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Augustine and the Beauty of Marriage

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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!

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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 SnoringScholar.com and is the author of a number of books for families.

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