Augustine:The Experience of God, Then and Now.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Ratzinger writes: “The basic attitude that lies behind the two conversions and changes in Augustine’s life, that is, behind his turning to the word and later to the selfless service of others, is what he himself once called his restlessness of heart. He means the attitude that will nt let human beings be at peace with themselves and their prewsent state but keeps them journeying toward the eternal reality in which alone they can find repose and fulfillment

“Augustine has given us an unforgettable description of this restlessness of heart that reaches beyond all things earthly to take what is eternal… (A)s mankind gets the machine of progress moving ever faster, is it not at the same time driving itself deeper into suicidal madness? The famous French airman, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, once wrote in a letter to a general” ‘There is only one real problem in this world: How to give people once again a spiritual meaning and a spiritual restlessness; how to make something like Gregorian chant drop its gentle dew upon them.” Don’t you see, people can’t live any longer on refrigerators, politics, balance-sheets, and crossword puzzles. They simply can’t do it.’ And in his book The Little Prince he says: ‘How foolish the world of grown-ups, the clever people, is! We understand only machines, geography and politics. But the things that matter – the light, the clouds, the heavens with their stars – these we no longer understand.’

“In a similar vein, the Russian novelist Solzhenitsyn tells of the cry of distress uttered by a Communist who had ended up in Stalin’s jails: ‘We need cathedrals once again in Russia, and human beings whose purity of life turns these cathedrals into living spaces for the soul!’ And in point of fact man does not live solely on refrigerators and balance-sheets. The more he attempts to do so, the more he despairs and the emptier his life becomes. Today – today more than ever – we need people who do not sell luxuries or turn out political propaganda but who instead are solicitous for the human soul and seek to help people not lose their souls in the turmoil of everyday life. …” (J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching” Ignatius (2011) 168-170

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