Dear Saint Augustine,

11 Dec

A letter to Saint Augustine, esteemed bishop of Hippo Regius who lived from 354 to 430 CE and wrote prolifically on the subjects of religion, philosophy, sin and salvation:

Your esteemed saintness,

I can’t say I knew much about you before my Junior year of college. I was raised Catholic, but much like yourself according to your book Confessions, I was really bad at it. Not that I forsee myself having the epic revelation and conversion you went through in Milan, but you at least know where I’m coming from, Problem of Evil and all that.

I am working on my final paper for my Religion and Late Antiquity class, which is 70% of my final grade. I know you’re a little far along on the Late Antiquity scale, so far that some folk refer to you as the last Great Thinker of Late Antiquity and the dude whose works and thoughts mark the beginning of the period of Medieval thought (which is impressive by the way. Props to you for that). My point being, I decided to write my paper about you.

This, in retrospect, may have been a mistake.

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m holed up inside away from the snow, and this is the current state of my workspace:

That’s a lot of books. And highlighted sticky notes. And other crap. I’m sifting through at least two of your works to hunt down material to ramble about in my paper for at least ten pages. That’s not the problem.

No, the problem is this book:

That there? That huge monstrosity of a text that weighs about as much as a small child and could easily be used to club one to death? That’s your work, City of God against the Pagans. It’s a key part of my paper, along with your reasons for writing it (sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 and all that. Bummer about that by the way. I bet that was a huge downer). It is nearly impossible to read. This has been my second attempt, and both times I have given up in frustration and only read the parts absolutely necessary to succeed in my academics.

My problem, Saint Augustine, is that you have simply written TOO MUCH for me to adequately summarize you in a research paper with a maximum pagecount of 20. I will of course make a valiant attempt – I have an outline, an intro paragraph, I even have a bunch of sticky notes and references to some of your influences, like the Manichees and Plotinus and even the Bible.

Do you know how rare it is for ME to pick up a Bible? I had to borrow one from my boyfriend, and he only had it on hand because he’s a philosophy major and was assigned it for a class.

Yes, we’re heathens. Don’t hold it against us, we’re still good people, we promise.

So that’s that. Your body of work is too dense and your life far too interesting for me to do it justice in this paltry research paper of mine. That’s the sad, honest-to-god truth right there. I did well on my presentation, but that seemed to be a lot of my professor being shocked that it was possible to summarize your life and works AT ALL, let alone squeezing it into a fifteen minute presentation that I gave while talking very quickly. There were handouts. And a powerpoint.

My point is, I’m sorry I’m in the process of butchering your philosophical career in the interest of my education. I will leave a ton of stuff out, like your consort and son (another bummer there dude. Your son died young, and your mom kinda sucks for forcing you to break up with her, even thought she’s a saint and stuff) and your marriage to a girl half your age (EW. Sorry, but EW. I don’t care if girls got married at 14 a lot when you were alive, that’s just nasty). I’m really only going to talk about two of your major works, and three of your key concepts that revolutionized Christianity.

But give me some credit here. I’m just trying to graduate with more than a C in this class.

I’m not the praying kind, that much I’m sure you’ve figured out. However, in this case I’m making a semi-serious exception to directly appeal to you as a former Catholic historian semi-godless heathen hedonist who’s just trying to get this done with as little pain as possible. If you would, Saint Augustine of Hippo, give me the sanity to complete this paper, and this research, without setting anyone on fire, by 10 AM on Monday the 13th of December.

It would be very much appreciated. Also, I’d like to get more than a B on it, if that’s something I can swing.

I promise I’ll make you sound like a philosophical badass. For reals.

Sincerely, and with much kowtowing and thanks,

Lora, flailing history/religion student


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