I’ve been finding Edward Smither’s book Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders to be quite useful. As I was searching about for a quote, I came across Smither’s doctoral thesis “Principles of Mentoring Spiritual Leaders in the Pastoral Ministry of Augustine of Hippo,” (Here) completed at the University of Wales Lampeter. I must say, I’m a bit bummed out that I bought the book first, knowing the the thesis is online for free! Anyways, I thought I’d share the wealth. Here’s the abstract:
Though Augustine is highly regarded for his contribution to philosophy and theology, his primary occupation for the last forty years of his life was serving as the bishop of Hippo Regius. A highly personal man with a natural inclination to friendship, Augustine was a bishop monk who served the church while living in a monastic community with other clergy. Hence, he made monks out of his clergy and regarded the monastery as a group that existed to serve the church. Through intimate contact with the clergy of Hippo as well as spiritual leaders of the fourth and fifth century African church, Augustine emerged as a mentor to these leaders influencing them in their spiritual lives while practically resourcing them in their ministries. After proposing an early Christian model of mentoring spiritual leaders and discussing the background of mentoring in the third and fourth century church prior to Augustine’s episcopate, this study treats the primary forms and principles which characterized Augustine’s mentoring toward supporting the claim that he was both deliberate and effective at mentoring spiritual leaders.
These are wise words:
Where charity is not present, the command of the authority is bitter. But where charity exists, the one who commands does so with sweetness and the charity makes the very work to be almost no work at all for the one who is commanded, even though in truth the subject is bound to some task.
Augustine, Commentary on the Letter of John to the Parthians, 9.1.
I don’t know when or where I got it, but in my library I own this wonderful gem of a book called Verses from St. Augustine or Specimens From A Rich Mine by John Searle (Oxford University Press, 1953). It is a collection of Latin quotes from various of Augustine’s works that are then put into English verse. Here is a sample of a couple of favourites:
“Quid tibi dabit qui aliunde manus tuas videt occupatas? Ecce Dominus vult dare quae sua sunt, et non habet ubi ponat.–Si vis tenere quod non habes, dimitte quod habes.” Sermo suppos. LXXI. 4, 5.
How can you grasp God’s offering?
Your hands are full, they tightly cling
To coarser stuff—how can you gain
The new and still the old retain?
Let go the dross and grasp the gold,
Both at one time you cannot hold.
This one is particularly good for pastors:
“Feliciores sunt qui audiunt, quam qui loquuntur. Qui enim discit, humilis est: qui autem docet, laborat ut non sit superbus, ne male placendi affectus irrepat, ne Deo displiceat qui vult placere homnibus. Magnus tremor est in docente fratres mei…” Enarr. in Ps. L. 13
Safer the lowly pew,
The preacher’s chair how perilous, how few
Fit for their Master’s cause,
Too pleased with man’s applause:
So while I teach I tremble, lest I win
Praise that shall quench the fire of Truth within.
Another group-blog that I contribute to is Tipperary Confessions, an online reading group whose goal is to read through and discuss Augustine’s Confessions. The blog was started by David Shedden a friend of mine (though we’ve never actually met!) who is currently ministering the gospel in Clonmel, Ireland. Dave is a master of theology graduate from Princeton Seminary, where he did work (appropriately) on W.G.T. Shedd and was for a time involved in the Church of Scotland.
Thus far we’ve made our way to Book II of the Confessions. The basic format is that Dave posts a summary of the book with some of his reflections and the rest of the contributors interact with him or post their own reflections in the comments sections. We contributors come from a variety of faith-perspectives, but all share an interest in becoming acquainted, or re-acquainted, with the thought of the colossus that is Augustine.
This will be my third time through Confessions. I first read it for interest’s sake quite a few years ago. My second time around was in preparation for some lectures I did on Augustine at Toronto Baptist Seminary as a fill-in for historian Michael Haykin. I’m very excited to read it again “in community,” with mutual interaction from “across the pond.”
Here’s part of the plan:
Group members should feel free to read Confessions at their own pace. They can post their own blogs on any matter related to the content of the book. Comments will be enabled to allow discussion on each blog post.
Niamh and I are sharing administration of the blog. We will moderate the blog discussions, and we will delete any posts or comments that we think are irrelevant or unduly offensive. Group members are reminded that the blog is public and can be read by anyone online.