Sign Up for our Free Daily Email Updates / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Augustine and the Beauty of Marriage

Book Club INTERNAL IMAGE (internal to post) 600x214

The Confessions of St. Augustine (Week 6 of 15)

Neither of us considered it more than a marginal issue how the beauty of having a wife lies in the obligation to respect the discipline of marriage and bring up children. To a large extent what held me captive and tortured me was the habit of satisfying with vehement intensity an insatiable sexual desire. In his case astonishment drew him towards captivity. That is how we were until you, most high, not deserting our clay, had mercy on us poor wretches, and by wonderful and secret ways came to our aid.

Confessions, Book VI, xii, 22, paragraph 2

When’s the last time you thought of the beauty of marriage as being linked to the discipline of it?

What do you consider beautiful? How do you know it’s beautiful?

In what ways do your desires overcome what could be the beauty of your interaction with others?

This passage makes me question, picking at answers the way I’ll gnaw at my fingernails when I’m deep in thought.

Was Augustine a jerk? I know it doesn’t matter, really, but passages like this, following the accounts of his academic prowess, make me wonder who and how he was as a person. Would I have liked him? Would I have related with him? Would I have wanted to have a beer and a long discussion with him?

Why yes, I am struggling my way through Confessions, still, long past the point when I feel like I should. And yet, maybe that’s the point. Maybe this isn’t meant to be a kick-back-and-read-it-with-a-margarita kind of book. Maybe this isn’t even a book to stimulate my gray matter.

Maybe this is a work to make me stop and consider myself.

Marriage has transformed me, and I credit the graces of the sacrament for it. I’m a better person, and I really think I’ve had nothing to do with it. The controlled chaos I’ve had to adjust to, the small people who keep me up at night and fill my refrigerator with artwork, the shared smiles over puke buckets and discarded super-suits: these are tiny glimpses of the beauty I never expected. The wrinkles around my eyes, the stretch marks on my legs, the way I can recite certain books without any prompts: these are indelible marks on my very soul.

The beauty of the discipline, the order of the life we’ve built, the delightful weight of the responsibility: they’re not easy. But they’re beautiful. Would that I remember this and cherish it.

Reading Assignment:

Book VII

Discussion Questions:

1. What thoughts does this passage inspire in you about marriage and the beauty of marriage?

2. How have you struggled in your understanding or lived experience of marriage?

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

Read More:

For More Information on the Book Club:

Print Friendly
Profile photo of Sarah Reinhard

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.

please consider supporting our mission with a donation!


    I think St. Augustine was quite insightful once again about the work that marriage would take and his interest in it. It seems to me that St Augustine is really honest with himself and does not sugar coat what is really going on in his thoughts. I find this very refreshing.

    I think my expectations for marriage were not as insightful. I just thought about getting married and starting a family. I have been married 33 years and I am still learning and growing in my marriage.

    • Sarah Reinhard

      I think marriage is one of those things where you’re always learning and growing…and your experience seems to uphold that, Rachelle. Thanks for chiming in! 🙂

  • Jeff Cann

    I can understand why Sarah appears to be vexed reading the intimate description of the strength of sexual desire by Augustine (and his ambivalence to marriage). I think he clearly understood the requirements for a “good married life” but clearly was waffling between his bachelor life with Alypius where he can pursue wisdom and his carnal desires. In 6.11.10, he writes: “I thought I should be miserable if I were deprived of the embraces of a woman…”

    Sure he sounds like a jerk, but this description (above) is what it’s like to be a man – to have intense and insatiable sexual desire.

    Men on average have 40 x more testosterone than women. To overcome our biological nature is absolutely possible but in my experience only with an active prayer life and a close relationship with God. There is no coasting on this one.
    The rest of his quote from 6.11.20 is exactly true for me: “and I never gave a thought to the medicine that your mercy has provided for the healing of that infirmity, for I had never tried it.”

    A healthy marriage requires chaste living, reserving my desire solely for my wife. This for me has been the learning experience and one of the gifts of being married. It leads to discipline because it requires a man to sacrifice his innate desires, with the help of God’s grace. Many men have to take up this cross daily.

    The other lesson learned for me is to think of Eve in the Book of Genesis. She was, after all, God’s final creation. In Gn 2:18: “The Lord God said: It is not good for the man to be alone…” She was created to complete / compliment Adam. This is the beauty of marriage for me. I’ve learned (over 20 years of marriage) that through a relationship where God is the center between my wife and I, I am able to more freely love her, sacrifice for her and feel completed by her.

    • Sarah Reinhard

      Jeff, great insights! Thanks for taking the time to share them.

Skip to toolbar