The Confessions is the book through which I encountered a great saint. It is the book I most recommend when it comes to conversion and the spiritual fight. In addition to being a beautiful dialogue between Saint Augustine and God, this autobiography shows that the saints were also sinners just like you and me. Among his iconic lines, many of us have found our own stories and failings reflected. It has served and serves as inspiration and breath for the conversions of many.
Celebrating Saint Augustine on this day, I leave you with a reflection as a gallery about The Confessions. May these words keep inspiring us as much today as yesterday in our search for the truth, which is nothing other than the search for God.
11 Essential Quotes From St. Augustine’s “Confessions”
1. The times of conversion are the times of God.
How many of us born in a Catholic home failed to truly meet God until adulthood? It’s never too late to turn to Him; God is always with us. We are the ones who were not with Him.
“Late have I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! And see, you were within, and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant,and I drew my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”
2. It is God who always calls us, who always looks for us, who always takes care of each one of us personally.
How many times do we fail to understand what’s happening in our lives. How many failures, how many pains. Even when it looks like we are alone in the middle of the uncertainty, God is always there. God speaks to us, comforts us and forms us carefully in the midst of the pain.
“O Lord, little by little with most tender and most merciful hand, touching and composing my heart, didst persuade me…”
3. To call out to God also means being ready to listen and to receive what He gives to us. God is never wrong.
How many times we have raised our eyes to the sky asking for something from God? We have entrusted Him with our wishes, our dreams. We have asked Him to lighten our load. Sometimes it seems like He doesn’t listen. But He always does and gives us precisely what is best for each one of us in that moment.
“Your best servant is the person who does not attend so much to hearing what he himself wants as to willing what he has heard from you.”
4. God knows the deepest places of our being, it is He who has shaped it with His very hands.
It’s hard to believe that we are truly child of God, each and every one of us. Even those who do not believe in Him. God knows every corner of our being, every thought, every dream, every desire, every fall, every fight. He is there because his own hands are the ones that shaped our existence.
“Who can map out the various forces at play in one soul? Man is a great depth, O Lord. The hairs of his head are easier by far to count than his feeling, the movements of his heart.”
5. God shapes us through others: The responsibility of conditional love.
We moms know how much it costs to raise a son. Our hope in God is necessary to form them in freedom and truth. Saint Monica, Saint Augustine’s mother, teaches us that every pain and fear suffered while raising our kids bear fruit when given to God. We are all called to be saints and every mother is called to raise saintly children up to God.
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
6. God is our only comfort before death.
Losing someone we love is so painful that you even wish your own death. Without God we are lost, alone. But He understands that pain and promises us a future encounter without separations in the eternal life. That promise has to fill us with hope and has to restore the joy lost by the physical absence of those who have left.
“But [life] is only as it is related to [God] that it is good and sweet. Otherwise it will justly become bitter; for all that comes from him is unjustly loved if he has been abandoned … Seek for what you seek, but it is not where you are looking for it. You seek the happy life in the region of death; it is not there. How can there be a happy life where there is not even life?”
7. The mercy of God is infinite. We must never get tired of asking forgiveness.
There are days when we want to give up. It is a fight that seems to be lost over and over, and we grow tired of falling and asking for forgiveness for the same old mistakes. God never gets tired of forgiving us, it is we who think we are no longer worthy of His forgiveness. His mercy is infinite.
“Though I am but dust and ashes, suffer me to utter my plea to Thy mercy; suffer me to speak, since it is to God’s mercy that I speak and not to man’s scorn. From Thee too I might have scorn, but Thou wilt return and have compassion on me. … I only know that the gifts Thy mercy had provided sustained me from the first moment. … All my hope is naught save in Thy great mercy. Grant what Thou dost command, and command what Thou wilt”
8. God can only be found by the humble, the meek and the small.
In a world where the highest value is placed on the appearances and possessions, Saint Augustine reminds us that it’s the humble whom God looks upon with joy.
“And many of us friends, consulting on and abhorring the turbulent vexations of human life, had considered and now almost determined upon living at ease and separate from the turmoil of men. And this was to be obtained in this way; we were to bring whatever we could severally procure, and make a common household, so that, through the sincerity of our friendship, nothing should belong more to one than the other; but the whole, being derived from all, should as a whole belong to each, and the whole unto all.”
9. Death is not the end. The true life is next to God.
Eager to be immortal, the human being struggles to avoid death, to prolong youth, and despises everything that reminds him that life is temporary, that the body deteriorates and ends. Saint Augustine reminds us that our true home is Heaven.
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”
10. Rest and peace will only be satiated in God.
That infinite desire that the human being has in his heart is nothing other than an expression of a nostalgia for God, of that, calling to the eternal. We will only satiate that desire, that hunger, in God.
“Our good is life with you forever, and because we turned away from that, we became twisted. Let us 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”
11. Rest and peace will only be satiated in God.
The infinite desire that the human being has in his heart is nothing other than an expression of nostalgia for God, of that, calling to the eternal. We will only satiate that desire, that hunger, in God.
“Man, a little piece of your creation, desires to praise you, a human being ‘bearing his mortality with him’, carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you ‘resist the proud’. Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”