Tag Archives: St Augustine



Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal. (John 12:24,25)

Die by the unbelief of the Jews, be multiplied by the faith of the nations

The Lord Jesus was himself that grain which should die and be multiplied; die by the unbelief of the Jews, be multiplied by the faith of the nations. But now, encouraging us to follow in the footsteps of his Passion, he says: “He who loves his life, shall lose it.” This may be understood in two ways. First, he who loves his life, shall lose it; you love, you shall lose. If you desire to possess life in Christ, do not fear death for the sake of Christ. Second, in another way: he who loves his life, shall lose it; love not, lest you lose; love it not in this life, lest you lose it in life everlasting.

Detachment from the world (“Not of this world”)

But what I have said last, seems better to correspond with the meaning of the Gospel; for there follows: “And he who hates his life in this world, keeps it unto life eternal.” Therefore, in what was said above: “He who loves (that is, in this world [= attachment]), he of course shall lose it. But he who hates (that is, in this world [= detachment]) is he who shall keep it unto life eternal.” A great and wonderful saying, that in proportion as a man loves his life, it perishes; and as he hates, so it lasts. If you have loved it ill, then you have hated it; if you have hated it well, then you have loved it. Happy are they who, hating their life, keep it, lest they should lose it by loving.

Suffer like Christ; and beware of trying to take a shortcut into blessed eternity

But take care lest there steal upon you a desire for self I destruction, understanding this in the sense that it is your duty to hate your life in this world. For on such grounds certain wrong-minded and perverted men, who with regard to themselves, are murderers of a specially cruel and impious character, give themselves to the flames, suffocate themselves in the waters, dash themselves into pieces by casting themselves headlong, and perish. Christ did not teach this; for he, when the devil suggested to him that he should cast himself headlong, answered: “Return from where you came, Satan, for it is written: ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” And he said to Peter, signifying by what death he should glorify God: “When you were young, you did gird yourself and walked where you would, but when you are old, another shall gird you, and lead you where you are not able to go.” In this passage he made it sufficiently plain that he who follows in the footsteps of Christ must not be slain by himself, but by another.

– St Augustine, Bishop, Treatise 51 on John, from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964 (headings in bold added afterwards)


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Posted by on November 15, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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On Matthew 11:25-30 (previous post)

“Come to me, all you who labour.” And why do we all labour if it be not because we are all mortal men, frail and weak, bearing earthen vessels that distress one another for straitness? Yet, when the vessel of the flesh is straitened, let the open expanse of charity spread abroad.

Why then does he say, ‘Come to me, all you who labour, ” unless it means that you shall not labour? It is indeed clear that such is his promise; for since he calls those who labour, they will perchance ask, to what reward they are called. “And I will refresh you,” he says. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,” not how to make the world, not to create all things visible and invisible, not how to work wonders in this world and raise the dead, but: “Because I am meek and humble of heart.”

Do you desire to be great? Begin first by being the least. Do you think to raise a mighty building of great height? Think first of the lowness of the foundation. And however great a mass of building anyone may wish and design to erect, the higher he intends to raise it, the deeper he digs his foundation. And as the structure is built up, it rises heavenward; but he that digs the foundation, must dig down very low. The building, therefore, must be low before it is high, and the roof is erected only after a lowly beginning.

What is the roof of the building which we are raising? How high will its peak reach? I answer you at once: “Even to the very sight of God.” You see how high, how great a thing it is to behold God. He who desires it, will understand both what I say and what he hears. The sight of God is promised to us, the very God, God most High. This indeed is good, to see him who sees. For those that worship false gods can easily see them; but they see idols, who have eyes and see not. But to us is promised the vision of the living and the seeing God.

– St Augustine, Sermon 10 on the Words of the Lord, from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

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Posted by on November 13, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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Homily of St Augustine on John 11:47-54 

The chief priest and the Pharisees took counsel together; and yet they did not say: “Let us believe.” For these abandoned men took more thought how to do harm, that they may destroy him [Our Lord Jesus], than how to take counsel for themselves, that they might escape destruction; and yet they were afraid and did in a manner take counsel together. For they said: “What are we doing, for this man is working many signs? If we let him alone as he is, all will believe in him: and the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation.” They feared to lose temporal things, and took no thought for eternal life, and thus they lost both together.

