Saint Augustine, provocative of thought

Saint Augustin. Pastor, theologian and spiritual master

by Marie-Anne Vannier

New City, 370 p., 23 €

Recognized specialist of Saint Augustine and editor-in-chief of the review Knowledge of the Fathers of the Church, Marie-Anne Vannier has collected and organized several of her articles. His work, Saint Augustin. Pastor, theologian, spiritual master, provides opportunities for thought-provoking reflection through many themes of Augustine’s thought (354-430). The book is suitable for continuous reading or foraging favored by the number and general brevity of the chapters.

The academic reader will find it of interest in philosophy, theology, or Church history. He will follow the Augustinian roots of cogito Cartesian, Augustine’s conceptual work on the notions of “form”, “world”, “matter” or “trace” – all present in contemporary intellectual lexicon.

Food for thought

The chapters on deacons, the Augustinian theory of preaching or the worship of relics, will nourish the reflection of readers sensitive to pastoral questions of the Church in France on the diaconate, preaching or popular devotions. Notes do not hinder reading and bibliographies follow several chapters. The author maintains clarity of exposition within more technical developments which will help any reader who is just curious to take advantage of the rich material of this work.

Marie-Anne Vannier never forgets the significance of Augustine’s thinking for our understanding of ourselves. It underlines the existential unity of the thought of Augustine which it summarizes thus: it unceasingly uncovers itself again “A being created but not yet accomplished, a being oriented towards its creator which is accomplished only through its creator”. Commenting on the famous phrase of confessions, “You have made us oriented towards you and our heart is restless until it rests in you”, she writes : “If today we live in a world without God, it is often for having forgotten this dimension, for having thought that the human being is self-sufficient when he is fundamentally a relational being. “

Counterpoint to the current outlook

Augustine jointly considers questions which for us contemporaries are separate: self-awareness as a subject is not opposed to that of incompleteness (“The anticipations of cogito at Saint Augustine »). “The memory of Saint Augustine” offers a counterpoint to the current dominant neuroscience perspective on this reality and this human experience. The vision of the person proposed by Saint Augustine is deeply positive, dynamic, open. She sees humanity as a future, the main factor of evolution of which is not technical power or the notion of progress, but humility and love (charity) between people.

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In the field of spiritual life, Augustine’s reflections on prayer and praise help to overcome the opposition between silent prayer and praise prayer. Understood by Augustine as a “An ever-renewed dialogue with God”, prayer is an experience of the gratuitousness of God who wants to be loved for free. “This is what it means to love, not to love him because he gives something other than himself but because he gives himself”, wrote St. Augustine. Prayer is a continuous creation, it leads man to its fulfillment.

Marie-Anne Vannier relays to our contemporary ears the effort of intelligence and the existential commitment of Saint Augustine. An upset witness to God’s friendship for man, he liked to repeat: “We are doing nothing other than tapping the listener’s ear from outside; He’s the one talking inside. “

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