28 August 2008

St Augustine and Me.

On my journey to the Catholic Church, I needed to choose a Saint who I admired, who maybe had a story that I identified with, or had lived a live I admired or maybe was patron of something important to me. I would then honour this Saint by choosing their name as my confirmation name. As we came closer to the Easter vigil, nothing had been decided, but I thought I would possibly choose St Joseph as my confirmation Saint. I love St Joseph immensely, from the little that is written about him in Scripture you can already know the type of man he is, his qualities of honesty, integrity and bravery, his justness, his righteousness, were all qualities to be admired. Also, I sometimes feel he is marginalised a little in the Church, and I just feel very close to St Joseph.

During Lent, in our Parish as in many others I presume, we organise some Lent study groups. The Diocese provides some literature in small booklets as a basis to work from, and for a couple of hours every week the group will get together and discuss various related issues. The first Lent group I went to last year had such a profound effect on the way I approach my Faith that I was eagerly anticipating this one.

It was during this year's Lent group that I came to choose St Augustine as my confirmation Saint.

Our group this year was a good spread of older and younger, seasoned Catholic and newbies. During our first session, amongst the discussion, one member of our group made a comment about 'that wretched man Augustine'. I was quite shocked and asked "Do you mean St Augustine?" He clearly did, but I just questioned to clarify as I was surprised to hear someone who admittedly I didn't know a great deal about, but knew was an important figure in Church history, a Doctor of the Church, being described as a 'wretched man'. That was the spark. I went home, looked up St Augustine on the web, read biographies, learnt a few quotes, ordered a copy of the Confessions of St Augustine from Amazon, and we were set.

The Gospel readings during Lent were some of the beautiful readings from the Gospel of St John, including the blind man given sight, Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, and the raising of Lazarus. I was also still in RCIA during this time, so I was studying the Gospel readings for that as well as the Lent groups. Everywhere I looked, I was bombarded with quotes from St Augustine. I discovered the excellent Catena Aurea, which is loaded with quotes from St Augustine as well as many other Church Fathers, I was reading the Augustine tracts on the Gospel of John, even on podcasts I downloaded I was hearing quotes from St Augustine. For the whole of Lent, and since then, I just made a really strong connection, and when my friend pointed out the obvious, that with such a strong connection St Augustine should be my confirmation Saint, that's what happened. The whole Easter Vigil service was special for so many reasons, first time taking communion, being fully received into the Church, but I won't ever forget when the Priest, anointing me with the oil, called me Augustine. That was indeed a special moment.

I saw Peter shortly after Easter, the man who had called St Augustine "That wretched man" at our Lent group. I told him that thanks to him, I had been inspired to take Augustine as my confirmation name. He just chuckled, it was a good moment.

And all of that, I write today, because today is the feast day for St Augustine. The first time I can celebrate today as an Onomastico (That word is what we use in Italian for our name day, when it's the feast day of the saint we share a name with. It's almost as important as a birthday.)
It seems the only way to finish is with this beautiful writing from St Augustine:

Late have I loved You,
Beauty ever old yet ever new!
Late have I loved You!
You were within me, but I was outside.
There I sought You, as I rushed about
among the beautiful things you had made.
You were with me,
but I was not with You.
The beautiful things of this world
kept me far from You.
You called. You cried.
You burst through my deafness.
You scattered my blindness.
I breathed Your fragrance
and now I pine for You.
I tasted You,
and I hunger and thirst for You.
You touched me,
and I burn with desire
for Your peace.

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