The Example Of A Woman Essay Research

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The Example Of A Woman Essay, Research Paper The Example of a Woman Sexual Renunciation and Augustine’s Conversion to Christianity in 386For you converted me to you so that I neither sought awife nor any other worldly hope. I was now standing inthe rule of faith in the same way that you had revealedme to her so many years before. And you transformed hermourning into a joy more abundant than she had wishedand much dearer and more chaste than that of havinggrandchildren of my flesh.> These are the words that conclude Bk. 8 of theConfessions, where Augustine recounts the dramatic finalmoments of his conversion to Christianity. In thesewords he speaks about God converting him “in such away”> that the varied desires and confusing intereststhat gathered around him in

Milan were shed like oldgarments never to be taken up again. Augustine alsodescribes his mother’s new joy, and relates for thefirst time that in Monnica’s attempts for her son’smarriage we must see not only her desire for hisconversion but even the domestic joys of seeingAugustine’s offspring. This untoward domestic hope also reveals aremarkable imperfection. Why does Monnica cherish such adesire when there is already a grandson in the person ofAdeodatus? Is it simply a wish for more grandchildren?Or, is it, as may well have been the case, a desire forgrandchildren whose status in Roman society would not beso questionable? Monnica and Patricius had always beenconscious of their precarious place in the social worldof Tagaste, and this keen sense of their place in

thatsociety had contributed to the kind of aspirations theyhad entertained for Augustine’s career. The concern here for grandchildren falls into thatgeneral order of earthly desires which comes in forcriticism in the early part of the Confessions.> Theconclusion of Bk. 8 recalls this other side of “pious”Monnica. In the moment of resolution for her son,Monnica too undergoes a conversion: her mourning isturned into a joy that is purer and more chaste, a joythat is not tied to earthly cares and hopes. The wordused here to describe Monnica’s transformation iscouertisti, the same word Augustine’s uses to describehis own experience. For himself, Augustine believes he has received adouble portion. Not only is he converted to God, but heis converted from the desire for a

wife and the honor ofa respectable career. This tandem, of love for the worldand a woman’s embrace, emerge as the twin anxieties thatovershadow Augustine’s last year in Milan before hisconversion. Augustine’s words are the invocations of arenunciate: turning his back on the world –his hopes,desires and dreams. To have given up the hope ofmarriage meant that Augustine was turning his back onthe Milanese girl on whom he was in waiting. But whythis drastic change? And why so final an act of sexualrenunciation? What brought Augustine from the positionof seeking a wife in order to prepare himself forChristian baptism (hence conversion to Christianity) tothe point where conversion entailed an act of sexualrenunciation? Studies of Augustine’s conversion have beenunusually

silent on this point.> Even when referenceshave been made to a passage such as De bono coniugali5.5, where Augustine describes a scenario that fits alltoo perfectly the circumstances under which his firstconcubine was separated from him, it has not led toreconsiderations of the events shortly precedingAugustine’s conversion. Even less has it engendered areevaluation of the role of the mother of Adeodatus inAugustine’s conversion. Peter Brown, for example, seesthe patent self-referentiality of Augustine’s words andmerely comments that in the circumstances Augustinefailed.> But the sense of failure is not seen as in anyway constitutive of the equation of sexual renunciationwith conversion to Christianity. In his much earlierbiography of Augustine, Brown went so far as