Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Reading Augustine at the Summit

Remembering that today is the 39th anniversary of my graduate school graduation, I began the day by re-reading the famous letter which Petrach (1304-1374) wrote to his spiritual director, the Augustinian friar Dionigi da Borgo San Sepolcro, recounting his ascent of Mount Ventoux on April 26, 1336. Its appeal (and the reason I have long linked it with my graduate academic career) was that the climb, undertaken to fulfill Petrarch's own desire for its own sake - "the impulse to accomplish what I had always wanted to do" - culminated in a meditation on the direction of his life, a meditation guided by words of Saint Augustine, from a copy of Augustine's Confessions which Petrarch claimed always to keep with him on his person.

I don't climb mountains, and i don't literally carry Augustine's Confessions with me wherever I go. But my studies were for me like Petrarch's long-desired climb, and they did lead me to a special friendship with Saint Augustine, which continues in ever enriching ways. Like Petrarch, I too have experienced the Saint's ever so powerful words almost as if they were addressed directly to me. And so it is always when we learn from experience anything important about God or the world, we learn something important about ourselves in the process.

So annually on this anniversary, with the increased benefit of manifold experience and lots of hindsight, I make my own Petrarch's prayer that my thoughts may "now turn at last to the One, the Good, the True, the stably Abiding."

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