Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Augustine's Confessions, for children

Yesterday being the feast of St. Monica, and today being the feast of St. Augustine, it seemed like a good time to break out Confessions and read about the childhoods of the saints.  Augustine writes so simply and clearly that he is not onerous for school-age children to listen to, or to read for themselves, but he's also very prolific. I found myself editing on the fly, skipping passages, and flipping around a great deal to find the sections that would be of most interest to the youngsters here.

I've gone through Books 1 and 2, which draw from Augustine's infancy and youth, and highlighted passages that I think will be most compelling for children to listen to, or read themselves. (Teenagers ought to be able to read more extensively on their own -- Confessions is definitely not an inaccessible or difficult book, stylistically.) Each section is short and concise -- certainly children reading at a fourth-grade level or above should have no difficulty reading a passage a day by themselves.

All of Book 1 is appropriate for children. The sections that I have not bolded are ones that can be skipped in the interests of time or flagging interest on the part of the youngsters, but I recommend them all.

Book 2 moves into Augustine's adolescence, and starts examining issues of lust and sexual incontinence that parents might want to avoid with pre-teens. Parents might want to preview the sections here that are not bolded before reading them aloud or assigning them to younger children.

My translation is by R.S. Pine-Coffin, from Penguin Classics.

Book 1.1: Introduction, "you made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you."
1.2, 3, 4, 5: Continuation of Augustine's questions to God about His existence, His creative love, His attentions to Augustine himself. These are interesting, I think, to children who are themselves so full of questions, but can be skipped.
1.6: Augustine's babyhood.
1.7: faults of infancy
1.8: early boyhood, learning to speak
1.9: trials of going to school
1.10: sports
1.11: Augustine is gravely ill, but recovers before his family feels the need to baptize him.
1,12: the paradoxes of study
1.13: the trials learning Greek and Latin
1.14: Homer vs. Virgil
1.15: short digression on using study for God's glory
1.16: teaching children to admire the false example of false gods
1.17: Augustine recites the speech of Juno
1.18: intellectual vanity vs. eternal concerns
1.19: Augustine's bad habits of childhood
1.20: Augustine's good qualities of childhood

Book 2.1: Augustine recounts his adolescence and sins, particularly lust, to which he was prone.
2.2: continued.
2.3: onset of lust, and his father's unwillingess to check him.
2.4: theft of the pears
2.5: reason informs all behaviors, virtuous or vicious
2.6: meditation on the theft
2.7: acknowledgement of sin
2.8: Augustine explores why he stole the pears
2.9: incitements to the theft
2.10: wandering from God

Augustine also recounts some of the life of his mother, St. Monica. We enjoyed reading these sections yesterday on her feast.

Book 9.8: Monica's childhood and early addiction to drinking wine
9.9: Monica's humility and careful dealings with her husband and mother-in-law (be prepared to discuss how it used to be acceptable for husbands to beat their wives!)
9.11: the death of Monica

I really feel that there is a niche for a beautifully illustrated children's book about the boyhood of St. Augustine, with text taken from Confessions. I would buy it.


bearing said...

Well, how cool is that?

Jenny said...

Yesterday was Grace's birthday. She's seven now--is that possible? So I was trying to tell her about St. Monica, but everything I knew wasn't exactly age appropriate. Finally I told her that she prayed for her son to love God and eventually he did. So count me in on buying an appropriate children's book on St. Monica and St Augustine.

jenniferfitz said...

e-mailing this to myself. Since I have never managed to finish -- or even seriously start -- this. What I lacked was the children's version. Thanks!

[And I know just who should be your collaborators for this project. Whether they agree with me is another story, but *I* think it . . .]


True Image said...

I have begun work on illustrated books making the great works of western civilization--including Augustine's 'Confessions'--accessible for younger readers. I hope to have topical volumes including Plato, Homer, Aristotle, Dante, Milton, Emerson, Darwin, America's founders, as well as the heavy hitters of western philosophy. It will be a long, collaborative undertaking, but I will soon be blogging about it at