Through clinging to temporal things at all cost they lost everything

For after the Lord had suffered and had entered into glory, the Romans took away from them their place and nation by conquering them and carrying them away; and that pursues them, which was said elsewhere: “But the children of the kingdom shall go into the exterior darkness.” But this was what they feared, that, if all should believe in Christ, there would be none left to defend the city and the temple of God against the Romans; for they imagined that the teaching of Christ was directed against that temple and against the laws of their fathers.

But one of them, named Caiphas, being high priest that year, said to them: “You know nothing: neither do you reflect that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, instead of the whole nation perishing.” And this he spoke not in a private capacity; but as high priest of that year, he prophesied. From this we learn that even wicked men may foretell the future by the spirit of prophecy; this, however, the Evangelist ascribes to a divine sacrament, for this man was the pontiff, that is to say, the high priest.

– St Augustine, Treatise 49 on John, from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

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Posted by on March 12, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.” (Mt 6:16-21)

Homily of St Augustine 

(Book 2 on the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Vol. 4, Ch. 12)

It is clear from these precepts that all our efforts should be directed toward achieving internal joy, lest in seeking an external reward we may be so conformed to the spirit of this world, that we disregard the promise of that happiness which is the more substantial and lasting because it is interior. It is in that happiness God has chosen we be made in the likeness of his Son.

In this chapter the point will be made that it is possible to be vainglorious not only of the pomp and splendour of earthly possessions, but even of squalid poverty. This last is more dangerous, because it is done under the name of serving God.

The man, therefore, who makes himself conspicuous through excessive care of the body, of dress, or display of other sorts, by these very things is proved to be a follower of worldly vanities. He deceives no one by his mask of holiness.

But the man who is parading his Christianity causes the eyes of all men to turn towards him by his eccentric display of groveling and dirtiness – a state which he endures not from necessity but of his own choice – must be judged from his other actions whether he bears this state through the virtue of mortification in the giving up of unnecessary comfort, or from an ostentatious vanity. The Lord bids us beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. “By their fruits,” he says, “you shall know them.”

When various trials come upon these persons and they lose or are denied those things, which under the guise of spirituality, they gained, or at least they strove to gain, then it becomes apparent whether they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, or sheep in their own.

Nevertheless, a Christian should not attract attention with needless display, because hypocrites, feigning poor and mean attire, sometimes deceive the guileless. Nor should sheep cast away their own clothing because wolves sometimes assume it.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964



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Presentation of the Lord (Purification of B.V.M.; Candlemas), Gospel Reading: Lk2:22-32

It was thus prophesied of old: “Mother Sion says: ‘And a man was made man in her; and the Highest himself has founded her.'”

O almighty power of a newborn child! O magnificence coming down from heaven to earth! He is still being carried in the womb, and is saluted by John the Baptist from the womb of his mother; is presented in the temple, and is recognised by Simeon, an old man, famous and full of years, proved and crowned. First he recognised, then he adored, then he said: “Now dismiss your servant, O Lord, in peace; because my eyes have seen your salvation.”

“My eyes have seen your salvation”

He delayed his going from the world, that he might see him born, he by whom the world was made. The old man knew the Child, and in the Child became a child. He, who was filled with devotion, found himself renewed in old age.

Simeon, the old man, bore Christ the Child, Christ ruled the old age of Simeon.

It had been said to him by the Lord that he would not taste death before he had seen Christ born of the Lord.

Christ was born, and in the old age of the world the desire of the old man was fulfilled.

He who found a world broken with age came to an aged man.

“Show us, O Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation”

He would not indeed stay longer in this world, and in this world he desired to see Christ, singing and saying with the prophet: “Show us, O Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation.” And lastly, that thus you should know it to be his joy, he says: “Now dismiss your servant in peace: for my eyes have seen your salvation.”

The Prophets sang that the Creator of heaven and earth should eventually be on earth with men; the angel announced that the Creator of spirit and flesh should come in the flesh; John from the womb saluted the Saviour in the womb: Simeon the old man recognised the Child as God.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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“Tears are the heart’s blood. This is a beautiful thought of Saint Augustine’s, which he applies to his mother. ‘My God” he cries “my mother’s tears, this blood of her heart, which flowed night and day, rose to thee in sacrifice for me’.

