Monday 4 October 2021

Augustine of Hippo - Ben O'Rourke - CTS Great Saints

Augustine of Hippo
CTS Great Saints
Fr Ben O'Rourke OSA
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825057
eISBN 9781784694135
CTS Booklet B703

I read this volume just days before Saint Augustine’s feast day of August 28th. A few years back I stumbled upon the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I instantly fell in love with the clear and concise writing. The many wonderful series. And even more excellent authors. This is the first volume I have read from the pen of Father Ben O'Rourke, and I believe he has only one other published works an edition of Augustine’s Confessions. I loved the books in the CTS Great Saints Series. I have also read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series. And have enjoyed all of them. This volume is an excellent read, in a wonderful series! 

The description on the back of the book is:

“St Augustine was a bishop, is a father of the Church and a Doctor of the Church, but above all is a man with an extraordinary story to tell. This booklet uses the famous Confessions of St Augustine to recount the wonderful journey from a life of sin and error to a life lived for Christ and his fellow Christians. Augustine's spiritual insights are as fresh and valuable today as when they were written 1600 years ago.”

And the chapters in this little volume are:

Early Years
‘I Hated School’
In Love with Love
‘An Unbelievable Fire in My Heart’
‘I Taught the Tricks of Speech’
‘Time to Put My Soul Together Again’
Rome: ‘The Wind Rose and Filled Our Sails’
‘I Became More Unhappy, But You More Near’
‘I Withdrew Completely Into Myself’
Time to be Still
‘All Must be Loved’
Prayers and Reflections by St Augustine
Further reading

In the beginning of the first chapter, The Early Years, Father Ben states:

“When he was born, his parents gave him a name given to very few at the time. Custom would have preferred ‘Patrick’, his father’s name. But, as his parents bent over the cradle of their newborn son, we can be sure that Monica, his mother, had a say in giving him the name ‘Augustine’. It was so ambitious. They named him after the Emperor Augustus. So he was ‘little Augustus’, or ‘little emperor’.

This boy, born to poor parents in a remote part of Rome’s vast Empire, would make the name ‘Augustine’ even more famous than that of the illustrious emperor after whom he was called.

The year was 354, the place Thagaste, a little town, now called Souk Ahras on the border of present-day Algeria and Tunisia. The world in which he grew up was Roman Africa. It had been under Roman dominion for three centuries. The culture, the laws, the education were Roman, the language Latin. A century earlier this part of the Empire had been a place of economic boom, but by 354 the prosperity was fading.”

This volume is one of the shorter volumes in the Great Saints series that I have read. It comes in at under 70 pages. But the booklet is a wonderful read. Of all the saints I have read about in this series to date, with my degree in Religious Studies and a focus on Roman Catholic Thought, He is one of the saints I was most familiar with. And yet with all my reading of works about and by this saint, this little biography was a refreshing and wonderful read. 

Later in that same first chapter we are informed:

“When Augustine comes to write the story of his life, he offers us not the record of happenings and events, but the story of his inner self. It is the story of his heart’s journey. It is the story of his coming to discover and own his true self.

So there is much we do not know about his early years. What we do get from him is the story of his relationships, of his friendships, and of his troubled and anguished teenage struggles. Above all, we see how his inner life, at every step, was linked with his deep need of God, whom he resisted for half his seventy years.

He tells us little of the family’s history. We don’t even know for certain how many brothers and sisters he had. We know little of his father’s status, or of his work. What we are given, instead, is one of the most fascinating accounts to be found anywhere in the world of a soul’s struggles to be itself.”

From what I can gleam Father Ben is an expert on Augustine. And he has synthesized that knowledge down into a great little volume. It is incredibly well researched, and yet is an easy and engaging read. It is a book that anyone in high school or beyond could read and benefit from. There were even a few stories or events retold here that I did not know, or did not recall some of the specifics. 

I greatly enjoyed reading this volume. I learned some new things about Saint Augustine. I shared the eBook with my 13 year old son, who is enjoying it. This is another excellent read, in a great series. It is very well written. And a great volume in the CTS Great Saints Series. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Father Ben O'Rourke:
Confessions: St Augustine

Books in the CTS Great Saints Series:
Antonio Rosmini - J.B. Midgley
Bernard of Clairvaux - J.B. Midgley
Benedict Patron of Europe - J.B. Midgley
Charles Borromeo - J.B. Midgley
Dominic - J.B. Midgley
Elizabeth of the Trinity The Great Carmelite Saint - Jennifer Moorcroft
Francis de Sales - J.B. Midgley
Gemma Galgani Gem of Christ John Paul Kirkham
George: Patron of England - J.B. Midgley
John Baptist de La Salle - J.B. Midgley
John of the Cross - Jennifer Moorcroft
John Vianney - J.B. Midgley
Louis Marie de Montfort His Life, Message and Teaching - Paul Allerton SMM
Martin de Porres - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Patrick Missionary to the Irish - Thomas O’Loughlin 

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