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A Thought from St. Augustine on the Virgin Mary

June 11, 2015

From the good folks at the Daily Gospel Online, a quote from St. Augustine that I enjoyed and wanted to share.  It captures something important about the Blessed Mother and all Christians, and it brings to mind St. Francis’ description of her as “the virgin made Church.”

I beg you to listen to what the Lord had to say when he stretched out his hand towards his disciples: “Here are my mother and my brethren”; and, “whoever does the will of Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother”. Are we to take it from this that the Virgin Mary did not do the will of the Father, she who by faith believed, by faith conceived; she who was chosen to bring forth salvation on our behalf and who was by Christ created that Christ in her might be created ? Indeed and indeed she did the Father’s will and it is a greater thing for Mary that she was Christ’s disciple than that she was his mother. It is a happier thing be his disciple than to be his mother. Blessed then is Mary who bore her Lord in her body before she gave him birth…

Mary is holy. Mary is blessed. Yet the Church is greater than she is. What reason do I bring? Mary is part of the Church. She is a holy member of the Church; she is the holy member; she is the member above all members; hut she is still one member of the whole body… Brothers, listen very closely: you are members of Christ’s body and you are the body of Christ (1Cor 12,27). And this is how you are what he said: “Here are my mother and my brothers.” But how does this prove you are Christ’s mother? He goes on: “Whoever hears and whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Sermon 25 on St. Matthew)

  1. Ronald King permalink
    June 13, 2015 8:00 am

    David, I don’t want to sound like an angry old man, but, if I do then I am. I am not very impressed with St. Augustine due to how he treated the Mother of their son. I could be wrong but didn’t he essentially abandon her and she is also a member of the body of Christ.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
      June 13, 2015 8:17 am

      Ronald, I do not remember the exact details: I believe he “put her aside” or some such euphemism, but I do not know if he gives any details of how he did so. Did he simply dump her? Did he provide for her financially? Did he help her to marry someone else? Anyone who knows details of Augustine’s biography, please chime in.

      But, overall, I agree that this is a black mark against St. Augustine, proving that saints are still sinners.

      • June 13, 2015 8:38 am

        This and the following few pages (click “Next” at the bottom) give a pretty good and fairly neutral discussion of Augustine’s concubine.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
          June 13, 2015 8:52 am

          Thank you: the cultural context seems very useful for understanding Augustine’s actions. Tangentially, what I found interesting was the comment that the church in North Africa would not deny communion to those in concubinage: I wonder what this says, if anything, abut how the Church should deal with those who are in stable, monogamous relationships but are not married?

      • June 13, 2015 8:41 am

        I should point out that some sources say she entered a monastery after she returned to Carthage from Milan, when Augustine dismissed her, and one website even claims she did penance for the rest of her life. However, the website I linked to in the previous comment notes that nothing in Augustine’s writings support this. She promised never to cohabit with another man; but beyond that, nothing is said of what became of her, nor is there any evidence that she converted to Christianity. We just don’t know what became of her after she returned to Africa.

        • Ronald King permalink
          June 14, 2015 9:20 am

          Turmarion, Thank you for the reference. Like David I also find it interesting that those who were in a “stable” unmarried relationship at that time were permitted to receive communion. Throughout Church history and human history it is always male authority which determines right or wrong. This tradition of power is an instinctive primitive response initiated by fear and is supported with a dogma which is constructed to maintain this tradition of power. Oh well.

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