Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 17 (In praise of the godly Mother)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 17 (In praise of the godly Mother)

“There are many things which I do not set down in this book, since I am pressed for time. My God, I pray you to accept my confessions and also the gratitude I bear you for all the many things which I pass over silence. But I will omit not a word that my mind can bring to birth concerning your servant, my mother. In the flesh she brought me to birth in this world: in her heart she brought me to birth in your eternal light. It is not of her gifts that I shall speak, but of the gifts you gave to her. For she was neither her own maker nor her own teacher. It was you who made her, and neither her father nor her mother knew what kind of woman their daughter would grow up to be. It was by Christ’s teaching, by the guidance of your only Son, that she was brought to honour and obey you in one of those good Christian families which form the body of your Church…

In this way my mother was brought in modesty and temperance. It was you who taught her to obey her parents rather than they who taught her to obey you, and when she was old enough, they gave her in marriage to a man whom she served as his lord. She never ceased to try to gain him for you as a convert, for the virtues with which you have adorned her, and for which he respected, loved, and admired her, were like so many voices constantly speaking to him of you.

He was unfaithful to her, but her patience was so great that his infidelity never became a cause of quarelling between them. For she looked to you to show him mercy, hoping chastity would come with faith. Though he was remarkably kind, he had a hot temper, but my mother knew better than to say or do anything to resist him when he was angry. If his anger was unreasonable, she used to wait until he was calm and composed and then took the opportunity of explaining what she had done…

In the end she won her husband as a convert in the very last days of his life on earth. After his conversion she no longer had to grieve over those faults which had tried her patience before he was a Christian. She was also the servant of your servants. Those of them who knew her praised you, honoured you, and loved you in her, for they could feel your presence in her heart and her holy conversation gave rich proof of it. She had been faithful to one husband, had made due returns to those who gave her birth. Her own flesh and blood had had first claim on her piety, and she had a name for acts of charity. She had brought up her children and had been in travail afresh each time she saw them go astray from you.

Finally, O Lord, since by your gift you allow her to speak as your servants, she took good care of all of us when we had received the grace of your baptism and werr living as companions before she fell asleep in you. She took good care of us, as though she had been the mother of us all, and served each one as though she had been his daughter.”

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