St. Augustine’s Confessions recount the fourth-century bishop’s spiritual conversion from his restless youth to finding peace in Christ.
Pope Francis has recommended that everyone can benefit from a similar personal examination of their own life story.
Speaking at his Wednesday general audience on Oct. 19, the pope said that “rereading one’s life … allows us to notice the little miracles that the good Lord works for us every day.”
“Our life is the most precious ‘book’ that is given to us, a book that unfortunately many do not read, or rather they do so too late, before dying. And yet, it is precisely in that book that one finds what one pointlessly seeks elsewhere,” he said.
“St. Augustine, a great seeker of the truth, had understood this just by rereading his life, noting in it the silent and discreet, but incisive, steps of the presence of the Lord.”
The pope highlighted a passage from book 10 of Augustine’s Confessions, where the doctor of the church wrote:
“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.”
St. Augustine’s words are an invitation to “cultivate an interior life in order to find what you are looking for,” the pope observed.
Pope Francis said that reflecting on one’s own story also means recognizing the presence of “toxic elements” in one’s past and how to avoid repeating mistakes.
“Discernment is the narrative reading of the good times and the dark times, of the consolations and desolations that we experience in the course of our life. In discernment, it is the heart that speaks to us about God, and we must learn to understand its language,” he said.
The pope recommended studying the lives of the saints to help recognize how God acts in a person’s life.
“Because God’s style is discreet,” he said. “God likes to be hidden, discrete. He does not impose; it is like the air we breathe — we do not see it but it allows us to live, and we realize this only when it is missing.”
Pilgrims from Haiti, Indonesia, Croatia, Poland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Canada, the United States, Switzerland, and the Democratic Republic of Congo were present in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s sixth general audience dedicated to the theme of personal discernment.
At the end of the audience, Pope Francis asked for prayers for “martyred Ukraine.” He also offered up a prayer intention for the victims of severe flooding in Nigeria, where more than 600 people died from the natural disaster, according to local officials.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
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