He’s been there

This week we celebrated the memorial of one of my favorite saints, St. Augustine. Augustine is a Doctor of the Church and his writings have had great influence on scholarship throughout the centuries. What appeals to me about this great saint is his journey of faith is a story that could occur today as much as it did in the fourth century.

Augustine liked to have fun. Growing up he and his friends go into all kinds of mischief. In his late teens and early adult years, he committed himself to the search for pleasure, equating it with happiness. It seemed though that he was always searching for more and grew more restless. This search included the intellectual as well. Eventually, he crossed paths with Ambrose and a whole new world opened to him. He embraced Christianity, was baptized and the rest is history.

This year on the memorial of St. Augustine, a group of freshmen will be moving onto campus a couple days ahead of the usual freshman move in. They will spend the weekend meeting upperclassmen who serve as peer leaders in Catholic Campus Ministry. They will learn from them some of the ways to make their adjustment to college life go a bit smoother. They will be given the resources and advice on nurturing their faith in college and they will be introduced to opportunities for service to others in the university community and community at large.

It is very appropriate that these two days coincide with one another. Augustine’s struggles with faith, searching for happiness, learning about himself and his place in the world are the same for these students. Many think they have it all figured out. Some even have the next 20 years of their lives planned out. It won’t take long for cracks to begin to form in those plans and eventually come crashing down.

St. Augustine reminds us of the importance of discernment: learning more about who we are, Who God is, where He is calling us to live life so that we may live the joy and peace we desire. Augustine reminds us that everything is on the table. I often joke with people that as a young man Augustine was not the guy you wanted your daughter to date. Priesthood and sainthood were the furthest things from his mind. Certainly no one else in those early years thought it a possibility. When Augustine became serious in his search, when he listened in prayer, discerned God’s call, a great conversion occurred; a conversion that changed the world in so many ways.

St. Augustine, indeed all the saints, provide us with role models for growing in faith, for motivating us on our journey. They are so diverse a collection of human beings that there is a saint out there that we can all relate to.

Augustine’s example and story challenges us to learn from his experience. Yes, we will make mistakes, but he inspires us to involve God in our lives: not just Sunday Mass, but in all aspects of our lives, including decision-making. 

As Christians we are so fortunate to have so many helps for this discernment. We are never alone. We have a community to celebrate our success with us; a community to encourage us and lift us up when we struggle with failure or doubt. We have a community to help us see where God is in our lives and to help us discern God’s call.

At times in our lives what is most helpful is hearing from those who have been there before. We want to know that there is hope and things will work out for the better. St. Augustine is one who has been where many of us are or have been. He is a great example of the power that God’s graces can have in our lives if we allow them to.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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