Saturday, May 08, 2010

St. Augustine discovers the Catholic Church

Lately, protestants posting on the net have tried to say the St. Augustine neither believed in a visible church nor supported the Catholic Church and her doctrines. Not only is this completely false but his love of and support of the Church can be seen in much of his writings. The following is from Book VI of his "Confessions" written about 397-398 AD/CE. At this point in his autobiography, he has not yet converted to the Catholic Church.

Without further ado, St. Augustine on the Church:

"....Yet every Sunday I listened as he [St. Ambrose] preached the word of truth to the people, and I grew more and more certain that it was possible to unravel the tangle woven by those who had deceived both me and the others with their cunning lies against the Holy Scriptures. I learned that your spiritual children, whom by your grace you have made to be born again of our Catholic Mother the Church, do not understand the words 'God made man in his own image' [Footnote: Gen 1:27] to mean that you are limited by the shape of a human body, and although I could form not the vaguest idea, even with the help of allegory, of how there could be substance that was spritual, nevertheless I was glad that all this time I had been howling my complaints not against the Catholic Faith but against something quite imaginary which I had thought up in my own head. At the same time I was ashamed of myself, because I had certainly been both rash and impious in speaking out in condemnation of a matter on which I ought to have taken pains to be better informed."

"...But by now I was sure at least that there was no certainty in them [the Manichean writings], though I had taken them for true when I blindly attacked your Catholic Church. Though I had not yet discovered that what the Church taught was the truth, at least I had learnt that she did not teach the doctrines which I so sternly denounced. This bewildered me, but I was on the road to conversion and I was glad, my God, that the one Church, the Body of your only Son, in which the name of Christ had been put upon me as a child, had no liking for childish absurdities and there was nothing in the sound doctrine which she taught to show that you, the Creator of all things, were confined within a measure of space which, however high, however wide it might be, was yet strictly determined by the form of a human body."

"I was glad too that at last I had been shown how to interpret the ancient Scriptures of the law and the prophets in a different light from that which had previously made them seem absurd, when I used to criticize your saints for holding beliefs which they had never really held at all. I was pleased to hear that in his sermons to people Ambrose often repeated the text: 'The written law inflicts death, whereas the spiritual law brings life,' [footnote: II Cor 3:6] as though this were a rule upon which he wished to insist most carefully. And when he lifted the veil of mystery and disclosed the spiritual meaning of the texts which, taken literally, appeared to contain the most unlikely doctrines, I was not aggrieved by what he said, although I did not yet know whether it was true."

[St. Augustine, "Confessions, " Book 6, selections from the last paragraph of Chapter 3, and the beginning of chapter 4. pg 114, 115 of the 'Penguin Classics' edition, first pub. 1961]

Here you can read "Confessions," Book 6 online.
Note: The online translation has a little more antiquated English than the one from which I quoted.

St. Augustine tells us he railed against the Church because he didn't actually know what she taught. Sounds kinda like Bishop Sheen's quote that "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be."


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