"To Carthage I Came"

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Last Updated on September 22, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 601

Context: This autobiography, one of the earliest, was written as a testimonial to the infinite mercies of God. Its author, one of the most renowned fathers of Christianity, did not in youth and early manhood give any indication that he would become one of the great religious figures of the ages. His father, Patricius, was a pagan; his mother, Monica, was a Christian. She instructed him carefully in her faith, but it was many years before he allowed her teachings to influence him to any great extent. Instead, he pursued a life of sensuality, which continued after he was sent to Carthage to study for the profession of rhetorician. Here he became interested in theology and was a Manichaean for nine years; then, in 386, he was converted to the orthodox church by the study of Scripture and the discourses of St. Ambrose. In time he became bishop of Hippo, in which office he was distinguished by his greatness of heart, his wisdom as displayed in various theological controversies, and his belief in individual merit and divine grace as applied to the doctrine of predestination. His authority has always been high in Roman Catholicism, and is still cited in regard to doctrinal questions. His autobiography, Confessions, was written to exhibit the manner in which a flagrant sinner can be reformed and uplifted through divine grace; it has enjoyed a wide influence since his time. In it he describes his childhood and youth with deep regret over the lost opportunities for better use of his time. He recounts manfully the things he would rather forget–idleness, inattention to his studies, an addiction to sexual pleasures, and the cultivation of bad companions who led him to thievery. Augustine then describes, in the light of later wisdom, that Carthage to which he was sent in pursuit of his studies, seeing it now as a place of vice and corruption and not as the glamorous and exciting place he had found it then:

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To Carthage I came, where there sang all around me in my ears a cauldron of unholy loves. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love, and out of a deepseated want, I hated myself for wanting not. I sought what I might love, in love with loving, and safety I hated, and...

(The entire section contains 601 words.)

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