Augustine on Praising and Loving Others
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.
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!
For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club
please consider supporting our mission with a donation!