"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)


St. Augustine of Hippo: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

On August 29, 2013, Pope Francis said Mass at the Basilica of St. Augustine in Rome with members of the Augustinian order. The Holy Father’s homily echoed the famous quote from the great Doctor of the Church, from the first chapter of his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

I am a devotee of St. Augustine, whose feast we celebrate today. I was baptised and raised as a Catholic in the Conversion of St. Augustine Parish in the southern Ilocos town of Tagudin. I also studied from kindergarten to precollege in a school named after St. Augustine. I almost owe a lot through his intercession everything that I am as a person. My enthusiasm for the saint continues to grow now that I am Jesuit priest. Indeed, his life never fails to inspire me. The importance of Augustine is the essential basis of a lion's share of our Church's teachings on the moral life, worship and doctrine.

The restless heart of Augustine has something to teach us, Pope Francis said, inviting us to reflect on “the restlessness of the spiritual quest, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love. [...] I would say to those who feel indifferent to God, towards the faith, to those who are far from God, or are abandoned, and even to us, with our ‘distances’ and our ‘abandonment’ towards God, little, perhaps, but there are so many in daily life: look into the depths of your heart, look deep within yourself, and ask yourself: Do you have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that is put to sleep by material things?”

The Pope described the restlessness of Augustine as a catalyst towards a deeper encounter with Christ, which did not induce him to turn in on himself. “Even in the discovery of God and in the encounter with Him, Augustine doesn’t stop, doesn’t rest, doesn’t become closed in on himself like those who have already arrived, but continues along the way. The restlessness of the quest for the truth, of the quest for God, becomes the restlessness of always coming to know Him better, and of going out of oneself in order to make Him known to others. And this is the restlessness of love.”

And, the Holy Father said that this restlessness has a pastoral aim: “Augustine is left with the restlessness from God, he never tires of announcing it, of evangelizing with courage, without fear, seeking to be the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep (cf. Jn 10,14), indeed, as I love to repeat, who ‘smells like His flock,’ and goes out to seek those who are lost. Augustine lives what Saint Paul tells Timothy, and each one of us: announce the word, be urgent in season and out of season, announce the Gospel with the magnanimous, large heart (cf. 2 Tim 4, 2) of a Pastor that is restless for his flock. The treasure of Augustine is precisely this attitude: Always go out towards God, go out towards the flock … He is a man in tension between these two ‘goings’; not to ‘privatize’ love … always on the journey! You should always be on the journey, says the Father. Always restless! And this is the peace of restlessness.”

Benedict XVI, is also a devotee of St. Augustine. He said that Augustine's last push he needed for risking the leap into the Christian faith and into God's love were the saints. "They are like older brothers and sisters to us in the family of God. They want to take us by hand and lead us. They encourage us to say: 'If this or that person can do it, why can't I?'" (Dogma und Verkündigung, p 415). Benedict XVI wants to draw our attention towards the saint's concept of goodness and beauty which is found in the Confessions (Lib. 10, 26. 37-29, 40: CSEL 33, 255-256):
Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong–I, misshapen. You were with me, but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being, were they not in you. You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
This  famous excerpt appears in the Roman Office of Readings for Wednesday of the eighth week in ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading from Job 7:1-21. The saint wrestles like Job with the problem of suffering and the sorrow that comes from God’s apparent absence in times of trial. He writes, "When at last I cling to you with my whole being there will be no more anguish or labour for me, and my life will be alive indeed, alive because filled with you. But now it is very different. Anyone whom you fill you also uplift; but I am not full of you, and so I am a burden to myself. Joys over which I ought to weep do battle with sorrows that should be matter for joy, and I do not know which will be victorious. But I also see griefs that are evil at war in me with joys that are good, and I do not know which will win the day. This is agony, Lord, have pity on me! It is agony! See, I do not hide my wounds; you are the physician and I am sick; you are merciful, I in need of mercy." Augustine burns for God's peace and he lifts up his eyes and heart in an infinite longing for the Divine beauty so ancient and yet so new. For Augustine, liturgy is the privileged moment and place where that unquenchable longing is kindled and where the soul finds fulfilment. Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

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