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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinAugust 19, 2005 Issue 

Augustine grew through the Holy Spirit

St. Augustine experienced a conversion to become one of the great evangelizers

August 28, 2005 -- 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What is the deepest longing of your heart?

2. What role does love play in your life?

3. What scriptural passages stir your soul?

August 28 is the feast of St. Augustine (354-410). He was the bishop of Hippo, a diocese in northern Africa. Augustine is also a doctor of the Church. His writings and teachings continue to be a major influence in theological circles and in the daily lives of many Christians.

The scriptures we read today on this twenty-second Sunday of the Church's year were also read by Augustine some 1,600 years ago. Once Augustine experienced a profound conversion, the Bible became a central source of his prayer and preaching ministry. Like the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading, Augustine could identify with the prophet as to the effect of the word of the Lord in his life: "But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it."

And what was that word of the Lord? Essentially it was the Word, Jesus, who transformed the mind and heart of this early Church father. Jesus is the manifestation of God's love and mercy. Jesus was the one who set Augustine free from his sensuality and arrogance. Aware of God's grace, Augustine could not remain silent and so, through his preaching, teaching, and writing, he was compelled to spread the word. He is one of the world's great evangelizers.

Augustine's journey was not easy, even after his conversion. He continued to struggle with his animal instincts and intellectual doubts. As much as he wanted to offer his body as a living sacrifice, it was a constant battle. Augustine sought wisdom to know God's will and for courage not to conform his life to his culture. In his autobiography, the Confessions, this great saint candidly and humbly records his temptations and the workings of grace. One thing becomes clear: only through the grace of the Holy Spirit was this saint able to grow and respond to God's plan.

Augustine found the standard by which to judge all of life. Augustine wrote: "Give me a man in love; he knows what I mean. Give me one who yearns; give me one who is hungry; give me one far away in this desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the spring of the Eternal Country. Give me that sort of man; he knows what I mean. But if I speak to a cold man, he just doesn't know what I am talking about . . ."

Maybe that's why Jesus selected Peter to be the leader of the apostles. Even though Peter did not understand our Lord's future suffering, he was a man of passion and commitment and love. Both Peter and Augustine appreciated the centrality of love in the life of a follower of Jesus. It is precisely this love that empowers disciples to pick up their cross and to give their life away.

Perhaps the most quoted line of all Augustine's writings comes from the first chapter of his Confessions: "Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee." And on this Sunday the universal Church prays and sings this responsorial refrain: "My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God." Jeremiah, Paul, Peter, and Augustine thirsted for the Lord. They knew that anyone or anything less simply could not satisfy the longings of the heart.

Perhaps during this week we can pray over and over our Alleluia verse: "May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we might see how great is the hope to which we are called." And, with St. Augustine interceding for us, that hope may well be realized.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor at Resurrection Parish in Allouez.)

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