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Augustine’s City of God

Saint Augustine did not originally desire to be a pastor.  When, in 387, he finally surrendered to the Holy Ghost in the garden of his “philosophers’ estate” in the countryside outside Milan, he intended to follow the example of Saint Anthony and live a life of quiet solitude, separated from the temptations and trials of the world.  In his Confessions, he recalls, “You converted me to yourself, so that I no longer desired a wife or placed any hope in this world but stood firmly upon the rule of faith . . . ”

In converting to Christianity and agreeing to be baptized, Augustine was prepared to battle his flesh for the rest of his life, particularly against the concupiscence at work in him, as well as

a certain vain and curious longing, cloaked under the name of knowledge and learning, not of having pleasure in the flesh, but of making experiments through the flesh.  This longing, since it originates in an appetite for knowledge, and the sight being the chief amongst the senses in the acquisition of knowledge, is called in divine language, “the lust of the eyes.”

This battle with the flesh and the eyes was, he believed, best undertaken in retirement, and Augustine returned to Africa in 388 to live as one of the “servants of God,” a group of laymen devoted to studying the Scriptures and mortifying their flesh.

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