Back in National Blog Post Writing Month, I mentioned that I was working my way through St. Augustine’s City of God with the idea that once I had finished it, I would write about it here on My Turn to Talk. I actually finished it back about a week before Christmas, but I got busy with a lot of other things and didn’t get a chance to write the post. But now that things have quieted down a little bit, I find I actually have the time to write about my thoughts.
City of God turned out to be a really good book to read during the Advent season because I came away feeling as if I had just been on a really intense spiritual journey. It might sound corny to say that, but it’s true. St. Augustine sets the truths of the Catholic Faith in front of you with such passion and clarity that you can’t help but get swept up in his writing. Plus, his writing feels as if you are covering all of human history, the past as well as the future. There were many times when I could identify with some of the scenarios in the Church and the world in general–heck, a lot of times I forgot this book was written nearly 2,000 years ago; so much of it is still relevant today. It was a refreshing glimpse of a world where people meant what they said and weren’t going to back down from the truth.
I mentioned that there were times I forgot the book was written so long ago, and that wasn’t just because of the familiar scenarios in the Church and the world. A lot of the scientific stuff that St. Augustine mentioned were things that we still teach in our classrooms today, which surprised me a little. Apparently the people who lived back then weren’t nearly so uneducated as historians like to claim they were. Yes, there were a few things he got wrong (he wasn’t sure if there was a continent on the other side of the ocean, and if there was, he didn’t think people could live there), but there were other things he got right even if he didn’t use the same terms we use today (he mentioned a man with two heads and multiple limbs which sounded to me like a case of conjoined twins). Also, he talked a little bit about a race of people that had the bodies of men but the heads of wolves–he had heard stories of their existence and was trying to determine if they had immortal souls or not (his answer was basically, “If they are descended from Adam, yes, they have immortal souls; just don’t ask me how they got the wolf heads”)–and for a while I was like, “Hey, werewolves are real, and St. Augustine talks about them!” (What can I say; I’m weird; I get distracted when saints say there might be real werewolves.) Oh, and there was another part, too, where he casually mentions that the first Good Friday was on March 25, and my reaction was along the lines of, “Dude! Do you know how many internet debates have been waged over that date!? And you’re just casually dropping it here like it’s no big deal!?” Yes, poor St. Augustine got subjected to my running commentary. I can only imagine I caused him to facepalm several times.
Random geeking and commentary aside, I appreciated the, well, universal quality the book had–like I said, it felt relevant even though it was written thousands of years ago. It was a great book, and I’m glad I decided to read it.
It did cause me to consider, though, that a lot of the saints left great works of literature behind them when they died. What am I going to leave? This blog. I doubt it will help my cause for canonization (they’ll probably decide against canonizing me on the grounds that I just called St. Augustine “Dude”). But at the same time, it made me realize just how divinely inspired St. Augustine had to have been in order to write City of God. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was really God who wrote the book; He just had St. Augustine write the words down for Him.