As I’ve mentioned many times here before, I’m a convert to the Catholic faith–and it’s St. Augustine’s fault!
After becoming disillusioned with the denominational tradition of my youth, though not with Christianity as such, I began trying to figure out which denomination was the true one. Of course, as a person in his late teens/early 20s, who felt called to be an evangelist, I obviously knew what Christianity should look like, and what it should believe and teach. I had it all figured out, naturally. I just had to find the denomination that agreed with me, so I could join it. (I had at least enough sense to understand that “Lone Ranger” Christianity was a bad idea, and starting my own denomination was worse.)
So off to Bible College I went, to train in preaching and theology, and while I was there, figure out who of the myriad denominations was actually right. In the course of my education in theology, I had to write a paper on the Trinity, and in order to really get a solid grasp on that most fundamental of mysteries, I turned to the writings of those who had to wrestle with the doctrine in the very first place.
That’s where I met St. Augustine. In the back of the library where the dusty books live were the works of the Early Church Fathers, and since I was researching the Trinity, when I saw “De Trinitate” by Augustine, I knew I’d hit paydirt!
I devoured that book. This was Christianity at its best! This was theology that made me have to read slowly, to use my brain, to really ponder, think through, and finally surrender to the mystery of God.
The only problem was that, as I did so, St. Augustine would constantly say things about bishops, or the Eucharist, or whatnot–things that were foreign, if not contrary, to Christianity-as-I-had-figured-it-out. So I found myself in the strange quandary of being amazed and moved with what St. Augustine said about the interrelationship of the Three Divine Persons one minute, and horrified by his comments about hierarchy and sacraments the next. I wanted to simply dismiss those comments as somehow just his opinions, and that he just wasn’t right about everything, after all. The problem is, these “Catholic” comments weren’t off-topic digressions; they were conclusions stemming from, or arguments for, his explanation of the Trinity!
Which of course prompted a pesky thought in my head: “Who am I to think that I know better than St. Augustine what the Truth is?” Now that’s an awkward thought! I realized that I was asking the Big Question precisely backwards. I had come to Bible College to find the Church that agreed with me, so I could join it. But the Church of the Bible didn’t work like that. It demanded submission to its teachings. You didn’t disagree with Peter’s Church and walk down the road to join Paul’s!
St. Augustine led me to that realization, and that realization eventually led me to full submission to the Truth of the Catholic faith.
So whether you want to blame him or thank him, it’s all St. Augustine’s fault!
Have a blessed Feast of St. Augustine!
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