A man can be praised and loved even though far distant from us. It would be absurd to suppose that this kind of love is transmitted from the mouth of the person praising him to the heart of the person hearing. But love in one person is infectious in kindling it in another. Hence it comes about that a person who is praised comes to be loved, when people believe that the praise comes from a sincere heart, that is, when the praise comes from one who loves him.

Confessions, Book IV, xiv, 21

Popularity feeds on itself, it seems, then as much as now. However, this made me think not so much of that as of a few people I know in the Catholic world who I dearly love.

It’s funny how this love works because I haven’t known them all my life, or even very many years. And yet, even so, I consider these my brothers and sisters in a very intimate way. I would defend them as soon as any of my blood siblings.

I can speak eloquently of these people, and I could tell you stories that would probably persuade you in your own opinion. I think this is what Augustine refers to, this ability to “sell” people on those we love. And I don’t think it’s always a bad thing. If it weren’t for people I respect praising Patrick Madrid very highly, I would have never left my couch to hear him when he spent the summer giving lectures at my parish ten years ago or so.

O Lord our God, under the covering of your wings (Exod. 19:4) we set our hope. Protect us and bear us up. It is you who will carry us; you who will bear us up from our infancy until old age (Isa. 46:4). When you are our firm support, then it is firm indeed. But when our support rests on our own strength, it is infirmity. Our good is life with you for ever, and because we turned away from that, we became twisted. Let us now return to you that we may not be overturned. Our good is life with you and suffers no deficiency (Ps. 101:28); for you yourself are that good. We have no fear that there is no home to which we may return because we fell from it. During our absence our house suffers no ruin; it is your eternity.

Confessions, Book IV, xvi, 31

This prayer made the whole book/chapter worth reading. It’s a prayer I’d like to revise and use for my own daily meditation, and, in fact, I may end up doing that.

Not only is it a bit conversational, but it’s also filled with reminders I need on a daily (often hourly) basis. My strength = zero. I need God. I not only need God’s strength, but I need his direction, too.

Life isn’t about me, and yet life needs me. Someday, that may make sense to me at the visceral level where it will color everything I do. Until then, I’ll keep praying and trying to let go and let God in the manner this prayer so beautifully expresses.

Reading Assignment:

Book V

Discussion Questions:

1. Is there a popular person you love or admire greatly as the result of what someone else has said to you? Take a few moments to offer prayer or sacrifice for that person and their ministry in the public eye. Consider how you witness to others through your own life.

2. Have you ever written a prayer to God? I shared the prayer Augustine wrote (and really, the Confessions is something of a long prayer and conversation with God): consider writing one of your own and praying it this week.

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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  • Candace Macmillan

    Thank you, Sarah, for sharing that beautiful prayer, and your insightful, inspiring reflections….you have set the course for my day!

  • Gloria Deleon

    It is a consolation to know that God’s mercy is greater than any sin should we only return to him full heartedly! Everytime we mess up, guess what? God is still there waiting with open arms to take us back. To start anew from that point and He will not let us regress so! Thank you for sharing! God Bless!


    I enjoyed the above quotes from St. Augustine’s Confessions. I also enjoyed the paragraph where St. Augustine states “that I loved him more because of the love of those who praised him than for the things they praised in him? Because if he had gone unpraised, and these same people had criticized him and had spoken the same things of him in a tone of scorn and disapproval, I should never have been kindled and provoked to love him. And yet his qualities would not have been different, nor would he have different himself; only the appraisals of the spectators. See where the helpless soul lies prostrate that is not yet sustained by the stability of truth!” Book 4 paragraph 23. In his writings St. Augustine shows how the people we associate with and the people they think highly of really do influence us. This should make us aware of our responsibility in communication. We need to be careful about whom we respect and praise, because people who do not have the truth of God in their heart may learn to love the people we love and scorn the people we scorn.

    Thank you also for your reflection/discussion questions.

    • LizEst

      Excellent points…I would just add that Christ called us to love our enemies and pray for them, not to scorn them. God bless you, Rachelle.

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