Today is the Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and one of the greatest and most beloved Saints of all time. Several years ago, I purchased a copy of his Confessions, a true classic. The book has short chapters, which are easy to review from time to time.
So today I decided to bring the book out again and read an early chapter; Chapter 6 – Questions about Infancy. Many of his reflections are truly delightful. St. Augustine is known as a great scholar and theologian…but to see him reflect on a baby’s behavior made me smile.
“Thus, little by little, I began to perceive where I was, and I wanted to declare my wants to those who might satisfy them, and could not; for my wants were within me, and the people were outside me, nor could they by any sense enter into my mind. Therefore, I made motions and sounds as signs to express my wants, the few that I could with my limited ability, but they bore very little resemblance to what I wished.”
Yes, indeed! Countless parents and grandparents have spent hours looking at the baby in their arms, asking “What do you want????”
“When my will was not complied with, either because I was not understood, or because what I desired was potentially harmful, I grew angry with my elders for not submitting to me, and with those who did not offer me any help even though they had no responsibility to do so, and I took my revenge upon them by crying.“
Okay, I have to admit that when I read this today, I laughed! A baby doesn’t “take revenge,” but I can imagine how a brilliant scholar pondering the life of his infancy may have attributed this motive, which would credit the baby with a very active will and intellect. His writings do show a profound understanding of the humanity of the child…having wants and needs, trying to communicate. I’m reminded of cartoons with babies and young children talking way beyond their years! But I find these next words even more amazing, especially considering Augustine’s earthly life spanned the years 354-430.
“Whence could such a living creature derive its being but from You, O Lord? Could anyone be the source of his own being? Does there exist any channel, by which being and life can flow into us, that can derive from any other source than You Who created us, O Lord? In You, being and life are identical, because Supreme Being and Supreme Life are one and the same.”
Being and Life are identical. The unborn human being has life, and that life comes from God alone! Yes, God permits us to participate in that life-giving power through the marital embrace of husband and wife (or even unmarried people as St. Augustine himself experienced.) Yet it is ultimately God’s design and plan that brings a new baby into existence. What a tremendous gift!
When I read Confessions years ago, I wasn’t thinking about it from any prolife perspective, but I thank God for nudging me to take another look. The beauty and the gift of life is something all the great Saints understood. I can hardly wait to see whose writings will inspire me next!