Me & Auggie Part 2: College, Chastity & the Confessions
I had summed up my initial encounter with Augustine when I was in High School, somewhat culminating in my decision to receive that name upon my confirmation. It was not a happy ending however.
At this time, God was calling me to a new responsibility, and it was a scary time. I no longer found the moral vacuum of my youth sufficient. Neither did I believe I could be sustained by some sort of vague innocuous spirituality (but not religious) type of nonsense. I needed something substantial, the sort of thing that would convict me to carry medicine through the snow and mud to the sick and dying, in the midst of a dangerous thunderous blizzard.
I was challenged in my faith by several religious studies and philosophy professors in community college. Even in a good way, that the non-believers forced me struggle for real answers that would harmonize with my faith tradition. I even had this guy as a professor, I am pretty sure after reading his testimony that it was in his theism days lol.
I remember, in my youth group, the adult leaders scrutinized me over my decision to major in philosophy. Philosophy, to them, was just some other way atheists were about bashing religion. They should have told Augustine that. But it was okay, one of the parish priests was encouraging of this, because, afterall, priests need to study philosophy, and, well he was convinced I should be a priest.
I was, in all honesty, too unchaste to be a priest. This is probably where I resonated with Augustine more than anything. Although my mind, my psycho, my soul, my emotions, were being stretched by the intellectual debacles in the classroom, and the way I was stretched into growing into adulthood. I was really struggling with little resolution with chastity. I really gave up the consecrated life.
I started dating this girl who was passionate about chastity, convinced that somehow a chaste girl could magically make me chaste… or that that would be God’s natural means… but umm, it failed miserably. After I was grappling with losing the priesthood, losing this girl, losing the possibility of being a math teacher, since I sucked at it at the college level, and losing the possibility to do the hip hop thing when the hip hop stoners I rolled with fell off, and my computer crashed. I had nothing.
It was some months after that, struggling earnestly for a better interior chastity, and I read Augustine’s Confessions. The part about Lady Continence, or rather, Lady Chastity, resonated with me. Whereas the desire for perfect celibate chastity that I had would have typically been dismissed as the extreme obsession of someone who cannot associate their sexuality, I think God was speaking to my desire for real and genuine freedom. Sexuality can be bondage, even for those who are not acting out in extreme addictions. The Confessions spoke to that part of me that needed to believe God would work with me.
Reading Augustine’s candid brokenness in beautiful prose was not only soothing balm for my sexual wounds, but new life. It was as if the Lord, who is the all-beautiful One, could craft a beautiful composition, a beautiful work of out, out of our broken misery. That seemed to be the way that Augustine described it. It seemed to be the strength that carried me.
After that, some amazing things happened, that would require a totally different turn of events. To sum it up, I was adequately and reasonably convinced of my vocation to consecrated life in a religious Order, and I had the grace of chastity to back it up.
I did connect with several, and the Augustinian’s worked. Most of the Augustinians I mentioned were as thoroughly enthralled by this man as I was. I could not say the same for many of the other priests in other congregations who were barely connected to their own spiritual founders.
Unfortunately, my mom was diagnosed with Lung Cancer shortly after that. It was a struggle for me, and even more for my family. Somehow God’s will revealed in my life gave me some sort of strength I never imagined. Yet, even upon grieving my mom’s death, I read Augustine’s reflections on death around his friend, and around his Mother. Again, it was as if God was composing a beautiful symphonic masterpiece synchronic to the tragedy I was undergoing.
If I were to sum up the things that resonated for me with Augustine at this time, it would have always been his passionate and sensual description of his relationship tot he Lord, the significance and beauty of the chaste Christian life of love, and especially how God works wonders and beauty throughout life’s tragedies. As I would enter religious life, I would see many of these things with greater depth, and begin to receive several new insights about that!