Thursday, July 21, 2016

Townie and The Confessions

The year after he became Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine set out to write The Confessions, an account of his sinful past and conversion to Christianity. His story is familiar to many and chronicles behavior that we would not typically associate with a saint. By his telling, he passed his adolescence in a fog of lust, eventually fathering a child and taking up with various concubines well into adulthood. For a while he was a member of the heretical Manichean sect. Only after a long and gradual conversion did Augustine turn from his ways, and he was officially received into the Church at age 32. Soon he became a priest, then bishop, and, thanks to his great influence and spiritual writing, a Doctor of the Church.

Clearly, Augustine’s journey was one that passed from bad to good, from sin to redemption, from darkness to light. Why, then, after his conversion, would he look backwards to his waywardness in writing The Confessions? Now that he had put on new garments, so to speak, in his conversion, why would he want to focus on the soiled ones? What was to gain?