Sunday 10 December 2023

The Confessions of St. Augustine - Gregory Pine, Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, and Matthew K. Minerd - Ascension Catholic Classics

The Confessions of St. Augustine
St. Augustine of Hippo 
Ascension Catholic Classics
ISBN 9781954882157
eISBN 9781954882164

Reading this volume was a bit of a different process. It is the second in a new series from Ascension press called Catholic Classics, and there is a podcast version by Gregory Pine and Jacob Bertrand Janczyk. I listened to the podcast in the morning and then read the associated sections in the afternoon. In essence I worked through the book twice. I did find I had to speed up Gregory and Jacob, but even with that it was great to listen to their commentary each day, and read their commentary before the different sections of the book. The description of this edition of this book is:

“The powerful witness of St. Augustine’s spiritual journey empowers all the faithful to strive for heaven.

The second book of the Catholic Classics series, The Confessions of St. Augustine, is an updated translation of the key work of Catholic tradition that is accessible for modern readers.

Often considered one of the most influential and inspiring works of the saints, this classic yet relevant text was written by the Doctor of the Church as a prayer to God, confessing his faith despite past mistakes and recognizing the ways that God has transformed his heart. Through the years, it has remained a key reflection on the spiritual life for believers who seek to persevere through weakness toward the glory of heaven.

Exploring topics such as understanding Sacred Scripture, the weakness of the human heart, and the transformative power of an encounter with the living God, this text draws readers ever closer to God through St. Augustine’s conversations with the heavenly Father who called him out of a life of sin and onto the path toward sainthood.

With a new translation by Dr. Matthew Minerd, this special version renews Catholics' understanding and appreciation of this spiritual classic. It also includes:

• Expert commentary from Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P. introducing each of its 13 books
• A message from the authors about the relevance of this ancient text to the modern-day Catholic
• An insert of sacred art of St. Augustine from Ascension’s Sacred Art Collection of Holy Men and Women by Tianna Williams
• A leatherlike cover, foil stamping, and a place-holding ribbon

This beautiful book draws all Catholics into a deeper relationship with God in their pursuit of holiness through the honesty, authenticity, and wisdom of one of the Church’s greatest saints.”

The sections and chapters in this edition are:

About the Catholic Classics
Editor’s Remarks by Matthew K. Minerd
Introduction by Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P.

Commentary on Book 1  
Book 1
Commentary on Book 2  
Book 2
Commentary on Book 3  
Book 3
Commentary on Book 4  
Book 4
Commentary on Book 5  
Book 5
Commentary on Book 6  
Book 6
Commentary on Book 7  
Book 7
Commentary on Book 8  
Book 8
Commentary on Book 9  
Book 9
Commentary on Book 10  
Book 10
Commentary on Book 11  
Book 11
Commentary on Book 12  
Book 12
Commentary on Book 13  
Book 13


This edition has it’s:

Nihil obstat: Reverend Msgr. J Brian Bransfield, Censor librorum, May 9, 2023

Imprimatur: Most Reverend Nelson J. Perez, Archbishop of Philadelphia, May 17, 2023

Now please note there are over 300 editions of this book in English. By several different translators, from various publishers and wither with and without commentary. Because the book is now in public domain many, many editions are just copies of each other. We are informed about Catholic Classics from Ascension Press that:

“There are texts by great saints that many devout Catholics are convinced they should read, but perhaps they feel overwhelmed by the thought. Most of these texts were originally written in a foreign language centuries ago. The available English translations often use terminology that has fallen out of use, making them more challenging to the modern reader. One can leave such texts with more questions than answers. They can seem unapproachable to all but scholars.

But these writings were intended as gifts to all of God’s faithful so that we can know more about God and, more importantly, so that we can know God. Each saint, each Doctor of the Church, each mystic reflects some aspect of the beauty and goodness of our creator.

To help renew Catholics’ appreciation of these works, Ascension has created this series, Catholic Classics. With updated translations, the works are more readable to modern eyes. Added introductions and commentary help unlock the text and give context to the original author’s references.

The peacock is the symbol for the Catholic Classics. It is an ancient Christian symbol of eternal life and the resurrection that reflects the perennial nature of these classics and the new life they will breathe into your spiritual life as you read them. The Scriptures tell us that King Solomon, renowned for his wisdom, kept peacocks, which were a mark of his grandeur (1 Kings 10:22). The peacock evokes the great wisdom contained in these classic works.

As you read, remember to use this opportunity as a moment of encounter with the living God. Pray as you read. See Christ in the words of his servants—of his friends—and know that he waits there for you.”

Matthew K. Minerd as editor and translator states:

“This book is a deep editing and reworking of a translation of The Confessions of St. Augustine from the 1800s, undertaken in close consultation with the original Latin of the text. The base text used for this project was a very literal rendering of Augustine’s prose and, therefore, has been subject to deep revision. Various aspects of Latin style and cadence differ significantly from the way the English language, especially contemporary English, is able to express thoughts. While remaining faithful to the text, its content, and even its rhetorical form, the translator must not allow adherence to Latinate linguistic forms to make the reading of a work in English unnecessarily difficult. Therefore, the book you are now holding is a completely new rendering of this great classic of Western spirituality and thought.

It is with trepidation that someone offers a translation of a text such as this. Anybody who is familiar with the style of the Doctor of Grace knows that St. Augustine’s prowess with words is immense. How true do we find here a confirmation of the often-cited Italian maxim “Traduttore, traditore”: the translator is a traitor! How difficult it is to capture the linguistic and rhetorical mastery expressed in the Confessions!

In the book you are now holding, I have striven to present this important work in a way that is completely faithful to St. Augustine’s original. However, many translations of this work exist, so there must be some justification for a new one presented by Ascension. Therefore, I have worked to make the Confessions accessible to those who will listen to the accompanying Catholic Classics podcast, which will unpack the riches of Augustine’s words. Therefore, in the back of my mind as I worked on this volume, I always heeded how the words would sound when read aloud.”
Some samples of selections from this volume are:

“Book 1 #1 Great are you, O Lord, and highly to be praised. Great is your power, and infinite your wisdom (see Psalm 145:3 and 147:5). Man wishes to praise you. But what is man? A mere particle within your creation. He bears within himself his own mortality, in witness to his sin, in witness to the fact that you, O God, resist the proud (see James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5). And yet, man, this mere particle in your creation, wishes to praise you. You rouse us to take delight in your praise, for you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.
Grant, O Lord, that I might know and understand which is first: to call upon you or to praise you? And again: do we first know you or first call upon you? For who can call upon you if he does not first know you? Indeed, he who does not know you might well call upon you in a way that is, in fact, not in accord with who you truly are. Or, rather, do we first call upon you so that we might know you? “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? … And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). And, they who seek the Lord shall praise him (Psalm 22:26). For they who seek shall find him (see Matthew 7:7). I will seek you, Lord, by calling upon you, and I will call upon you in faith, for we have heard the word of preaching spoken about you. My faith, O Lord, shall call upon you, the faith that you have given me, the faith that you have inspired in me through the incarnation of your Son, through the ministry of your preacher.”

“Book 2 #4 Theft is punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law written upon the hearts of men, which iniquity itself does not erase. For what thief will abide a thief? Not even a rich thief will abide someone who steals because of his poverty. Yet, I lusted to steal and did so, compelled by no hunger, nor by poverty, but from a contempt for justice and an excess of iniquity. For I stole something that I had enough of, and indeed more than enough. Nor did I care to enjoy what I stole but, rather, took joy in the theft and sin itself. Near our vineyard there was a pear tree laden with fruit, tempting neither in its color nor in its taste. Some of us lewd young men went, late one night (for in our pestilential custom we continued our playing of sports in the streets until that time of day), to shake and rob this tree. We took huge loads, not to eat them but instead to fling them to the hogs, having ourselves only tasted them. We did all this only in order to do something that we liked merely because it was disliked. Behold my heart, O God, behold my heart, which you had mercy upon in the lowest depths of the bottomless pit. Now, behold, let my heart tell you what it sought there, seeking to be gratuitously evil, tempted to commit this evil solely by the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved to perish and loved my own fault, not that for which I was at fault but, rather, my fault itself. What a foul soul, falling from your firmament to utter destruction, not seeking anything through shame except shame itself!”

“Book 4 #9 This is what is loved in friends, indeed loved such that a man’s conscience condemns itself if he does not love him who loves him in return or does not love in return him who loves him, looking for nothing from this person other than indications of his love. Thus, we see the source of the mourning that follows upon the death of such a friend, with dark sorrows, the heart being soaked with tears and all sweetness turning to bitterness, and also the death of the living that follows upon the loss of life suffered by the dying. Blessed is he who loves you, and his friend in you, and his enemy for your sake. For he alone loses nobody who is dear to him, to whom all are dear in him who cannot be lost. And who is this but our God, the God that made heaven and earth (see Genesis 1:1) and fills them (see Jeremiah 23:24) because by filling them he created them? None lose you except those who depart from you. And he who departs from you, where does he go or where does he flee if not from you well-pleased to you displeased. For in the midst of his punishment where does he not encounter your law? And your law is truth, as you are (see Psalm 119:142; John 14:6).”

“Book 7 #8 Yet you, O Lord, abide forever (see Psalm 102:12), but you are not angry with us forever. For you take pity upon the dust and ashes from which we are made, and it was pleasing in your sight to reform my deformities. Inwardly prodding me, you roused me, so that I should be ill at ease, until you at last would be manifested to my inward sight. Thus, by your secret medicine my swelling abated, and the troubled and dimmed eyesight of mind was healed day by day by the bitter salve of healing sorrows.”

“Book 13 #1 I call upon you, O my God, my Mercy, who created me and does not forget me, though I forget you. I call you into my soul, which you prepare for yourself by the longing that you yourself inspire in it. Forsake me not now that I call upon you, who aided me before I even called and urged me onward with so great a variety of repeated callings, that I might hear you from afar, be converted, and call upon you who called out for me. For you, O Lord, blot out all that my evil has deserved, lest you repay into my hands, with which I fell from you, the recompense that would be justly owed to me. And you have been the source of all the goods that I deserve, so that you repay the work of your own hands, with which you made me. For before I was, you were. Nor was I anything, to which you might grant being. And yet, behold, I am, because of your goodness, which is the source that precedes all that you have made me to be, yes, because of that goodness from which you made me. For neither do you have any need of me, nor am I any sort of good that would be helpful for you, my Lord and God. I do not serve you as though you would tire out in your work without me or as though your power might be less if it lacked my service. Nor is it a question of cultivating your service like a land that would remain uncultivated without my labors cultivating you. Rather, I serve and worship you so that I might receive well-being from you, the very source of the fact that I have a being capable of well-being.”

I hope those few samples give you a feel for this translation. This is an excellent volume, and a great version of it. I have read at least 2 other translations while in school. And great to read or follow along with the pod cast. This book was a wonderful read. It challenged me personally and I know it will do the same for you. I am thankful for having read and to be slowly applying the lessons from this Saint. And I look forward to the other volumes from his pen. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next Catholic Classics from Ascension Press.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

No comments: