Homily for the Memorial of St. Augustine of Hippo | Please click here for the readings.
Yesterday, we celebrated the Memorial of St. Monica. If you haven’t heard the story of St. Monica, she prayed without ceasing for the conversion of her family members, most especially her son, Augustine, whose feast day we celebrate today. And let me say, if there is anyone here who thinks their chances of becoming a saint are slim, St. Augustine can give us all hope.
St. Augustine was quite the bachelor. Throughout his life, he overindulged in the things of this world – food, drink, sins of the flesh…you name it, Augustine likely did it. Because of his sins of impurity and his pride, his mind became so darkened that he could not grasp the idea of God or follow the Christian way of life. Yet, because of his mother’s prayers and the preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine was brought to a moment of conversion, a moment of deep encounter with the Lord that totally and completely changed his life.
Augustine had been growing in understanding the need for more virtue and had come to accept God into his heart but he was scared of taking the step and actually becoming a Christian because he had been struggling to achieve total purity in his heart. One day as he was crying out to God asking for this real transformation and conversion to happen in his life, he heard a child singing the lyrics: “Take up and read!” That compelled Augustine to open the Scriptures to St. Paul’s letters and the passage that met his gaze was St. Paul talking about putting away impurity and living a life that imitated that of Christ. From that moment, Augustine was converted and lived for the Lord.
In his Confessions, one of the most well-known lines that St. Augustine ever wrote is this: “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in you.” Augustine experienced that in a very real way throughout his life. He desired to follow God in everything but he couldn’t get passed the things he had done. Yet, the Lord never stopped calling Augustine to conversion; the Lord never stopped calling him into a greater relationship with the Father and a greater sense of trust in Jesus. Our experience is the same. The Lord continues to call us to conversion, even those of us who have known Christ our entire lives…maybe especially us. May we ask ourselves today, in what ways are our hearts restless? Is there some void in our hearts that we are trying to fill with things other than God? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to fill those voids so that we, like Augustine, may come to a deeper encounter with the Lord, and that our hearts can finally have their rest in God alone.