Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Case of the Confessions of St. Augustine for our Times?

In the midst of reading an autobiographical work [categorized by its author as a conversion story and not a biography] by an "old friend" (I have read several of his books and so I feel I know him), I found myself stymied as to how to review this book. Thankfully my spiritual reading of a morning came to the rescue to offer a handle as to what I might say about his confessions:

Race With the Devil: 
My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love. 
Joseph Pearce 
Saint Benedict Press, LLC, 2013. Kindle Edition. 

“2. There is therefore no holiness, if Thou O Lord, withdraw Thine hand. No wisdom profiteth, if Thou leave off to guide the helm. No strength availeth, if Thou cease to preserve. No purity is secure, if Thou protect it not. No self-keeping availeth, if Thy holy watching be not there. For when we are left alone we are swallowed up and perish, but when we are visited, we are raised up, and we live. For indeed we are unstable, but are made strong through Thee; we grow cold, but are rekindled by Thee.” [Chapter XIV, Kempis, Thomas A.; The Collected Works of Thomas A Kempis (2007-11-17). The Imitation of Christ (Location: 1486). Kindle Edition.]

…  “These two stages sum up the whole of the spiritual life: when we contemplate ourselves we are troubled, and our sadness saves us and brings us to contemplate God; that contemplation in turn gives us the consolation of the joy of the Holy Spirit. Contemplating ourselves brings fear and humility; contemplating God brings us hope and love.” [Second Reading from the Office of Readings for Wednesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, from a sermon by St Bernard of Clairvaux  on the stages of contemplation]

I guess the point would be: whether you are talking about St. Augustine or Joseph Pearce, the conversion story leads to hope and recognition of the power of God in Christ to save. The question is who can profit from Pearce's confessions or do they take on meaning only for his friends and family who can mark the change for the good in him and give glory to God? I think avid Pearce readers should be included in that circle, as we have reason too to give thanks for the gift we have received through his wonderful books.

Not all unhappy or angry young men in our world are as talented as Joseph Pearce. For that matter St. Augustine cannot be classed run-of-the-mill either. We may not be the world's best or brightest; we may not have a novel, an opera or a concert, a grand painting or powerful sculpture locked within and waiting to burst forth. I guess that's why recourse to the perspective of St. Bernard or the Imitation is what saves me.

"Contemplating ourselves brings fear and humility; contemplating God brings us hope and love.”

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