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
1.11: 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.
2.3: 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.
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