Saint Augustine is one of my favorite saints. In fact, it was through his writings, and the writings of the other Early Church Fathers, that brought me to the Catholic Church. I can identify very much with the struggle he faced in his life. Full of restlessness, seeking to “find” himself, searching for that which could fill the emptiness he felt in his heart, the emptiness that every human feels. Like Augustine, many of us try to fill it with things, belonging, sex, food, popularity, etc. It’s especially evident in our world today. Sadly, many do not come to the understanding that Augustine did. They close off their hearts, perhaps due to the cloud of pain and loneliness that they feel. They close themselves off from the grace that God wants to give us all.
Augustine’s story also shows us, that we can’t do this alone. We need help. Not just God’s help…but help from our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers. Augustine had his mother, Monica, who prayed for him for 33 years. Without her prayers, I wonder if he would have come to know Christ and be honored as the Saint we know and celebrate today. I really doubt it. Today, I think more than ever, we need more “Monicas”, to pray for the many who are searching with restless hearts. The next time you see someone lost with an empty heart, whether at work, on the street, in the news or in the entertainment business, pray for them, instead of condemning them. They are lost, broken, hurting, and restless, just as Augustine was, but with our persistent prayers, we can have hope that they too can find the rest that are searching for. Pray that their restless hearts, come to rest in Our Lord!
From the Confessions ~Saint Augustine of Hippo
Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.
Grant me to know and understand, Lord, which comes first. To call upon you or to praise you? To know you or to call upon you? Must we know you before we can call upon you? Anyone who invokes what is still unknown may be making a mistake. Or should you be invoked first, so that we may then come to know you? But how can people call upon someone in whom they do not yet believe? And how can they believe without a preacher?
But scripture tells us that those who seek the Lord will praise him, for as they seek they find him, and on finding him they will praise him. Let me seek you then, Lord, even while I am calling upon you, and call upon you even as I believe in you; for to us you have indeed been preached. My faith calls upon you, Lord, this faith which is your gift to me, which you have breathed into me through the humanity of your Son and the ministry of your preacher.
How shall I call upon my God, my God and my Lord, when by the very act of calling upon him I would be calling him into myself? Is there any place within me into which my God might come? How should the God who made heaven and earth come into me? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God? Even heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me – can even they contain you? Since nothing that exists would exist without you, does it follow that whatever exists does in some way contain you?
But if this is so, how can I, who am one of these existing things, ask you to come into me, when I would not exist at all unless you were already in me? Not yet am I in hell, after all but even if I were, you would be there too; for if I descend into the underworld, you are there. No, my God, I would not exist, I would not be at all, if you were not in me. Or should I say, rather, that I should not exist if I were not in you, from whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things? Yes, Lord, that is the truth, that is indeed the truth. To what place can I invite you, then, since I am in you? Or where could you come from, in order to come into me? To what place outside heaven and earth could I travel, so that my God could come to me there, the God who said, I fill heaven and earth?
Who will grant it to me to find peace in you? Who will grant me this grace, that you should come into my heart and inebriate it, enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace you, my only good? What are you to me? Have mercy on me, so that I may tell. What indeed am I to you, that you should command me to love you, and grow angry with me if I do not, and threaten me with enormous woes? Is not the failure to love you woe enough in itself?
Alas for me! Through your own merciful dealings with me, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.
Excerpted from the Confessions of St. Augustine (Book I, Chapter 1)