‘The soul’, said the ancients, ‘is in the blood’. It carries at least part of life; it rolls with our impressions, our thoughts, our desires, our sorrows, our joys, our hopes; for in reality man’s blood is not merely a scarlet liquid which circulates in his veins and constantly repairs his forces. Tears are also a form of blood, and when they rise, they contain as it were drops from the heart, which thus fall to the ground.


O Christian souls, you, like Saint Monica, have dear ones, to whom you cling with all your strength! Have you not often shed tears for them before the Lord? And did you not feel that those tears were the very blood of your inner nature, and that this blood, the shedding of which so tore your heart, was like a sacrifice, a veritable martyrdom? Oh! do not regret it; rejoice in this sacrifice; this it was, perhaps, which restored peace and piety in your family. Continue to pray, to shed tears before God. Each one of these drops is taken up by angels, and when they reach the throne of God, Heaven knows what metamorphosis they have undergone in the transit – they are all changed into pearls, whose price serves to purchase the redemption of those who are dear to you.


One day a poor woman was weeping in a church for her sins. A Bishop who was on the altar saw a dove collecting her tears in order to bear them to heaven.”

– Laverty&Sons, Leeds, 1905


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“We are more than just consumers

In an inspired remark at the Mass for All Souls Day, our parish priest Fr Paul Redmond at Christ the King, Bramley, invited us to reflect on the fact that when we die and meet God ‘face to face, the full purpose and meaning of our own mysterious lives will be revealed to us’.

When we die and meet God face-to-face, the full purpose and meaning of our lives will be revealed to us

Meanwhile, we struggle on, trying to relate to others and manage our human desires for basic material goods, for other human beings and for God.

The difficulty seems to be that we are now living in times of such ferocious reductionism that our abilities to manage our desires are constantly being diminished. No need to worry about God in our secular world, only our abuse of others is a serious problem (especially in war and sexual abuse), though we can scarcely agree on what are the basic human needs of shelter, food and clothing for each and every person.

And yet, as St Augustine spelled out, our insatiable desires have the power to burn us up if not managed properly.

Our insatiable desires have the power to burn us up if not managed properly

An editorial in the recent Concilium theology magazine asked: ‘How can we humans order our desires rightly when we are bombarded with advertising that constantly tells us that we need more of everything all the time?’

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded

We are all increasingly reduced to being regarded as consumers today. All values are reduced to monetary measures as the ‘economy now rules all’. Parents are even being urged by government to ask first and foremost ‘can they afford to have another child’? Students, patients and passengers are all called ‘consumers’. Personal contribitions, even of charitable volunteers, are now measured in quantitative cash values. As Pope Francis spells out in Evangelii Gaudium : ‘human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a throwaway culture which is now spreading’.

Everything human is being given a price tag

Not only are humans being regarded as literally ‘disposable’, increased consumerism is being driven by economic globalism, which is leading to a widening divide between those getting richer and those becoming poorer. Trade and commerce are driven by a continuing commodification of human life where nearly everything that human beings can be or do is increasingly a marketable product. Everything human is being given a price tag. This is far from the mysterious meaning and purpose of the human vocation, that personal ‘calling by God’ of each and every person whose human dignity is sacred from the outset.

Resisting the tyranny of market domination

Resisting this ‘tyranny’ of market domination, as Pope Francis labels it, is a huge challenge. Notably, the new supermarkets of Aldi and Lidl are overtaking the ‘big four’. In Leeds, Morrisons in Kirkstall offers 28,000 choices of goods on the shelves; the new Aldi store in Bramley only 8,000. St Augustine warned that entrapment in too many ‘choices’ is actually a form of slavery which diminishes our capacity to make really important choices.

I find myself hard to grasp (St Augustine)

When he wrote ‘I find myself hard to grasp’ he was challenging that  reduction of our lives to the economy of ever-expanding choices and inviting us to open up to God’s mysterious purposes.

– This article by John Battle was published in the Catholic Universe newspaper, issue 7th November, 2014. (Bold and headings added afterwards.) For subscriptions to the Catholic Universe newspaper please contact (external link)


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