Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Doctor is In

At this morning's General Audience, the Pope announced that his upcoming catecheses will draw on the life and writings of the topic of his doctoral dissertation -- St Augustine.

Today, the intro...
Augustine, a figure of "singular relevance" in the history of the Church and of Christian literature, and not only in these, was a bit like the young people of today - he had "extremely robust intelligence, but was not always a model student"'; he had widely varied experiences; he sought, at first, moral rules that were not too burdensome; he was anxious to know the Truth....

The pope today said of Augustine - who was an object of special study for him as a theologian, and the subject of his thesis - that "all the roads of Latin Christian literature lead to Hippo, where he was bishop", and he recalled the assertion of Paul VI, for whom "it may be said that all the thought of antiquity converges" in his work, and from this there branch out many of the roads travelled by Western culture, so much so that "he is known even by those who ignore Christianity"....

His search for a religion that could satisfy his desire for truth and bring him close to Jesus made him "fall into the snares of the Manichaeans". Among other things, their morality left their members relatively free, something that, the pope observed, also happens today.

He went to Italy, first to Rome and then to Milan, where, disappointed by his experience with Manichaeism, he was fascinated by the preaching of Ambrose, "not only for its rhetorical style, but also for its contents". For Augustine, Ambrose "resolved the question of philosophical sophistication" in the Bible, with his reflection on the presence of the mystery of Christ in the Old Testament, and his meditation "on the Logos who became flesh".
...and, as a bonus, Cardinal Ratzinger's 2004 message at the close of celebrations for the doctor's 1,650th birthday:
The "emptiness of ideologies" prompted St. Augustine to seek the Truth of Christ, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger....

During a solemn Mass in the Basilica of St. Aurea in Ostia, a city near Rome, the cardinal spoke about the "two obstacles" on the path to Augustine's conversion: "the spirit of independence and his intellectual pride, which led him initially to follow Manichaeism, a 'material' religion."

"Augustine experienced freedom profoundly to the point that he became its slave, as the prodigal son, who ended up by taking care of pigs and eating pods," Cardinal Ratzinger said in his homily. "If we are honest with ourselves, we cannot deny that that parable fully reflects our existential condition. Authentic freedom lies only in friendship with the Lord."

"Words like eternal love and wisdom are not fashionable today. Augustine, who lived in an age very similar to our own, went so far as to describe wisdom as a 'foreign word.'"

The cardinal continued: "Experiencing the great emptiness of the ideologies of his time, Augustine felt a great thirst for that Truth that opens the way to Life. He understood that no one is able to reach God by his own efforts and he discovered in the end that Christ is the true Wisdom."

"Christianity is not moralism, but rather a gift of the love of God," Cardinal Ratzinger explained, summarizing the thought of Augustine, who lived from the years 354 to 430.
PHOTO: Reuters/Max Rossi