On August 28, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, who made a tremendous influence on the life of the Church. He was born on November 13, 354 and died on August 28, 430 A.D. He is considered among the most important Fathers of the Church and his voluminous writings include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.
Saint Augustine went through an acute conversion in his life before his baptism into the Catholic Church at the age of 31. Much to the distress of his mother, Saint Monica, whose Feast is on August 27 before that of Augustine, he lived in a manner very much in contradiction to the life of the Church as he wrote about in his famous Confessions. However, through the persuasion and prayers of his mother, he became a Catholic and then a priest and bishop. His conversion led him to being an extraordinary Christian who expressed insightfully its meaning not only for men and women of the Church but for all people.
Of the many insights of Saint Augustine, one that stands out is his recognition of an innate yearning for God within each and every person. He writes in his Confessions words which pertain to his own conversion as well as to every human being: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” It is well to reflect upon these words as all of us can easily identify with them. They bring us insight as well as confirmation as to our unique identity.
There is a yearning for happiness within each one of us. That is a good thing and it is placed there by God Himself. As we go through life, we begin to recognize that no matter how much we look forward to something that we think is going to make us happy, it never completely makes us happy as we thought it would and we always look for something else. There is nothing that seems to fulfill that yearning completely. It is like a child who begs his parents for a new toy by saying, “Please, please, buy me this and I’ll never ask you for anything else again!” The parents know that the toy will not completely satisfy the child who will say the same thing upon the discovery of a newer one. We actually do this all during our lives, thinking that there will be that one thing that will satisfy us completely which never seems to materialize.
The yearning is for God pure and simple. We yearn for Him because He put that yearning inside of us. He has given us many wonderful gifts in this life, but the ultimate gift is our relationship with Him which will only come to its full fruition in heaven. It is important to recognize this and to understand that every yearning we have is ultimately for God. He has to be part of our lives if we truly want to be happy. God puts our lives in the proper perspective in terms of understanding who we are and what we are all about.
At this time, with so much societal disruption, including living through the pandemic, we see so much restlessness around us and within us. We must try to tend to this restlessness in a manner that is productive for ourselves and for others. However, we need to realize that ultimately the yearning is for God and if our world and society were to recognize this, we would deal with things in a much different manner as made in the image and likeness of God.
As I mentioned, the day before the Feast of Saint Augustine we celebrate the Feast of his mother, Saint Monica. Saint Monica knew the insight of her son long before he articulated it. While she did not write volumes of theology which influenced the Church for years to come, she lived in a manner that influences the Church more than theological writings. This is at the heart of her sanctity as well as that of her son, Saint Augustine.
Saint Augustine and Saint Monica help us to understand that God is at the heart of who we are and that it is He for whom we are always yearning whether we recognize it or not. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you!”
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
August 21, 2020