Journeys has been the driving force in literary works since the beginning of time. All throughout the literary world, journeys have filled the many books that people read around the world. There are many different journeys that fill the books. Some of them are physical, some spiritual, and some are just emotional.
But no matter the journey there must be a certain goal in mind for the character to reach in order to say they have fulfilled their journey’s end.
One of these books with such characteristics is Saint Augustine: Confessions, it is filled with two different journeys and two different goals that are intertwined. Throughout this novel, Augustine goes through many different journeys with only one specific goal in mind which was to reach his spiritual homecoming, while also struggling with issues in his life.
Augustine goes on both a physical journey and a spiritual journey. These journeys are intertwined with one another. At the beginning of his childhood, he showed promise in school, so his parents sent him to Carthage to study when he was seventeen.
This is where he starts to learn about rhetoric and gets exposed to many different religious views. This is also where he is first exposed to his sexual desires and ends up having a son with a concubine years later. This starts his spiritual journey where he is introduced to the beliefs of the Manichees. Also, during this time, he reads a book called Hortensius by Cicero and is a turning point for him.
In his autobiography he says, “It altered my prayers, Lord, to be towards you yourself. I was impressed not by the book’s refining on my style or literary expression but by the content” (Chadwick, pg. 39). After this he goes back to Thagaste and becomes a rhetoric and literature teacher, but eventually moves back to Carthage.
While in Carthage, Augustine faces another turning point in his spiritual journey. Augustine starts questioning his Manichee beliefs, which he has followed most of his life. It all starts when he starts asking intellectual questions to his friends in hopes that maybe they have an answer for him. But they tell him that he should wait and ask a Manichee Bishop named Faustus, who should be able to answer his questions.
When he asks Faustus his questions, Faustus is unable to answer them. Augustine says, “He modestly did not venture to take up the burden. He knew himself to be uninformed on these matters and was not ashamed to confess it” (Chadwick, pg. 79). This makes Augustine question his Manichee beliefs, he says, “· the enthusiasm I had for the writings of Mani was diminished” (Chadwick, pg. 79).
After having followed their beliefs for most of his life he ends up deciding that they were not trustworthy, like that of Cicero’s Hortensius, but he still associates with Manichaeism. During this time, Augustine decides to go to Milan. This is where his spiritual journey really starts to come ahead, while stopping his physical journey for a short time.
Augustine goes to Milan and is exposed to the preaching’s of Bishop Ambrose. Augustine sees Ambrose as a Father and likes the way he taught and spoke about Christianity, but not the content. This convinced Augustine to break from Manichaeism, saying, “From this time on, however, I now gave my preferences to the Catholic faith. I though it more modest and not in the least misleading” (Chadwick, pg. 95).
Even though now he is convinced that Christianity is the answer by reading the books himself, he still does not commit himself to Christ. He believes that his sinful desires are holding him back and does not fully commit until he is in a garden in Milan. In the garden, Augustine experiences a “war” within himself and during this time he hears a voice.
It is a voice of a child saying, “Pick up and read, pick up and read” (Chadwick, pg. 152). He read Matthew 19:21, which converted him instantly into celibacy and the Catholic faith. Him and his son end up getting baptized together and go back to Africa in their new found glory. This is how both of Augustine’s journeys end, finally reaching his goal of finding the truth in his life.
Until the end of his journey Augustine has only one goal in mind and it is to find the real meaning of true wisdom. He tries to find it in books and other religions, but he is always disappointed with what he finds. In the end, he reaches his goal when he finally converts to Christianity and realizes that only God and his word are true wisdom. This shows that his goal was sought after through everything possible, but in the end the only true source of wisdom was found in God.
This journey is not only the issues that he faces in his life, but also ones to do with morality, relationships, and homecoming. He is faced with morality when his childhood best friend dies and realizes that death is inevitable. Augustine says, “Things rise and set: they begin as it were to be, and grow to perfection; having reached perfection, they grow old and die” (Chadwick, pg. 61).
Unlike, in the Epic of Gilgamesh when his friend dies, he struggles with accepting that everyone dies. He also has a hard time with relationships and struggles with his sexual desires. One experience that sums up his relationships is with a concubine that he has a son with.
He ends up having to leave her to pursue his Christian faith, even though he truly loved her. This is just like Aeneas in reference to him leaving Dido in order to reach his goal of living in Italy. In reference to homecoming, Augustine’s is spiritually, where he finally converts to Christianity fully.
This homecoming is very different than Odysseus’, who experiences a reunion of sorts with his family and ultimately his kingdom. In the end, Augustine faces many issues throughout his life, but ends up finding his true calling.
In conclusion, Augustine faces a journey that is both physical and spiritually, while also dealing with other issues in his life. This shows that throughout life one faces many journeys, but ultimately one will finally meet their goal.
In the end, Augustine was faced with many decisions in his life about mortality, relationships, and homecomings, but reaches his goal. This book shows readers that journeys are a part of one’s life and that hopefully at the end of the journey one reaches the true calling that God has planned for their life.