I Burned for Your Peace
Augustine’s Confessions Unpacked
By Peter Kreeft
Ignatius Press, 2016; $17.95, 240 pages; to order: ignatius.com, (800) 651-1531
This is a must-read book. Even if you have read the Confessions before, Peter Kreeft will help you to go deeper in understanding the beauty of Augustine’s conversion to Christianity — and how it relates to our times.
Our culture has no difficulty in following and even exceeding the sins of Augustine’s youth and young adulthood. Look at legalized abortion and same-sex “marriage,” the prevalence of pornography, falling rates of marriage and births, and on and on. Like St. Augustine, we as a culture need to embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church at any cost, which of course will only help us to grow in holiness and happiness and hopefully bring a new and better era.
Kreeft’s book is neither a critical edition of Augustine’s masterpiece nor simply a book about it, but a selection of passages from the Confessions with accompanying commentary from Kreeft. In his introduction, Kreeft describes his book as “an unpacking of some of the riches in Augustine’s massive treasure chest.”
Augustine’s appeal crosses time periods and cultures. This may be because, as Kreeft notes, “Augustine combined fire and light, a passionately fiery heart and a dazzlingly brilliant head, as no mere man in history has ever done. … Almost single-handedly he forged the medieval mind. Yet he is also quintessentially modern: introspective, emotional, self-doubting, complex.”
Kreeft, like Augustine, knows that God is the hero: “This book is not first of all the story of what Augustine did about God, but the story of what God did about Augustine.” Augustine’s passion for the truth eventually led him to reject the false paths he pursued and to accept God’s gift of faith. It is this passion that has won him readers for 1,500-plus years. As Kreeft puts it, “You need not share Augustine’s mind and beliefs to understand this book, but you do need to share his heart. Head-to-head scholarship is fine, if it is for the sake of heart-to-heart understanding; if not, it is dust in the eyes when reading the Confessions.”
Kreeft is an ideal companion for readers new to Augustine — as well as for those who read him long ago, and even those who can say of Augustine what he said of God: “Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new.”
Kreeft, who has enlightened students of philosophy at Boston College for decades and has published great numbers of books translating profound thoughts into crystal-clear prose, is always brilliant. In this book his knowledge and understanding are poured out on one of the greatest thinkers and greatest Christians in history.
On a personal note: When I was a freshman at Columbia University, studying its core curriculum, the very first book that the students read together over many weeks was Augustine’s Confessions.
Read Kreeft’s masterful book and share it with others.
Opus Dei Father C.
John McCloskey is a