This is the famous line of St. Augustine of Hippo, arguably the most important theologian since St. Paul in the Western Church. As a seminarian I often had issues with much of what he wrote, but the thing that I could never take issue with was his life. He seemed so real to me as a human being who, even once he began to understand the path God had mapped out for him, struggled to find the way to walk that path.
I had the privilege this weekend to spend some time with our parish Stephen ministers. These are members of our parish who undergo an intense training in order to minister to individuals going through significant personal struggles. It is an important ministry and one that requires a large commitment. As we had lunch together we spent some time discussing figures like St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola, who began lives that were fully self-centered, but who ended their lives by embracing God wholeheartedly and his call to love and serve others.
It always gives me hope that we have a God who does not give up on calling us to a deeper relationship with Him. He is a patient God, but always acting to wake us from our sleep. My recent prayer seems to be calling me to an even deeper commitment to the Christian life. It is a frightening thought really, since that usually means suffering. One thing that has always been clear to me as a Christian, however, is that we are not called to fear, but rather to faith. St. Augustine knew this well when he wrote these words:
Late have I loved you, beauty so old and new; late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.