Mystery of Conversion: Augustine

From Benedict XVI. On Wednesday, 27 February [2008], after greeting pilgrims in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father proceeded to the Paul VI Audience Hall where he concluded his Catechesis on St. Augustine.

 

Augustine converted to Christ who is truth and love, followed him throughout his life and became a model for every human being, for all of us in search of God. This is why I wanted to ideally conclude my Pilgrimage to Pavia by consigning to the Church and to the world, before the tomb of this great lover of God, my first Encyclical entitled Deus Caritas Est.

I owe much, in fact, especially in the first part, to Augustine’s thought. Even today, as in his time, humanity needs to know and above all to live this fundamental reality: God is love, and the encounter with him is the only response to the restlessness of the human heart; a heart inhabited by hope, still perhaps obscure and unconscious in many of our contemporaries but which already today opens us Christians to the future, so much so that St. Paul wrote that “in this hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24).

I wished to dedicate my second Encyclical to hope, Spe Salvi, and it is also largely indebted to Augustine and his encounter with God.

In a beautiful passage, St. Augustine defines prayer as the expression of desire and affirms that God responds by moving our hearts toward him. On our part we must purify our desires and our hopes to welcome the sweetness of God (cf. In I Ioannis 4, 6). Indeed, only this opening of ourselves to others saves us.

Let us pray, therefore, that we can follow the example of this great convert every day of our lives, and in every moment of our life encounter the Lord Jesus, the only One who saves us, purifies us and gives us true joy, true life.

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