Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Augustine. Ordinarily, yesterday, the 27th, we would have celebrated the feast of his mother, Saint Monica (she got
eclipsed by the Sunday this year). Both of these days are of very special
importance to me because my own thinking in life has been very much shaped by
Saint Augustine and his great writings. When I was a seminarian long ago I used
to spend an hour every afternoon reading Saint Augustine and other fathers of
the church. As some of you know, I wrote a book called Augustine: The Confessions & the City of God (Crossroad Spiritual Legacy Series) , which is a popular introduction to Saint Augustine for people who are not philosophers or theologians.
When I try to analyze why this great man appeals so much to me, I realize it is because in many respects he thinks like a modern person. He is the holy psychologist. Without knowing what the word psychologist meant, I started to read him when I was fourteen years old and recognized that he was talking about things that I had experienced. His great line, “You have made us for yourself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” is still today tremendously
meaningful to me in life.
Most laypeople are unaware of it, but the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI is very much rooted in Saint Augustine and his great disciple, Saint Bonaventure. If you want to understand Pope Benedict XVI, you need to be familiar with the ideas of Saint Augustine and particularly his conviction of the importance of religious experience in order for us to believe and grow in the Christian life. That’s putting it in a nutshell.
Another interesting thing for all of us Franciscans and our friends is that the first
friars and Saint Francis would have been familiar with Saint Augustine. In
western Christianity during the end of the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, Saint
Augustine was the preeminent theologian. Such figures as Saint Thomas Aquinas,
who was so important in the second part of the Middle Ages, had not been born
yet. When Saint Francis went to church on Sunday, the preaching he heard was
based very much on Saint Augustine; so, the ideas of Saint Augustine are very
much reflected in the writings and life of Saint Francis.
You may find it very helpful to get to know this man. If you are not familiar with him, my little book introducing him might be very helpful to you. Along with Saint
Francis and Saint Clare, he has been a very important friend in my life.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
Monday, August 28, 2006
Feast of St. Augustine--Fr. Groeschel's Comments
From Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Site: