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July 30, 2015

Sharon Gallagher
August 2015


  Augustine, the 5th century Bishop of Hippo, began his life as a pagan who rejected his mother’s Christian faith. He had a complicated personal life, with a long-time mistress he couldn't marry because she was below him in social status. He writes of that time: “I was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust.”

  All Augustine’s struggles are more detailed in his writing than what we learn about most Biblical characters (with the exception of David, whose Psalms give us a sense of his soul struggles). St. Paul tells us he has a “thorn in the flesh,” but we’re left to wonder what it was. Augustine tells us about his problems, and does so with great eloquence. The Confessions have had enormous impact on subsequent Christian thought and have been called the first western autobiography.

The Psalmist’s familiar lines entreat God:

Let the words of our mouths and

the meditations of our heart

be acceptable to you.

O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. — Psalm 19:14


  We may find ourselves surrounded by words—our own, those of people we encounter, and in daily bombardments from the media. But in all that noise, what about the meditations of our hearts? Do our lives leave space for a consideration of our days?

  This fall, New College Berkeley offers a variety of programs that create space for meditation: The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Small Group Spiritual Direction, Embracing Silence, and the Advent Retreat.

  I'll be teaching Writing Your Journey, a class which invites students to write about their lives. The assignments encourage viewing our lives as spiritual journeys. We’ll gather weekly in the company of others, creating a community where we learn from the stories and experiences of our classmates.

  In his early life Augustine had been a rhetoric teacher. Language was important to him and he used it well.Describing his writing process, Augustine said: “I venture over the lawns and spacious structure of memory, where treasures are stored.”

  We invite you to join us this fall to explore your memories. You may be surprised to discover the treasures stored there.


Posted on July 30, 2015 at 0:23 AM

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