... a few thoughts for Lent
In The Confessions of Saint Augustine, in the introduction, the editors invite
readers to lecito divina. This is a spiritual reading in four steps: to read; to
meditate; to rest in the sense of God’s nearness; to resolve to govern ones actions
in the light of new understanding.
Book I begins, “Grant me to know and understand, Lord, which comes first: to call
upon you or to praise you?” Growing up in a Catholic family, attending a French
parochial school in the 1930’s, there was little question of which came first.
Worship of God originated in inculcation with a demand that adoration would “rub
in”, so to say. Most classes began with kneeling in the back of the seat, “Nomme du
Pere, et du fils," so we intoned. These were sounds without understanding.
Somewhere, from who knows where, faith becomes integrated to a self-understanding, an
acceptance of a praiseworthy God. I am stimulated by this mystery this morning. How
did I come to believe?
My mother had a lovely, light soprano voice and she volunteered to sing funeral
masses. When I was four or five, I was brought along to these funerals, as
babysitters were uncommon at that time. No doubt the morbid music, black vestments
and incense had a way of imbedding a spiritual outlook from an early age. Belief
comes from such early experiences. How could I not have a Catholic outlook?
In Book II, Augustine tells of turning from God toward lust. He later comes to
realize that his mother was speaking through God, urging him to avoid fornication
and adultery. At this time and for many years after, sexuality equated exclusively
with procreation. Many contemporary readers of Augustine might smile at his naïveté.
Pleasure in one’s own body and consensual sexuality has expanded the sexual horizon.
For me, do not violate relationships is the sacred principle. Sexual communion is
only the business of the participants.
Book VI, Augustine says, “So it was, Lord, that you began little by little to work
on my heart with the most gentle and merciful hand, and dispose it to reflect how
innumerable were the things I believe to be true, though I had neither seen them nor
been present when they happened.” So simply expressed is at the core of belief, of
faith. Many years later would come positivistic science with its demand for
verification. Under this guise, what is to be believed is what must be tested and
proven. Faith, as expressed by Augustine, was treated as flimsy and for the weak-
minded as compared with the power of verification. Though Science has unquestionably
improved the lot of mankind, it has done little to solve war, murder, rape, and
other human tragedies. It feels good, this morning, to know with Augustine that a
simple, pure faith may be more likely to bolster our humanness.
April 6, 2012