>If you have looked over to the right at my “Currently Reading” list, you will have seen that I am currently reading (hence the catchy title) St. Augustine’s “Confessions.” As long as I am in a punny mood, let me begin by “confessing” that when I first started the book I was really doing so mainly for pride’s sake. I was looking forward to being able to tell people that I had read this work and in doing so wow them with my prowess over the ancient classic literature of the Church. It turns out, this version is a modern English translation which makes it a great read and also saps all of the pride out of the reading. Thankfully, despite my impure motives, God had something great in store for me with this book.
Page after page, St. Augustine pours out his heart in a prayer to God confessing his sins, his thoughts, his actions and his motives. In the midst of this he calls out to God for help and thanks God for His miraculous and often hidden mercy (at times thanking God for graciously preventing Augustine from falling into sins that he would have otherwise given into). It is the story of his own journey to faith, through the murky trails of pride in his great intelligence, the allure of worldly ambitions and the lust of his own flesh. The book is one of the most rewarding I have ever read and every line deserves to be quoted, but one section especially hit me today. Augustine was recounting a story he had heard of two secret service agents of the Roman Empire who had stumbled upon the story of the life of St. Anthony and were moved on the spot to give their lives over to Christ. The account had a profound impact on Augustine and the words of one of the agents to the other also moved me. After reading of the saint’s life, the agent turned to the other and said,
“Tell me, I beg you, what goal are we seeking in all these toils of ours? What is it that we desire? What is our motive in public service? Can our hopes in the court rise higher than to be ‘friends of the emperor’? How frail, how filled with peril is that pride! Through what dangers must we climb to a greater danger? And when will we succeed? But if I chose to become a friend of God, I can become one now.“
How convicting this message is! Reflecting on myself, I too find that I am filled with vain ambitions to be recognized, to be a friend of the powerful, to be well-respected. But what is the chief end of that? Those who achieve celebrity seem to hate it as their lives become constant sources of public scrutiny. Those with recognition make many enemies who hope to see them fall. If only I can make friendship with God my one ambition, everything else will be secured. If I can please Him, I will have pleased the only One Whom matters. Only then can my life take the course it was created to take. Only then will I be used in the best way possible.