left Quote ST AUGUSTINE (354–430 AD)

[Recalling an incident before his conversion]
“I recall an incident on the day on which I was preparing to recite a panegyric on the emperor. In it I was to deliver many a lie, and the lying was to be applauded by those who knew I was lying. My heart was agitated with this sense of guilt and it seethed with the fever of my uneasiness. For, while walking along one of the streets of Milan, I saw a poor beggar - with what I believe was a full belly – laughing and joking.  And I sighed and spoke to the friends around me of the many sorrows that flowed from our madness, because in spite of all our exertions – such as those I was then labouring in, dragging the burden of my unhappiness under the spur of ambition, and, by dragging it, increasing it at the same time – still and all we aimed only to attain that very happiness which this beggar had reached before us; and there was a grim chance that we should never attain it!  For what he had obtained through a few coins, got by his begging, I was still scheming for by many a wretched and tortuous turning – namely, the joy of a passing happiness.... I got no great pleasure from my learning, but sought, rather, to please others by exhibiting it – and this not to instruct, but only to please.”   (Confessions, Book VI, ch. 6)


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In their many different idioms the classical spiritual writers have attempted to throw light on the eternal question of union with God. 
Every month we give you a brief passage from a spiritual classic.