"You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." - Saint Augustine (The Confessions 1, 1, 1)
Why Did Augustine Say This?
This is perhaps the most quoted phrase from Saint Augustine across all his works. It placed at the very beginning of his Confessions, a long prayer to God in which Augustine remembers various events and circumstances throughout the course of his life and discovers God’s consistent presence in all of them.
Throughout this prayer, Augustine praises God, wrestles with his own sinfulness, and explores various philosophical ideas. As he does so he weaves together his experience of faith and doubt, prayer and philosophy, and circumstances with reflection.
What Does This Mean For Us Today?
A read of the Confessions reveals a journey of faith not unlike what any of us may experience along our own life journey: doubt, fear, anxiety, and rebellion as we search for fulfillment in pleasures, security, honors, and meaning. We, like Augustine, are invited to discover the presence of God who is ever with us.
Augustine comes to discover the basis of his own search for fulfillment was an inner “restlessness” that led him to acknowledge no matter how much we accomplish in life, no matter how much money we make, now many how many titles we gain, or how many things we may accumulate, we will never feel fully satisfied. We will always want more and we will naturally keep searching for that which we hope will bring us fulfillment.
Augustine reasoned that underneath all of the various things we search for in life is a search for the God who created us. This is because we have been created for God. alone. Therefore, anything short of God will fail to fully satisfy us.
Our life calling is therefore to redirect our search for fulfillment in God alone. This involves a gradual life-long redirection of our love for things other than God towards God alone.