Words on the Word

St Augustine of Hippo

One of the many attractive things about St Augustine is that he really had to fight for his faith. His intellectual and spiritual itinerary, which we are privileged to be able to follow so closely, reveals a sensibility akin to that of our times—and isn’t there, in fact, a lot that makes the twenty-first century resemble the fifth? I often think of Augustine on his deathbed in 430, when Hippo was surrounded by vandals and he had his room covered with hangings that bore inscriptions of the Penitential Psalms: he wished to keep these ever before his eyes. He was conscious of living at the end of an age, awaiting the beginning of another, yet he remained, as far as we can see, largely free of fear and full of hope. That makes him a good patron for our times. His secret was, I suspect, that the things of God had become so real to him that he could see the things of this world in a sane perspective. Conditioned as we moderns are to view reality through a microscope, that kind of perspective is hard to acquire today. But it is worth striving for. Let us, then, like Augustine, keep our ears ever pricked for an echo of the sweet song issuing from the gladness of the Father’s house, and let us follow the call of that song resolutely, undistracted by the mere noise of so much else that doesn’t really matter.

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