Confessions

by: St. Augustine

Book IX

This is the final Book of the autobiographical part of the Confessions (the concluding four Books address more strictly philosophical and theological issues). Book IX recounts some of the events directly following Augustine's conversion: his retirement from his secular post, his baptism with Alypius and Adeodatus, a shared vision with Monica at Ostia just before her death, and a section of praise for her.

[IX.1-15] With the complete emergence of Augustine's free will in fully embracing God, he knew he had to retire from his position as a teacher (a salesman of loquacity). Not wishing to cause a stir, he waited until the next period of vacation before leaving his post--at this point, recurrent chest pain would have excused his withdrawal in any case. Meanwhile, Nebridius and another friend, Verecundus, had also decided to follow Augustine in converting to Catholicism.

Having shed his worldly occupation, Augustine continued to read and write. His chief works during this period were dialogues that set out the Neoplatonist reading of Christianity he had come to embrace. These he now sees as prideful works, though he does not retract anything specific from them. Augustine also had a powerful experience reading the Psalms at this point: "emotions exuded from my eyes and my voice."

There is a brief glance back to the Manicheans here, for whom Augustine now had nothing but pity and a lingering disgust. Now that he had saved himself, he began to wonder what to do about people who were as lost as they were.

Augustine was finally baptized, by Ambrose and in the company of his son Adeodatus and his friend Alypius. He immediately began to take greater part in Ambrose's congregation, participating in a sit--in against the anti- Catholic policies of Arian Justina (the mother of Valentinian II).

[IX.16-37] After recounting these events, Augustine turns his attention to Monica. Recalling her devout, humble, and wise nature over the course of her life, Augustine praises his mother for maintaining peace with his father and among her friends. He also suggests that God was using her for a higher purpose--in part, to see Augustine safely into the arms of the church. Although his father Patrick has passed away, Augustine tells us that Monica finally persuaded Patrick to be baptized shortly before his death.


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