Thursday, August 28, 2014

St. Austin's Day

Today, of course, is the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church. From one of his lesser-known writings, against the Donatists:

With however great light of learning and of reputation he may shine, however much he may boast himself to be a precious stone, who endeavors to lead you after him, remember always that that brave woman who alone is lovely only to her husband, whom holy Scripture portrays to us in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs, is more precious than any precious stones. Let no one say, I will follow such an one, for it was even he that made me a Christian; or, I will follow such an one, for it was even he that baptized me. For "neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase." And "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." No one also that preaches the name of Christ, and handles or administers the sacrament of Christ, is to be followed in opposition to the unity of Christ. "Let every man prove his own work; and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden,"—the burden, that is, of rendering an account; for "every one of shall give an account of himself. Let us not therefore judge one another any more." For, so far as relates to the burdens of mutual love, "bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." Let us therefore "forbear one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;" for no one who gathers outside that peace is gathering with Christ; but "he that gathering not with Him scattereth abroad."

The brave woman of Proverbs 31 is the Church, of course.


  1. Enbrethiliel2:47 PM


    This is certainly better than all the literalist readings of Proverbs 31, which remind me of the time a totally non-religious guy was floored to hear that Catholic women generally don't think the imitation of Mary is an impossible task. I wasn't very articulate at the time, or else I would have explained that being part of the Mystical Body means that imitating Mary (or Jesus, for that matter!) it's not about reaching some external ideal, but about fulfilling your own potential, through the same grace given to her.

    And how nice to see the same idea of unity here, along with the possibility of bearing each other's burdens. If I had a second crack at that old conversation, I'd add that Mary herself helps to bear the burdens of everyone trying to imitate her, in a more direct way than he might imagine!

  2. branemrys5:42 PM

    That's a really good point; to a great degree the passage is on how the communion of saints works, and Donatism was precisely the heresy that misunderstood the communion of saints. We all have to be in it together, bearing each others' burdens, and it's only by doing so that we all together make up the Bride of Christ who is strong and more precious than jewels, doing good and not evil.

  3. Timotheos11:01 PM

    Coming from a Protestant background, I'd say that this is also probably the most constructive way of getting them to understand the role of Mary.

    Most Protestants will scoff at the notion that they might need Mary in their lives; ask them about their local church though, and they'll probably tell you gushing reports about all the strength, love, prayer, etc., that they have gained from it.

    And of course, they know all those passages about how the church is the "bride of Christ" as well, so it dosen't take much to connect this with the idea of the church personifed in Mary (and this acts as a good way of arguing for and explaining all those "difficult" Marian doctrines, because the church considered as such (in Protestant terms, the "invisible" church) is all-holy, spotless, immaculate, resurrected, etc...)


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